Cyan Banister

Cyan Banister

Partner at Founders Fund

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON May 09, 2016

Discussion

Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
Hi - I'm Cyan Banister, partner at Founders Fund. Formerly, I was an angel investor -- some of my notable companies I've invested in are: Uber, Thumbtack and SpaceX. I love to build things with friends, especially art and I love watching movies. I don't like being serious all of the time, which is why "silly person" is in my bio on Twitter as a reminder to lighten up. Super duper excited to be here - ask me anything! Update: Thank you all for your questions. We can continue the chat on Twitter if you want - @cyantist. This was super fun.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What are your favourite questions to ask founders?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@bentossell What makes you uniquely fit to solve this problem and what do you have that nobody else has (tech, team, etc.) that will make you #1? Also, my new favorite question was asked of me by Peter in my interview: "what worries you?".
Tanmay Desai
Tanmay Desai@tanmaydesai89 · will always go the extra mile.
@cyantist @bentossell What was your answer to that question, if you don't mind sharing.
Kingsong Chen
Kingsong Chen@kingsongchen · Dev
Hi Cyan, what needs to change for it to be easier for startups to sell to regulated industries (i.e. government)?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@kingsongchen Regulators are not always the enemy, it is the job of companies to figure out how to work with them. Ideally, you build a company that offers products that are useful. This is a pretty broad question, so it is important to understand the specific problems you are trying to solve.
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@cyantist hey Cyan, thanks for joining us! Two questions: 1) Can you tell us about Uber's seed round? How did you get in, did you think the company would get as big as it's become? 2) How did you get the coolest Twitter profile pic of all time?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@nivo0o0 1) That is a fun story. I originally heard about Uber from my personal driver who took me to the airport. (Roger) He handed me a card and said, "I'm not an investor, but if I were, I would call this guy Ryan Graves -- this company is going to be huge!" He was their first driver I believe. Or at least, one of their first drivers. Eventually, his whole family was driving for Uber. He kept handing me cards and after meeting Travis at a demo pitch at one of Jason Calacanis' Open Angel Forums, I knew that I needed to finally call Ryan. Luckily he let me in :) 2) That wonderful photo was created by my friend @nadya on Twitter. We are collaborating on a series of photos of what the future looked like from the past. That is what VR looked like in the 80s. Not far off!
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS@candriopoulos · https://medium.com/strictly-curious
Hello Cyan, thanks for taking our questions. Where do you look for emerging trends (e.g. sources, events, websites, etc.) and how do you pick ventures in nascent industries?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@candriopoulos Mostly I have conversations with smart people that I respect. That's one of the reasons I wanted to join a firm, so I can constantly be surrounded by people that I can bounce around ideas with. Other than that, I'm very active on social media and watch what people are doing and what they are discussing.
Shaan Puri
Shaan Puri@shaanvp · ceo, Monkey Inferno
Hi Cyan, The first time we met, I noticed you had great, infectious energy. What does the first hour of your day look like? Do you do anything out of the ordinary to shape your mood & mindset? -shaan
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@shaanvp This is a wonderful authentic question - thank you Shaan. My first hour of my day is a nightmare probably like most people, but it is more about my outlook on life. I try to stay curious. I'm constantly learning - about myself, about others etc. In general, we have one life to live (IMO) and treating each day as a special day is kind of my secret I suppose. Also, I was stoked about meeting you.
Panashe Mahachi
Panashe Mahachi@panashemahachi
What are some common mistakes that you see marketplace startups make? and what are some key traits of marketplaces you believe will succeed?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@panashemahachi Biggest mistake is going too broad. Maniacal focus is what will help them succeed.
Jeremy Pepper
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
@cyantist @panashemahachi Yay for feature creep!!
David Joseph
David Joseph@dvdrjo · Co-Founder, President. Regeneration.com
Do you use Integrative Medicine in your own daily life? What excites you about the future potential of healthcare platforms to put the power back in the hands of the people?
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What is working with Peter Thiel and the other great minds at Founders Fund like? What have you learned so far? What, if anything, has surprised you?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@tomstocklein The team pushes you to look at everything in different ways. Just when you think you know something, a team member will ask you a question that will make you rethink or reshape how you think about any given topic. Everyone here is a generalist, which may be surprising to some, but part of that is the willingness to go deep and learn new things about sectors you know nothing about. We look at a wide variety of businesses, from sandwich delivery, to drones, to vertical farms to biotech and so on. I've mostly learned a little more about my team so far. I'm only a month in. Every day I'm surprised, which I think is a good thing to be.
Leila Janah
Leila Janah@leila_janah
When should founders start thinking about social impact and/or philanthropy?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@leila_janah I look for founders that are trying to maximize positive impact through their work, because I believe the most important technology companies have the potential to uplift people all over the world. This may not always take the shape of philanthropy, not everyone has the resources to do the Benioff pledge, but if you can, that's always one way to go, or commit some of your time on the side.
Tanmay Desai
Tanmay Desai@tanmaydesai89 · will always go the extra mile.
Hi Cyan, BOTS - hype, next-big-thing or just another user interface? What do you think?
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
Hey!! If you had to be a tech CEO/founder for a week, who would it be and why?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@bentossell Reed Hastings from Netflix. I have immense respect for him and his team. I'd love to know how they turned a dvd on demand business into a company that now produces amazing original content. They are incredibly innovative. That would be a dream come true to shadow him for a week.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Cyan thanks for being here today! How did you first get into tech and investing?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@ems_hodge I started from the ground up. My roots are with Internet Service Providers and infrastructure, so I began my career supporting dial up Internet and worked my way up (our out) from there. Tech is my first love. I got into investing because of my most amazing mentor and husband Scott Banister. After exiting IronPort, I wasn't sure what to do and he identified that I could be good at this and encouraged me to do so. Sometimes all it takes is a nudge and I'm glad he did it.
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
How do you ensure that you have access to the best founders running companies in markets that you're excited about when there's so much noise in the industry?
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What apps that most people may not have heard of are on your smartphone?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@tomstocklein Depop, P&T Chat, Ingress, Hooked, PingPad, Clect
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
You're the co-founder of Signal Media Project, which promotes and facilitates the accurate portrayal of science, technology and history in popular media. What are the most common examples of 1) science 2) technology and 3) history getting misrepresented in today's media? Which media outlets (besides the National Enquirer) are the worst offenders?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@tomstocklein I'll keep this short, because I only a few minutes left, but I think blogs are the culprit because they are on a tight timeline to produce stories and they need hooks in order to sell ads. Sometimes bloggers correct themselves later, but by then the damage is done. I don't think this is nefarious intent, but lack of resources that are immediate to them in order to write accurate stories. Maybe also some education around a healthy dose of skepticism would help.
Tanmay Desai
Tanmay Desai@tanmaydesai89 · will always go the extra mile.
Hi Cyan, thanks for joining us. Do you believe that something is still missing in the way/process we find, read and consume articles/news? Would you fund in this sector if something comes up? Cool profile pic, BTW.
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@cyantist thanks so much for coming on PH! I am intrigued how have you seen your investment decision making process change over the years investing? How does this investor mindset change the operational approach you take with Thankroll? P.S. Would be an honour to have you and Scott on @twentyminutevc
Marcus Davenport
Marcus Davenport@marcus_davenport · Founder & CEO at Fitly
@harrystebbings @twentyminutevc I've heard of your podcast, I'll have to check it out! Where are you based out of?
Jeremy Pepper
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
Hi! What areas do you think are not getting the funding like they should? What are your favorite things to invest in?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@jspepper I'm a generalist, but I have a concern that too many investors have become risk averse. As investors, I believe our jobs are to find companies that are completely new technologies. Often times, these technologies have a high probability of not working, but if they do, they are the most important companies in the world.
Jeremy Pepper
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
@cyantist Not enough generalists in the world. I still consider myself a PR generalist, with skills in all the different arenas. Too few of those around, and why there's so much bad messaging and PR out there for startups. Oy.
Jeremy Pepper
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
@cyantist And I remember the old, old days when VCs would take risks and there'd be E, F and G rounds. And higher, betting on an idea until it could go on its own. (FedEx is one example).
Jeremy Pepper
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
What do you think of Project Include? Does tech do enough for inclusiveness? Where you approached to be part of it?
Anders Artboost Cederholm
Anders Artboost Cederholm@anders_artboost_cederholm
Hi Cyan, Wauw I'm amazed by how much you have accomplished - What are you most proud of?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@anders_artboost_cederholm My lack of a formal education. I fell in love with technology at an early age and I'm self-taught. Thank you btw.
Jacob Anstey
Jacob Anstey@jacob_anstey2
How do you avoid the noise of the media and elsewhere? Where do you consume your news? Any good book recommendations?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@jacob_anstey2 I go out of my way to expose myself to a wide variety of view points, so you'll notice I follow a lot of people on Twitter and Facebook. Some of these people I agree with, and some I do not, but what happens is that I read what they read and that expands my thinking.
Kevin Fallon
Kevin Fallon@kjfallon · Analytics / Data @ Pond5
Hi Cyan - Thanks for taking the time with us! TL:DR ... To found or not to found? ... actually that is not the question ... the question is really when ... I have always been 100% confident that one day I was going to go for it and try to build one of my moonshot ... hair-brained ... too big to execute ... "do you really want to take on those guys" ... internet changing startups. To me, David is always > Goliath ( as long as David is patient enough; a committed student of the market; and oozing passion / heart.) Despite frequently dreaming up ideas (generally related to the structure / conduits to the internet) ... this is the first time I feel the gravity of an idea pulling me in. No matter how hard my rational brain wants me to focus on cash (my income & savings ... i.e. my future startup war-chest). I have been very lucky in my ~five year career and have continually found myself in exciting and challenging roles (M&A advisory, startup finance + successful exit, and now startup finance / data / analytics); and working for great clients, management teams and investors. But now I worry my good fortune is is making it too hard to jump! We are prototyping around the clock (I even had my mom tinkering with the tech yesterday!) ... and we could launch an alpha in a week if we needed ... but I don't know if right now is when I jump (i.e. quit current VC backed job). My compatriot / technical cofounder is a PHD candidate so he has some more flexibility.... I 100% want to go full-time and there is plenty of work to be done ... any advice on how you might think about whether or not to jump? Best, Kevin
Alina Trach
Alina Trach@alinatrach · Ripple
@kjfallon May this inspire you! "The only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks." Mark Zuckerberg
noah rosenberg
noah rosenberg@nrose · founded Pikazo, now a new thing
you created a platform to let artists monetize their own work— is it necessary for them to become mega hit stars or is providing basic steady income enough to let them focus on their work?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@nrose I think providing basic steady income is far more important. You can make a meaningful impact in someone's life if they can do what they love and pay their bills, or reinvest in their art. Sure, some people are going to be mega stars, but I haven't built products for them so far.
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
From reading media around tech there seems to be this perception that Travis' personality and style are what has led to Uber's growth. As an investor in Uber, what are you thoughts on Travis' leadership style vis-à-vis how John and Logan have run Lyft?
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
There's been substantial outcry over the lack of diversity and inclusion in Silicon Valley. What role do you think investors can play, if any, to support/mentor entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@charles_kunene As investors, we get most of our deal flow through referrals, so I think if people make a conscious effort to expand their networks, that's a start. If we meet people and take intros from outside of our immediate network, then I think we get exposed to new ideas and new people.
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
In what ways has the funding environment changed in 2016 and what is your forecast on how investor behavior will correct itself going forward?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@charles_kunene Our team doesn't pay attention to these sorts of things. What we care about are specific companies and they continue to do well regardless of the perception of the overall investing environment.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Other than financial capital, what's your fund's biggest value-add for (prospective) portfolio companies?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@tomstocklein We spend a lot of time getting to know our founders, so by the time we invest, we know they are the best entrepreneurs for the problems they are trying to solve. We tend to stay out of the way until we are needed.
Chinmay Desai
Chinmay Desai@thinkchinmay · Co-founder, Asqway
Hello Cyan, what do you think about AI powered Bots? Are they here to stay or just a short-term trend ? Would you invest in startup focusing on bot based products? Thank you.
Corey Hubbard
Corey Hubbard@corey_hubbard · Founder - DreamHighr
Hello Cyan, thanks for taking our questions today. Have you come across any interesting HR Tech early-stage companies and what are your thoughts this group of startups?
Jeremy Pepper
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
What do you think the Valley/Bay should be doing / could be doing for the STE(A)M movement? Do startups do enough to promote STE(A)M in the City and work with the communities?
Jeremy Pepper
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
What lessons did you learn from Zivity that could be applied to other media companies?
Jeremy Pepper
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
And the question I asked Micah - favorite type of cookie.
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@jspepper OH yeah, now we're talking. I love ginger snaps. Well, I love all cookies, but they don't love me.
Jeremy Pepper
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
@cyantist I've only had one good ginger snap, and it had real pieces of ginger in it.
Cynthia B. McGillis
Cynthia B. McGillis@cynthiacbell · Sales Ops, Industry Dive
Hi Cyan! Firstly, thanks for your support of Reason Foundation (I used to work there). Secondly, what do you think are underrated/overlooked skills/roles that startups desperately need? Thanks! Cynthia
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@cynthiacbell I love Reason. Thank YOU for working there. Operations. Operations. Operations :)
Cynthia B. McGillis
Cynthia B. McGillis@cynthiacbell · Sales Ops, Industry Dive
@cyantist Ha! I swear I wasn't fishing--thanks for the reply. :)
Mohamed Abbassi
Mohamed Abbassi@pixmonkey · Founder @Peps / Peps.io
Hello Cyan, Thanks for coming to PH. do you think enabling people to create real-life experiences (e.g share a passion, learn to code, engage with people to learn new skills, grab a beer with a stranger, work on a side project, learn about others ... ) is solving a big issue ? Thanks x)
alexandremayol
alexandremayol@alexandremayol · DayPass: hotel pools & fitness on demand
Hi Cyan, thanks for sharing here, what is the Service or Product you dream someone builds?
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What are your top tips to new founders on how to approach fundraising?
Jacob Anstey
Jacob Anstey@jacob_anstey2
Hi Cyan, Open-ended question... When posed with the quote, "Great things take time to build," what do you think? It seems like many startups now are focused too much on instant gratification, access, press, etc., as opposed to looking at a global problem (energy consumption, cancer, global warming, etc.) and dedicating hours of blood, sweat and tears into solving the issue. I could be wrong, but what thoughts do you have on this? Thanks for your time. Hope to follow more of your work in the future.
Marcus Davenport
Marcus Davenport@marcus_davenport · Founder & CEO at Fitly
Hi Cyan, Thanks for taking our questions today! If you were to start a market place startup today, who would you want as early stage high value add investors and why?
Lee Bishop
Lee Bishop@lee_bishop
Where do you think our economy will go in the future? Between having outsourced a lot of our production overseas, Artificial Intelligence moving to take over a lot of every day business procedures, and telepresence moving towards VR that will increase reach and mobility, what do you think will be left for the everyday guy as part of the workforce? What will our country produce and export? Not everyone is a programmer.
shadowhillway
shadowhillway@shadowhillway
@lee_bishop great question. and geometrically increasing populations, same finite Earth resources, and less work for people to do is a recipe for disaster. then again, there may be occupations in the future that nobody can imagine now, like how nobody could have dreamt up something like "social media marketing manager" a hundred years ago.
Soham
Soham@lifeis2complex
How do you decide 'How much to invest' in a particular company ? Kindly specify the key things that you look for. I hope this would help founders to follow the right path. Thanks
mystride
mystride@mystride · Make it Rain Carrots
What are the top three ingredients that make a successful mobile-first platform business?
Syed Ahmed
Syed Ahmed@tabishis · Altimus Solutions, Inc.
Do you think MOOCs will eventually replace traditional learning, specifically tech focused learning? Do you invest in products that are focused on solving problems for MOOC students?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@tabishis I don't think they will replace traditional learning, but traditional learning will be replaced. Alternative models like AltSchool are great examples of how you can reimagine education. MOOCs are great as well, especially if they drive down costs of education and if they are effective.
shadowhillway
shadowhillway@shadowhillway
got any grapes today?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@shadowhillway I'm all out of grapes today. Do you have any lemonade?
shadowhillway
shadowhillway@shadowhillway
@cyantist unfortunately no fresh lemons but I always have bottled lemon juice plus sugar and water, so: hell yeah
Eric Ying
Eric Ying@ey96 · Co-Founder and CEO, Popcorn
Favorite type of movies? And how do you decide on what to watch? :) Btw, love movies too!
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What's your daily routine?
Cyan Banister
Cyan Banister@cyantist
@ems_hodge I don't like routines, so I guess that's my routine :)
Hello Cyan , I'm a Startup seed company and looking for a Angel investor on my Patent pending music app Pupilize any help ? I will appreciate your answer.
Katie Weiler
Katie Weiler@katieweiler · Project Coordinator at Intently
How often do you find companies that are focused on making the world a better place? And how do you find them?
Also any help or advice on getting a investor to develop and launch Pupilize in a 4 billion dollar annual market
shadowhillway
shadowhillway@shadowhillway
any thoughts about the very first steps of starting a business, from when the light bulb turns on the first time to taking real actions?
ksmetana
ksmetana@ksmetana
Hi - What strategies do you have for when you feel like you're totally fried, or burned out, and you don't want to deal with the tech freakshows anymore?
Matt Dodge
Matt Dodge@that314guy · Co-Founder, n.io
Hey Cyan, My question is related to a recent side project I've been researching for — do you have a (and if so, what is your) system for budgeting and tracking your time? Thanks!