Boris Wertz

Boris Wertz

Entrepreneur turned investor at Version One VC. Husband and father of 4. Lover of soccer, travel, and food.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 05, 2015

Discussion

Hi I'm Boris. I'm an Entrepreneur (AbeBooks, sold to Amazon) turned investor (Version One Ventures). I've invested in over 50 consumer and enterprise companies over the past 8 years. I love marketplace, platforms, & SaaS. I'm a German living in Vancouver investing across North-America. Ask me anything!
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
HUGE Thanks to @bwertz for taking the time to chat with us today.
@eriktorenberg Thank you - that was fun!
Hunter Walk
Hunter Walk@hunterwalk · Partner, Homebrew
How has the Board Partner relationship gone with you and a16z? How are you managing those commitments along with your own investments?
@hunterwalk 95% of my time is spent on Version One Ventures but it has been a real pleasure working with the a16z team - they have done an incredible job building one of the leading VC franchises in a very short time and I have been learning a ton just watching them.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hey, Boris! How has the Canadian startup ecosystem changed over the past 5 years? What does it need to work on?
@rrhoover I think it has changed hugely! This year, Canada had its first multi-billion dollar IPO (Shopify) since Blackberry / RIM about decade ago. Funding levels are at a all-time high (with probably every single top tier US VC having invested in at least once in Canada). Waterloo / Toronto is emerging as one of the most exciting start-up ecosystems in North-America. And we have a bunch of really amazing entrepreneurs up here that work on very big & ambitious problems. Having said that, there is still ways to go - scaling start-ups is not easy b/c of a lack of senior talent, there are not enough value-add angels for the really early-stages of start-ups, and I would love to see even more entrepreneurs venturing out doing their own start-up.
Jack Smith
Jack Smith@_jacksmith · Serial Entrepreneur & Startup Adviser
Hi Boris. Which people helped you the most as you went about raising Version One Ventures? (i.e. giving you advice, connecting you to LPs etc)
@_jacksmith the investors that signed up first - it is all about getting some fundraising traction and this is particularly hard for a first time fund. In this respect Jeff Mallett (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Je...) made it all happen for me :-)
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
What’s something you are most grappling with right now?
@russfrushtick I think a lot about what's next - it feels that we are at the tail-end of mobile and social (still lots of opportunities but getting smaller and smaller) but what will be the next computing platform or big wave? Bitcoin / Blockchain and VR / AR definitely up there but both are still very early in their cycle.
Justin F Harris
Justin F Harris@justinfharris · Co-Founder, Beehive
@bwertz Hi Boris, Two questions for you: 1.) What do you look for in platforms that would consider investing in? 2.) Who is you favorite soccer team and why? Thanks!
@justinfharris there are a few things we like to see in (social) platforms: a) great initial engagement by a small group of passionate users; b) an opportunity to grow from a small niche into a much larger audience (this sounds easy but not always that evident). My colleague @atkingyens just started a great series of blog post of what metrics matter to social platforms: http://versionone.vc/social-plat...
@justinfharris soccer team: rooting for Bayern Munich (am originally from Germany) and Whitecaps FC (live in Vancouver) :-)
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Given all of your experiences thus far, what is something you know for sure about life/the way our little world works? ...what's something you thought you used to know for sure, but now, you're not as certain?
@melissajoykong I thought about exactly that question when I turned 40 a few years ago and came up with 7 lessons: http://versionone.vc/seven-life-... I just looked at them again and haven't changed my mind on any so the 40 previous years must have been pretty good in terms of learning :-)
Thanks everybody for participating in today's AMA - really enjoyed the questions! To follow up with any specific items or to stay in touch, follow me on Twitter (@bwertz), visit our blog at versionone.vc/blog or simply ping me on email boris [at] versionone [dot] vc
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@bwertz Thanks so much for joining us today! We've all thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you today and really appreciate your time and insight. 🙌
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@bwertz Who are some big influencers for you, in terms of your career aspirations?
@bentossell Fred Wilson was probably my biggest mentor and instrumental for me in become a VC - I wrote about it here: http://versionone.vc/how-to-boot...
Nicki Friis
Nicki Friis@nickifriisw · Entrepreneur. Former Partner @ Ideanote.
@bwertz Hi Boris, how do you see the industry for Idea Management Software evolve over the next years?
@nickifriisw I am probably not deep enough into that vertical to give you a good answer - sorry! But what do you think?
Nicki Friis
Nicki Friis@nickifriisw · Entrepreneur. Former Partner @ Ideanote.
@bwertz @nickifriisw Oh you said i could ask you about anything and that you like SaaS and platforms. Let me ask you something else: Where do you see innovation consultants be in a period of 5 years, and how can they "disrupt" themself?
@nickifriisw ha, ha, you can certainly ask me anything but might not always have a good answer. The pace of innovation is certainly rather accelerating than slowing down so there will be many opportunities for innovation consultants. But I feel that most value is probably created around HR / culture / change management than anything else....
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Boris! Thanks for joining us. What's the biggest thing you've changed your mind about in the past 6 months?
@eriktorenberg great question! I have a hard time trying to come up with one thing, mostly because it feels that I am readjusting my view of the world every single day. As an investor you are trying to make sense of hundreds of data points that you get every day and your mental model hence slightly changes every day as well.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@bwertz Hey what is one of the craziest things you've seen in a pitch?
@bentossell have been trying to come up with something crazy but looks like we only had "normal" pitches in the last little while :-) Ultimately, the pitches we enjoy the most are really great discussions with entrepreneurs about how to tackle a certain problem or market where both parties walk away from the meeting saying that they learned something.
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
Hi @bwertz - what's the most expensive book ever sold on AbeBooks during your tenure?
@jeffumbro ha, great question - not 100% sure but was certainly in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Having said that, the biggest piece of the AbeBooks business was always used or hard-to-find books that sold for $10-20.
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
@bwertz I worked at an indy bookstore and Abe was always the place to go when we couldn't find something at a distributor.
@jeffumbro I truly enjoy hearing these stories many, many years after I have left AbeBooks - still makes me proud!
Dhiren Chatlani
Dhiren Chatlani@dhirench34 · CEO Relendo
Hi Boris, Thanks for your time and all the templates on marketplace kpis, social platform metrics.. I wanted to ask you about VersionOne. I have read you invest in early stage marketplaces and wanted some more info. We have launched a p2p sharing platform in Spain, with a decent conversion(.9-1%), a fillrate (25% currently) which has to be optimized and wanted to discuss it with you. We need to scale by adding a few ppl to our team, investing in reducing product frictions and investing in marketing as we currently dont. Any recommendations? What do you look for in early stage startups?
@dhirench34 thanks, Dhiren - glad you are enjoying our marketplace posts. Here is one earlier one that might help you in terms of how we look at early traction of marketplaces: http://versionone.vc/marketplace... And feel free to drop me an email (boris [at] versionone [dot] vc) if you have any follow-up questions.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Boris, thanks for joining us today! What is one special / surprising moment in your career that stands out the most for you and why?
@ems_hodge Some of my biggest decisions I took on very short notice and purely based on instinct - and luckily they turned out to be right! One of the best was to turn down a corporate job I had signed up for in 1999 in order to rather start a company. I didn't even have an idea for a company but it was the crazy / early years of the Internet and I just felt I had to be part of it. This decision has shaped everything else since....
Ruchit G Garg
Ruchit G Garg@ruchitgarg · Building things...
Your perspective on AgTech SAAS companies as an investor?
@ruchitgarg super-interesting space as tecnology can go a long way to help farmers become even more efficient but haven't spent enough in this industry to have a detailed take on it...
Vinay Mimani
Vinay Mimani@wiredmau5 · Founder : trbble
Hi @bwertz ! We are working on a music discovery start-up, think of it as Imgur+Shazam. How do investors view pre-seeding the platform, to solve the quintessential chicken-and-egg problem? Is it even a point of contention? Thanks.
@wiredmau5 I think pre-seed platforms or marketplaces are really tough to evaluate for investors and I would hence try to get at least a bit of initial traction. Plus the music space is notoriously crowded so probably even harder to cut through the noise there.
Sean Solbak
Sean Solbak@ssolbak · Developer, SAM
Hi Boris. What ideas/industries are you most excited about in the next 2-5 years? Also, which space do you see as the most saturated right now?
@ssolbak we are very bullish on healthcare (see our blog series with USV here: http://ondigitalhealthcare.com/) and would love to do more investments in that space. We are also spending a lot of time on the Blockchain / Bitcoin as well as AR / VR. Re saturated areas: it has gotten much harder to get traction with social apps, need to have a very unique angle to cut through the noise.
Mark Punyanitya
Mark Punyanitya@markpun · CEO, Image Reading Center, Inc.
Thoroughly enjoyed the Series on DHC. Curious to see if interest levels increase with more inclusion of Dx/Tx (but with good regulatory strategy, not just focused on app). Any thoughts on Digital Diagnosis? @bwertz @ssolbak
Sean Solbak
Sean Solbak@ssolbak · Developer, SAM
@bwertz @ssolbak Thanks! Will look into the series. I'm sure these answers are a moving target and could be different in 6 months :)
@markpun @ssolbak I will let my colleague @atkingyens take this question....
Angela Tran Kingyens
Angela Tran Kingyens@atkingyens · Associate, Version One Ventures
@markpun @ssolbak good question. I think that technology is definitely making digital diagnosis and treatment for (common) ailments easier, but what we don't have in place at the moment, is a way to track whether outcomes are actually better. Closing this feedback loop is important - and I think interest levels in digital dx and tx will plateau if we don't figure out ways to measure its effectiveness.
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
@bwertz Hey Boris! Thanks for doing this AMA! What is hack that you use today that you learned over the last 5 years? This could be an email hack, life hack, growth hack, etc. Thanks! Sydney
@sydney_liu_sl focus! It is so easy to just get drowned in daily activities like meetings and email and you will not have moved the needle at all at the end of the day. So be clear about what really matters to you (in your job, personally, etc.) and make sure you set the priorities right where you spent your time every day