20VC: Sonos CEO Patrick Spence on His Biggest Lessons Building and Growing Blackberry, The Right Way to View Competition and Innovation Cycles & How To Make The Transition From COO To CEO Most Effectively

Patrick Spence is the CEO @ Sonos, the sound experience company connecting millions of listeners around the world to the content they want. Prior to their IPO, they raised over $450M from the likes of Mike Volpi @ Index, Satish @ Redpoint and e.ventures to name a few. As for Patrick, prior to Sonos, he spent an incredible 14 years with RIM (makers of Blackberry) across multiple different roles.

In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How Patrick made his way into the world of tech and startups and became an instrumental part of the exec team at Blackberry? How that led to his joining Sonos as COO and later becoming CEO?

2.) How did building and growing RIM influence everything that Patrick does at Sonos? From the battle with Apple, what were Patrick’s biggest lessons on the right way to approach competition? How does Patrick think about both partnering with Google today whilst also suing them at the same time?

3.) From COO to CEO: How did Patrick make the transition from COO to CEO so successfully? What were the most challenging elements to scale into? How does Patrick empower his team to have the confidence to stand up and say no to the CEO? How can one encourage debate and dissent in the team?

4.) How does Patrick feel about the role that vulnerability has to play in leadership? How does Patrick approach his own self-doubt as a leader today? How does he manage it? How does he advise founders unsure if they can scale into their leadership roles? What mentors does Patrick have? What has he learned from them?

Item’s Mentioned In Today’s Episode

Patrick’s Favourite Book: The Infinite Game: How Great Businesses Achieve Long-Lasting

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20VC: The Snapchat Memo: Lightspeed’s Jeremy Liew on The 4 Key Elements To Consider When Evaluating A Consumer Social Product, What is Good/Great/World Class For Retention, Usage and Downloads in Consumer Social Today & The Core Insight Development of Evan Spiegel’s That Has Changed Social Products Forever

The Snapchat memo is the topic of today's memo show with Jeremy Liew

Jeremy Liew is a Partner @ Lightspeed Venture Partners, one of the leading firms of the last decade with a portfolio including the likes of Affirm, Snapchat (Snap), Mulesoft, Epic Games, Carta and more amazing companies. As for Jeremy, in the past he has led deals and sat on the boards of Snap, Affirm, Blockchain.com and The Honest Company to name a few. Before Lightspeed, Jeremy was with AOL, first as SVP of corporate development and chief of staff to the CEO, and then as general manager of Netscape. Due to his incredible investing success, Jeremy has been featured on the Forbes Midas List multiple times.

In Today’s Episode We Dissect The Snapchat Memo:

I. How Jeremy first learned of Snapchat

How did Jeremy Liew first hear about Evan Spiegel and Snapchat?

“It’s actually kind of a roundabout story. We first heard about Snapchat because one of my partners, Barry Eggers, is a very involved dad. And he noticed that his daughter had started taking weird selfies.”

How did Jeremy manage to get in touch with Evan?

“The challenge was, the website only had an info@snapchat email address – that was the only contact info available. So I emailed them, and I never heard back.

“I then looked up Snapchat on LinkedIn, and I couldn’t find any contact information. And I was at a little bit of a loss. I wasn’t getting any responses from the email, there was nothing listed on LinkedIn. So I ended up doing a Whois Lookup to try to find out who had registered the Snapchat URL, and I got an info@snapgrouplimited email. So I emailed that. Again, I didn’t get any response.”

What was the breakthrough in the end?

“Evan was a student at Stanford. I graduated from Stanford for business school. At that time, Facebook allowed you to message people who were in the same network, and Stanford constituted that. So I messaged him through Facebook, and I finally got a response. But this time, I got a response within five minutes.”

II. The Analysis Of Snapchat’s Early Market

What are the 4 things Jeremy looks for when making an investment in consumer?
  1. Can this become part of pop culture?
  2. Does this create new habits?
  3. Is there a scalable way to grow?
  4. Does the founder have a unique insight that explains the success?

Why does Jeremy like to see consumer social companies become part of pop culture?

“Well, one of the things that really has changed around consumer tech is it’s become a lot more about consumer, and a lot less about tech.” 

“The television or the music, or the apps that [people] use, perhaps five or ten years later you find a much broader swath of the population using those exact same apps or shopping at the same websites, or watching those same TV shows or following those same artists. And so one of the key questions that we think about when we look at a potential investment is, could this become part of pop culture? And it’s always a positive indicator.”

Why does Jeremy believe that usage with young females is the biggest predictor of future consumer social success?

“Today, if you think about whether it be social networking, apps, messaging, ecommerce, streaming media – it’s all part of pop culture. As much as movies or television or music or dance. And so if you ask yourself, who are the early adopters of pop culture, it tends to be young women.”

“Generalizing, Women build their relationships through, you know, conversations, and they build those relationships through sharing information with each other. And obviously, that sort of conversation or relationship is a fantastic conduit for word of mouth for anything that people really appreciate.”

What are examples of this?

“Social networking, apps, messaging, ecommerce, streaming media – it’s all part of pop culture.”

Did the market evolve the way that Jeremy thought it would?

“We had always thought that this was something that was genuinely spreading through word of mouth, and that is the most compelling way for people to adopt a product. Back in the early days, the only way that you could really friend somebody through Snapchat was in person, because they had to open up their profile page, and you had to form that friendship by literally using the camera to capture their profile. And so we knew that this spread was happening.”

What was a surprise to Jeremy Liew in terms of market evolution?

“One of the things that surprised us a little bit was that [Snapchat] was very strong in Southern California, Northern California, and Georgia, when we first invested, and parts of the South. Within a few months, it had hopped to Norway, and it had built a very, very large following, which had actually transcended the high-school and college-age population, and in fact became the #3 most downloaded app, most popular app, in Norway at that time. So ahead of Instagram, ahead of Facebook, and so forth. And so that’s what I think gave us that early indication that the app was going to be able to break out beyond its high school, college student, initial starting point, not just in the US, but everywhere.”

III. Reflections on Snapchat’s Early Traction

What did the Snap user-to-install count look like at the time?

“In March/April of 2012, they had about 90,000 daily active users off the base of 180,000 installs.”

How does this compare with others in the consumer social space?

“That’s a very, very high ratio.”

What were Snap’s retention numbers at the time?

“50% retention after 90 days, which again, suggests high engagement, high retention, high growth that speaks to upside volatility”

How did Snap’s frequency of usage on an individual basis look like?

“People were opening the app six times per day, they were opening at least once every second day.”

Across retention, usage and user-to-install, what are the benchmarks for great, good, and average?

“I would say as a rule of thumb, in messaging and social networks, you would want to see at least a DAU/MAU ratio north of 50%. And you would want to see at least a D30 of say 30% to 40% for something to really be working and to be at that outlier level.”

IV. The Truth About The Snapchat Founding Team

What unique insight does Jeremy believe that Evan always held for the company and the product?

“One of the things that was so special about Evan, and that I think, has continued to contribute to the success of the company has been that he’s always been able to look at something with fresh eyes, and not iterate over what the current state of the art is, just from first-principles basis.”

How has Jeremy seen Evan change and evolve as a leader?

“I think his maturity as a business leader, as a leader of people, as a manager, as a strategist – although he always had very good strategic instincts – they’ve just continued to grow and evolve and blossom.”

What were some of the big inflection points in Evan’s development?

“So, the feed has always been up until this point, in reverse chronological order, I think largely because that’s what Friendster chose to do. And then Evan comes along. He says, How do you tell stories beginning, middle, end. Now go to social media. How do they tell stories? Reverse chronological order means end, middle, beginning. Well, that doesn’t make any sense. And so he said, we’re going to create a whole new feed of stories, and they’re going to be told in chronological order beginning, middle, end, and make it expire after 24 hours, because that’s the ephemerality that is so core to what Snapchat stood for.”

Who are some unsung heroes from the Snap journey that were transformational?

“Bobby doesn’t get enough credit. From the very beginning, from I think maybe a couple of months in, [Bobby] was thinking about the breakthroughs that had been happening in computer vision and the implications for what that could build.” 

“The second one I would say is Imran Khan, who joined as Chief Strategy Officer from Credit Suisse back in around 2013. Imran really helped take a lot of the load off of Evan, and he allowed Evan to focus on product engineering. He took over sales and monetization, ops. He did a lot of the financing work in the time when Snapchat raised a lot of capital.”

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20VC: Okta CEO Todd McKinnon on How To Approach Effective Decision-Making in Leadership, When Is The Right Time To Hire Recruiters and Heads of People, Balancing the Expectations of Wall St with Long Term Vision and What Truly Successful Board Management is Today

Todd McKinnon is the Co-Founder & CEO @ Okta, the identity layer for the internet, providing one trusted platform to secure every identity, from customers to your workforce. Prior to their IPO in 2017, Todd raised over $229M for the company from some of the best in the business including Sequoia, a16z, Greylock, Khosla and Floodgate to name a few. Prior to founding Okta, Todd was VP of Development @ Salesforce.com where he spent an incredible 5 years and before that enjoyed an 8 year run in the software development team @ PeopleSoft.

In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How Todd made his way into the world of startups with PeopleSoft and Salesforce? What was the a-ha moment for Todd with the founding of Okta? What were the biggest management takeaways from his time with PeopleSoft and Okta? How did Todd convince his wife that leaving a safe job with Salesforce to found a company was the right decision?

2.) How does Todd approach decision-making today? What frameworks does he use to optimise his decisions? How does Todd analyse reversible vs irreversible decisions? How does Todd know when he has done enough work and is ready to make the decision? Who does he debate the most important decisions with?

3.) What does Todd believe makes for a truly great enterprise software entrepreneur today? What were the first elements to break in the scaling of Okta? When is the right time to hire your first recruiters and Head of People? What should you look for in those people? How did Todd make mistakes when it comes to hiring recruiters?

4.) What are Todd’s biggest lessons on successful board management? How would Todd describe his style of board management? How has it changed over the years? What can CEOs do to extract the most value from their board? What were the biggest mistakes Todd made in the early interactions with his board?

5.) How does Todd balance the growth expectations of Wall St on a quarter by quarter basis with the long term vision and strategy? Why does Todd believe that Okta has been able to make the transition from unsexy to one of Wall St’s most loved companies? What is the secret to investor relations as a public company?

Item’s Mentioned In Today’s Episode

Todd’s Favourite Book: Slaughterhouse 5

As always you can follow Harry and The Twenty Minute VC on Twitter here!

Likewise, you can follow Harry on Instagram here for mojito madness and all things 20VC.

20VC Special: The Real Estate Fintech OGs on Why This Is Not The End For The Bay Area and What Can Be Done To Solve It, The Pros and Cons of Working with Corporate Investors and How Leading Their Teams Has Fundamentally Changed in a COVID World

Assaf Wand is the Founder & CEO @ Hippo Insurance, with over $700M in funding Hippo are setting a new standard for home insurance and offer protection for what’s important to today’s homeowner.

Nima Ghamsari is the Founder & CEO @ Blend, with over $665M in funding they are the digital platform streamlining the journey from application to close — for every banking product.

Max Simkoff is the Founder & CEO at States Title, with $229M in funding States Title are using machine intelligence to create a vastly more simple and efficient closing experience for lenders, real estate professionals, and homebuyers.

Brendan Wallace is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Fifth Wall, with over $1.3Bn in commitments and AUM across multiple different vehicles, they are the largest venture firm focused on the real estate industry and property technology for the Built World.

In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) 3 of the largest and most successful founders in the financial real estate market, what have been their biggest learnings from their friendship over the last 5 years? What have been some of the most hotly debated topics they have had as a group? How did their opinions and views change as a result?

2.) How do they think and feel about the tech exodus from Silicon Valley, temoorary movement due to COVID or fundamental shift? How closely correlated is the move out of California with the explosion of liquidity from IPOs and acquisitions? What pisses Max off most about people leaving CA currently?

3.) How have their roles as leaders changed in the time of COVID? What have been the most challenging elements? What have they had to embrace? Have they had to disregard or stop? What advice do they give to other founders scaling into hyper-growth in a remote format?

4.) What do they believe is their fundraising strategy that allowed them to raise over $1.5Bn as a group? How do they think about what they look for in each stage of investors? How does it change when entering growth stages? Has their experience been having corporates play a large role in their financing? What are the biggest challenges of working with corporates? What does one need to do to extract the most value from them?

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Item’s Mentioned In Today’s Episode

Max’s Favourite Book: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

As always you can follow Harry and The Twenty Minute VC on Twitter here!

Likewise, you can follow Harry on Instagram here for mojito madness and all things 20VC.

20VC: Pitch & Wunderlist Founder, Christian Reber on His Personal Relationship with Risk, Money, Whether the Sale to Microsoft was a Mistake, What Great Product Design Means Today & Why Founders Investing External Capital is a Distraction

Christian Reber is the Founder & CEO of Pitch, the collaborative presentation software for modern teams. To date, Christian has raised over $52M for Pitch from some of the best in the business including Index, Thrive, Blueyard and then some amazing individuals including Instagram’s Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, Zoom’s Eric Yuan, Datadog’s Olivier Pomerol and Tiny’s Andrew Wilkinson. Prior to Pitch, Christian was the Founder @ Wunderlist, raising $35M from the likes of Sequoia and Atomico before being acquired by Microsoft.


In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How Christian Reber made his way into the world of startups? What led to his founding of the global phenomenon, Wunderlist? How his experience with Wunderlist led him to start Pitch most recently?

2.) Does Christian regret selling Wunderlist to Microsoft? What was the reasoning and logic behind it? What did Microsoft do wrong that resulted in Wunderlist’s demise? How did Christian deal with the personal depression post the sale of Wunderlist?

3.) How does Christian assess and evaluate his personal relationship to risk? What does he do when making risky and large decisions to ensure he is comfortable? How does Christian feel about his relationship with money? Has it changed over time? How does Christian approach personal finance in respect of startup investing, funds, cash and savings?

4.) What does Christian think great product design means today? How does he balance gut and instinct with granular data in making product decisions? Has his view changed over time? How does he structure his team to make the fastest and most efficient product decisions?

5.) How would Christian reflect on his own style of board management? Has his style changed over time? What element of does he still find challenging? What board moment would he say is his most memorable? Who has been his favourite board member to work alongside?

Want the latest 20VC insights?

Get all of the insights from of our latest epsiodes and more in our monthly newsletter. All venture, no spam.

Item’s Mentioned In Today’s Episode

Christian’s Favourite Book: The Unbanking Of America: How the New Middle Class Survives

As always you can follow Harry and The Twenty Minute VC on Twitter here!

Likewise, you can follow Harry on Instagram here for mojito madness and all things 20VC.

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