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Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

Startup success is about focusing on the right things.

I’ve taught entrepreneurship at Stanford for ten years, and the number one question my students ask is “How do I find a venture capitalist?”

And my answer is just go build a great business. That’s what you should be focused on.

I was thinking about this as I read this week about how Sequoia, the venerable venture capital firm, wants so badly to invest in Zapier that they had to buy some shares on the secondary market because Zapier isn’t interested in taking their money. The Zapier team has grown the company to nearly $100M in revenue through hard work, careful management, and no venture capital. …


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Photo by Evan Dvorkin on Unsplash

Underrepresentation is a historic fact. So what’s the future?

I’ve written before about the role that women played in building Silicon Valley into what it is today. And yet last year, according to PitchBook, less than 3% of all US venture capital went to startups led by women.

So why is that? Is it systemic sexism in the system? Is it a pipeline problem? Or are women just not very good at pitching? (this HBR piece suggests that there is implicit bias in reviewing investment pitches).

I’ve been pondering this question recently and so I had a call last week with my friend Danielle D’Agostaro. I figured she’d have some thoughts on this topic — she’s a Partner at WV Ventures, and previously spent 7 years running the Alchemist Accelerator where she invested in and worked with over 400 early stage startups. …


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Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Selling dollar bills for eighty cents makes you very popular on your way to bankruptcy!


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Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Delivering to them enterprise software that runs on hardware they already own — their mobile phone.

If you’re playing Buzzword Bingo this year, you know that all the expensive management consulting firms are preaching “Digital Transformation” — the idea that every corporation needs to replace old manual processes (or old digital processes) with new 21st Century digital technology.

That’s fine if you’re a billion dollar corporation with a big IT budget, but the vast majority of the businesses in the world are small ventures with little or no budget for new technology. These businesses aren’t going to be served by Oracle, Microsoft, or McKinsey. They’re just worried about making the rent this month.

Felix Hüneburg runs a company in London named Dynamiq Data, and he’s solving this problem by developing affordable mobile applications that smaller organizations can use to streamline processes and gain the benefits of digital transformation. …


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Augmented Reality is an interactive combination of the real and virtual worlds. Its most famous implementation, probably, is Pokémon Go, the mobile game that became a worldwide sensation in 2016.

Others have tried to duplicate the success, and many companies have tried to apply Augmented Reality (AR) to other use cases and experiences, but often the results have been clunky, gimmicky, and (worst of all) boring.

But we may be at an inflection point today, as AR technology gets better and better, and mobile handsets get more and more powerful. The new Apple handsets have LiDAR in them — technology that can create a 3-D rendering of any object you point the camera at. …


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Photo by Nick van den Berg on Unsplash

We live in a world where complex predictions can often be expressed with a single number. Banks use FICO scores as being predictive of whether you will repay a loan on time. Universities use SAT scores as (supposedly) being predictive of how you will do in college. Nightclub owners use a band’s social media numbers as indicative of whether they should book the band (seriously).

Peter Lufkin, a data scientist in Santa Barbara, has developed a system to predict the condition of real estate property without a physical inspection. If you’re looking at buying a house somewhere you can look up its predicted selling price using a site such a Zillow, but there’s no way to know its condition and potential deferred maintenance without sending a contractor out for a physical inspection. …


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Photo by Aaron Munoz on Unsplash

This startup is bringing wealth creation to all.

Gold has been used as a store of value for all of recorded history. It holds its value forever, and isn’t subject to the fluctuations and political risk associated with fiat currency.

Most of us know that a good balanced investment portfolio includes some gold (it has often outperformed the stock market), but the average person doesn’t have an easy, efficient, and legal way to buy and store physical gold.

So Ashraf Rizvi and his team decided to tackle this problem, and democratize physical gold ownership. Riz (as everyone calls him) is a Wharton grad who went on to be Global Head of Commodities Trading at UBS Investment Bank. He knows that wealthy people can easily buy and store gold as part of their diversified investment portfolio — one day he thought to himself, “Why not bring that bring that access to all?” …


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Photo by Marcus Loke on Unsplash.

Like many in my generation, as a teenager I read The Teachings of Don Juan, the Carlos Castaneda book that ended up being a NY Times best-seller, with over 10 million copies sold. An entire generation was fascinated by his stories of how he took mystical excursions into the desert, ate magic mushrooms, and discovered “springboards into new horizons of cognition”.

Back then pretty much all recreational drugs were illegal, but the illicit nature of the topic just made Castaneda’s writings seem all the more seductive.

Since then there’s been a slow (sometimes glacially-slow) but significant trend in the US toward decriminalizing recreational drugs. Today 1 in 3 Americans live in a state where marijuana is legal, and it now seems likely that it will be legalized at the Federal level in the not-too-distant future. …


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Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Voice assistants are being used for a wide range of applications today. Consumers are using them to shop and and play music, while professionals across many sectors are using them to become more efficient and effective.

Shubu.ai, is a new venture working on transforming medicine in India with a new voice assistant platform for physicians. Doctors using the platform can use voice to reschedule appointments, write prescriptions, look up information, and update Electronic Medical Records. Physicians in hospitals are using the Shubu.ai …


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Photo by Honest Paws on Unsplash

In the past twenty years, many business sectors have been transformed, but veterinary services are pretty much the same as they’ve always been. Some big consolidators like VCA have bought-up a bunch of local veterinarians, but the way services are delivered hasn’t changed much. Your dog gets a foxtail in their nose, you call the vet to make an appointment, you get put on hold. Finally you get an appointment, hustle the dog into the car, drive to the vet, sit in the waiting room, and finally get shown into the examination room where the vet removes the foxtail.

You’re a hundred dollars poorer, and the dog is now traumatized. …

About

Bret Waters

I’m a Silicon Valley guy. I teach entrepreneurship at Stanford, coach startup CEO’s at Miller Center, and run the 4thly Startup Accelerator. Also, I love tacos.

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