20VC: Scale Founder Alex Wang on How To Hire Incredible Talent Before You Are A Hot Company, Why Beating Competition Is Not As Clear Cut As Investors Believe & Why AI Is Under-Hyped Today In Terms of Total Impact

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Alex Wang is the Founder & CEO @ Scale, the data platform for AI providing high-quality training and validation data for AI applications. To date, they have raised over $123m in financing from some of the best investors in the business including Daniel Levine @ Accel, Founders Fund, Index Ventures, Thrive, Spark and Coatue and then also some of the world’s best operators and founders of Dropbox, Instagram, Quora, Github and Twitch to name a few. Prior to founding Scale, Alexandr was a Tech Lead at Quora, directly responsible for all speed projects and before that a software engineer at Addepar responsible for building and maintaining financial models.

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In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How Alex made his way from growing up in Los Alamos to being one of the hottest founders in the valley with Scale’s new round giving them a unicorn valuation? How did growing up outside the ether of the valley shape Alex’s operating mindset today?

2.) Why does Alex believe that AI is under-hyped relative to the state of technology today? Would Alex agree that most projects claiming to be AI are merely rebrandings from actuarial science, data science etc etc? What questions does Alex ask to determine true AI or BS?

3.) How does Alex think about how AI can deal better with ambiguity of data? What other core areas would Alex like to see meaningful step-function improvements in? How does Alex think about the value of data-set size? How does he think about the utility value of data reducing with every incremental data point? How does Alex think about the rise of synthetic data? How does this change the landscape?

4.) What are Alex’s biggest lessons on what it takes to hire incredible people before you are a hot company? How does Alex determine whether someone has the right risk profile and desire to work in a startup? What questions reveal that? Where does Alex believe that many go wrong in the early days of hiring? What would he do differently now?

5.) For the $100m Series C, how did the round come together? What did the process look like? How did this round compare to the other rounds? How does Alex think about and approach the element of investor selection? How can founders build relationships with investors in these hyper-compressed fundraising timelines? What have been Alex’s biggest lessons when it comes to CEO growth and then also board management?

Items Mentioned In Today’s Show:

Alex’s Fave Book: 7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy

As always you can follow HarryThe Twenty Minute VC and Alex on Twitter here!

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

 

20VC: How Founders Can Gain Leverage in Fundraising Negotiations, The Metrics You Need To Raise Your Series A in Consumer & What We Have To Change About Cap Table Construction with Jana Messerschmidt, Partner @ Lightspeed Venture Partners

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Jana Messerschmidt is an investor @ Lightspeed Venture Partners, one of the best performing funds of the last decade with a portfolio including Snapchat, Mulesoft, Max Levchin’s Affirm, Cameo, StitchFix and many many more incredible companies. Prior to LSVP, Jana co-founded #Angels in 2015, a first of its kind investment collective specifically designed to get more women on the cap tables of successful companies. Her portfolio includes the likes of Carta, Lambda School, Bird, Forward and Cameo to name a few. In addition to #Angels, Jana spent 6 years at Twitter as VP of Global Business Development and Platform where she led the 150+ person organization responsible for Twitter’s global strategic partnerships. Finally, before Twitter, Jana spent 2 years at Netflix as Director of Business Development. 

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In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How Jana made her way from the worlds of Twitter and Netflix to founding #Angels and becoming an angel to today, investing on the front lines with Lightspeed?

2.) What were some of Jana’s biggest takeaways from her time with Netflix? How did that experience impact her operating mentality today? How can leaders determine the true quality of their team and their conviction in them? What is “the leaver test”? What does Netflix do internally to drive such high performance? What does Jana mean when she says, “leaders have to provide context, not control”?

3.) Does Jana believe that founders should “always be raising”? What is the right way for founders to approach OKR setting with regards to requirements for the next round? When should this OKR discussion for the next round take place? Who should be involved? How can founders get potential investors to do the work upfront and determine interest?

4.) In terms of metrics for the Series A, they depend based on the vertical and business model but what is required, metric wise, to raise a Series A in:

  1. A D2C brand? What revenue levels would be expected? What growth levels would be expected?
  2. A consumer subscription business? What level of churn is acceptable? What does Jana see as a good CAC/LTV?
  3. Why does Jana believe that you cannot grow your business on ad spend perpetuity? How does Jana think about the cost of advertising today? What have been her biggest lessons when it comes to how CAC changes over time?

5.) What tips and advice does Jana give to founders to allow them to enter fundraising negotiations with leverage? What can founders do to gain leverage if their numbers are not in place? What does Jana think should be some of the biggest considerations for founders when it comes to their cap table?

6.) How does Jana think that founders can put their cap table to work in the most effective way? Is there a way to stress their suggested “value-add” prior to their investment? What can be done to actively improve the lack of women and underrepresented minorities on cap tables? What would Jana like to see change here?

Items Mentioned In Today’s Show:

Jana’s Fave Book: Elad Gil’s High Growth Handbook, Dark Money

As always you can follow HarryThe Twenty Minute VC and Jana on Twitter here!

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

 

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