David Tisch

David Tisch

Managing Partner at Boxgroup. I've invested in over 250 early stage tech startups and love chatting tech.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON December 22, 2015

Discussion

David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
Hi - I'm David Tisch, managing parter of BoxGroup, co-founder of Spring and Head of the Startup Studio at Cornell Tech. I've invested in over 250 early stage tech startups, started a mobile shopping company, and run the program at Cornell Tech that helps students create companies, love chatting startups and I'm excited to be here-- ask me anything!
Avery
Avery@averyalchek · Business Operations, Mashable
@davetisch What do you look for in founders (besides passion)?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@averyalchek Hey - I replied to this to @cobbyamoah
Cobby Amoah
Cobby Amoah@cobbyamoah · CEO, Peach
@davetisch @averyalchek Here is his answer. - this answer applies to @averyalchek too - #1 is leadership, it is totally overlooked early on with a 2-3 person team, but the CEO and founder needs to scale into a great leader. #2 – long term vision. #3 – hiring and inspiring.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
Dave, what do you think is one of the most difficult products to buy online, and what would you do to help solve that problem?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@katesegrin Anything that involved comfort to me is hard to buy online, a couch, a chair, some articles of clothing. Anything you need to feel to fall in love with. Offline helps here a bit, but not scaleable.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Thanks so much for joining us today! During your career to date, what is the best piece of advice you've ever been given? Flip side - what's the worst?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@ems_hodge Hey @ems_hodge – I’ll start with the worst “focus on improving your weaknesses.” I think its BS. People should double down on their strengths, find the things you are better than others at and focus your career around those things, not on filling in gaps. If it takes you a bit to find the right type of role to apply your strengths, that’s ok, its worth the journey because when you find that place, you will strive quickly and naturally. The best, probably from my grandfather was the way he approached his business career, it’s pretty simple – “ok, let’s go.” The first line “ok” can follow anything, a problem, a statement, a data set, a win, a loss, someone pitching, whatever it is – “ok.” Then, ”let’s go” - time to do it. Enough talk, just do it. It’s pretty applicable to anything, and I try and bring that into my approach in my work life.
Kingsong Chen
Kingsong Chen@kingsongchen · Dev
Hi David, what are some important problems in the world that need to be solved?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@kingsongchen Thanks for the question. Such a broad question, so many possible directions. At a global level, giving everyone the ability to provide safety, health opportunity and happiness to their family is what matters most.
Phil Nguyen
Phil Nguyen@p_ngu · The Daily Water Cooler + Vettery
Hey @davetisch! Thanks for making the time, as well as for all your efforts with growing the NYC tech ecosystem. My question has to do ecommerce, specifically the differences you encountered when making a platform based on mobile instead of websites. In particular, I'm curious if you made any design/functionality/etc. decisions in Spring because that's just how ecommerce on the web was done, but only later did you realize through user behavior that the feature was outdated or wrong for a mobile audience? (e.g., I remember reading somewhere that early cars used a tiller to steer because that's how boats were directed, but only later did people realize a steering wheel was much more effective)
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@p_ngu Hey Phil, appreciate that. We definitely designed Spring specifically for mobile. One of the major decisions we made early on was to streamline the most painful part of the shopping experience, the checkout. By eliminating the shopping cart we were able to do Swipe to Pay, which allowed a customer to pay without ever seeing a keyboard after your first purchase. The shopping cart to me was an antiquated solution that also creates on of the biggest problem for ecommerce, the abandoned shopping cart. The best way to eliminate shopping cart abandonment is to eliminate the shopping cart.
Junius
Junius@juniusfree
Hi @davetisch How will you spend your time if you've got one hour to solve a user problem/need? Thanks!
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@juniusfree Hey @juniusfree – thanks for the question. If I understand right, my approach would be to spend 45 minutes understanding the problem and 15 minutes to solve it. The more nuanced your understanding the user/problem and the context, the easier it will be to come up with a solution.
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@davetisch thanks so much for coming on @producthunt would love to hear how important you feel VC branding is and what strategies you use to make sure Box is considered the smart seed money in NYC? Cant wait to have you on @twentyminutevc in Jan!!
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@harrystebbings Hey Harry – VC branding. I mean, on many levels, super important, especially as an early stage VC. You need to get the best founders to come to you, or if you find them, to want to work with you. So being able to be found, and making sure people know you are out there and investing is vital. On the other hand, a big brand doesn’t always mean a great reputation. I think reputation is much more important, and that comes from the founders you work with. So we spend a lot of time at BoxGroup just trying to do the right thing, and work with our portfolio in a way such that they would recommend us to others. Smart money, I don’t know, just trying to focus on not being Bad money, that is the worst kind of money.
Avery
Avery@averyalchek · Business Operations, Mashable
@davetisch What drives you? Are you competitive?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@averyalchek I think curiosity. I used to be competitive, less so now, cause I don’t think the game I’m playing is an all sum game. I’d like to not lose more than I care to win. Generally, I’m fascinated by the future and predicting and seeing things play out, and I’d prefer if I am right I guess.
Cobby Amoah
Cobby Amoah@cobbyamoah · CEO, Peach
@davetisch Thanks for taking the time, Dave. From investing in several companies, what are some of the common and important traits you see in successful founders?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@cobbyamoah thanks for the question - this answer applies to @averyalchek too - #1 is leadership, it is totally overlooked early on with a 2-3 person team, but the CEO and founder needs to scale into a great leader. #2 – long term vision. #3 – hiring and inspiring.
Cobby Amoah
Cobby Amoah@cobbyamoah · CEO, Peach
@davetisch @cobbyamoah Thanks Dave.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
Who are some of the people that have made the most impact on your life? (Stories, please!)
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@katesegrin I'm first inspired by my family. My mother is the strongest person I know. My wife inspires me everyday, watching her build a business and create our family has taught me so much. My father, my grandfather are business inspirations to me. And my brothers push me to be better as a person. Family first...
Tom Limongello
Tom Limongello@tomlimongello · CEO of Truffle
Hi Dave! You said at a Meetup a year or so ago that products shouldn't solve pain points but solve boredom. What have you learned on that front in the last year or so?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@tomlimongello Hey Tom, thanks for the question. I think this is true in terms of consumer focused products, specifically mobile. There aren't many true pain points that are horizontal, and if there are, they are normally solves through a service not a pure product. For example, Uber solves transportation through a service that has an amazing product component. Note taking is kinda universal but i'd argue not a pain point. Make people happy and entertained and keep them that way, and you have a great product.
Christopher McCann
Christopher McCann@christophmccann · Founder, snap40
Hi @davetisch! Medtech startups face longer times to market because of the need for regulator approval/clinical trials. What do you think are the best ways a medtech startup can demonstrate traction and proof points in the early stages?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@christophmccann Not my area of focus, but I think a great prototype and a great narrative, both verbally and visually can go a long way for any product. Showing what your vision is through execution is vital.
Rui Delgado
Rui Delgado@rui · Tech Entrepreneur • Consultant • TV Nerd
@davetisch As an investor, what areas are you most interested in?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@rui Hey Rui, I personally am most interested in consumer products. Specifically, consumer software. I also love smart home, physical products, brands and marketplaces. I think consumer products that occupy consumers time are most interesting, so very much paying attention to the evolution of TV, love social products and think we are still in the very early days of mobile.
Ben Center
Ben Center@benhcenter · Investor Relations Associate, Onevest
@davetisch Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. I know you and your family are big philanthropists. What advice would you give entrepreneurs who are working day and night on their companies (or even people with long hours at 9-5 jobs) about how best to give back to their community?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@benhcenter Thanks Ben, find something close and meaningful to you, it is not about the size, more about the depth. So even impacting a single person in a meaningful way is giving back, it can be time or money or both.
Avery
Avery@averyalchek · Business Operations, Mashable
Were there any roles working for a company that prepared you to be a founder? What strengths did you learn/gain?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@averyalchek Anything involving being a leader prepares you. As a founder, you are asking other people to join your journey, it is an enormous ask, and you are responsible for leading them to a good place.
kedar mehta
kedar mehta@kedarmehta · Co-founder, KeddyMe and Linkrus
Hi David, much appreciate your suggestions - two quick questions 1) How important it is to you, and other early stage (angel) Investors, to have a start up a working Beta product? Are there "other" ways of getting the traction, without launching working product? Will Prototype, Alpha be good enough? What if the product is too complicated and needs team of 20+ with various skills, which a start up can't get without external funding? 2) What is importance of graphics/images/animation in a pitch deck? Can a simple, however, cover-all-important-questions PPT do the job?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@kedarmehta Hey Kedar - It depends on the teams experience to me. If you have never built something before, you have to show you can build something now, so a product, alpha/beta/prototype - whatever, is needed. If you have never built something before, it will be hard to raise enough money to hire 20+ people pre-product. and 2 - If you are building something that is consumer facing where brand and design will be important for success, showing that capability in everything you do is vital to me. If it is something very technical it is less important, because design isn't important in the end product as much.
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Tisch! You released Spring just over a year ago. What are you most proud of and what's the biggest learning since launch?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@rrhoover Hello Ryan... I am proud of our team, and the culture. It is unique, so many different backgrounds working on many moving parts, and everyone really enjoys each other and has a long term view of the problem we are focused on solving. Biggest learning - mobile shopping is in its infancy, so is ecommerce, but its close to hitting the inflection point. Smartphones were not universal until the past 2-3 years, and now we are seeing that effect.
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
What's your favorite start-up investment so far?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@russfrushtick I try to reset for every investment, seriously. If I am not more excited for the next one as I was the last one, I'm in trouble doing what I do.
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
@davetisch Who are the best founders in your portfolio companies and what about them sticks out?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@charles_kunene We work with so many amazing people, it's why I invest in startups, to work with amazing founders. Some examples are TJ Parker from PillPack, he's a natural for the business he's building and maintains a great energy about him in a very hard and fierce industry. Payal Kadakia from Classpass is living her dream, and you see it in the brand she is building. Jeff Raider and Andy Katz Mayfield are executing at Harry's like machines, again, they are truly passionate about the brand they are building. And lastly, Liz Wessel and JJ from WayUp (CampusJob) are building something they are connected to, and have built such a strong early culture amongst their team it is inspiring to watch. The common trait is connection to the company/passion for the product, and ability to hire great people and inspire them.
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
@davetisch Awesome. Thanks!
Taylor Hou
Taylor Hou@taylorhou1
@davetisch product has significant usage, paying customers from freelancers ($30/m) to enterprise ($2k/m), but not enough revenue to hire or continue investing in product. seems like there's a vicious and endless cycle of chicken vs egg problems. do they try to raise, bring on a sales/closer, shut down? founders have to work for other companies to pay bills and don't have enough time to seriously go at it after spending 3+ years with no pay.
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@taylorhou This is a hard situation, without a simple answer. Depends on what the founder wants and how they want to allocate their time. If there is not a desire to build a VC back business (from a returns standpoint) you shouldn't raise money. There is a major gap in the market for investors who fund non-VC sized businesses and this hurts founders who don't want that sized outcome or think its realistic.
John H. Meyer
John H. Meyer@beastmode · CEO, Fresco News
@davetisch What's your view on the current state of news (broadcast, web, mobile)? Where is it going?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@beastmode Hey John... you would know better than me. News is fascinating right now, because it can come from anywhere and be distributed by anyone. The democratization of breaking news make analyzation of the news even harder. Separating deep and journalistic storytelling and breaking news is important, they have minimal overlaps.
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
Hey Everyone, thanks for coming to hang out. Going to start answering some questions now, fire away...
Hey David, what is the biggest assumption you had going into Spring that has been disproved or evolved now that you're more than a year in?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@rsiegel Hey Rich, I think it is very hard to create urgency in commerce without price being the main driver of the urgency - I assumed there were other major levers, I'm not so sure.
@davetisch @rsiegel Super interesting. Which gets back to inventory and trends. If the trends get faster that isn't necessarily good for a retailer. From your viewpoint, at what point is too much speed a problem? Or are we far from that?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@rsiegel Not sure I understand the question.
@davetisch @rsiegel ah sorry. Put differently: what sort of urgency are you looking for in commerce? Is it the speed stuff moves off the shelves? Or the speed at which new products/trends pop up? Or something different?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@rsiegel People don't rush to buy something if they aren't getting a deal or if it isn't rare/limited/hard to get, so you need to build a narrative around products that help people fall in love with them
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
@davetisch Who are you in 3 words?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@charles_kunene genuine, witty, thoughtful - my wife might have a different 3 words for me...
Betsy Lin
Betsy Lin@eatingbreakfast · Designer at 30Weeks
Hi @davetisch Thanks for being here! What's your view on the importance of culture to a company?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@eatingbreakfast Culture attracts talent and keeps talent. I do not believe in "startup" culture. Every company should find their own voice... I also don't think culture is something that you need to see, it is more important to be felt.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
@davetisch great to meet you here! I have 2 qs 1) What was Spring's Strategy to get its first 1000 users? 2) Do you think Spring would get into affiliate marketing ie other Apps can send traffic to Spring for shopping? Thanks!
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@neeeharika Thanks for the questions. We spent a lot of time talking to the supply side of our marketplace and asked a lot of people who worked at brands who were our target customers to try the app before we launched. Then at launch, we made a lot of noise. 2. Yes, it is something we have spent a lot of time thinking about, and we've seen some of our brand partners do this already on their mobile offerings.
@davetisch how do you conceptualize startup ideas? apres conceptualization, what's the next step?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@ktoney I wish I had a system... sometimes you think of good ideas, a lot of times you think of bad ideas. Hopefully you can tell the difference. For next steps, to me, I would only try and build something if you cannot stop thinking about something, obsessively.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
@davetisch What is best way for an early stage startup to reach out to you? What do you look in an early stage company?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@neeeharika We are easily reachable - hello@boxgroup.com does the trick. We look for great founders with inspiring visions and the ability to execute them. We also try and focus on areas we personally find interesting.
Ian Kar
Ian Kar@iankar_ · Reporter
Hey @davetisch Spring is really cool (I use it all the time) and also has a really diverse group of investors (Snapchat, Google Ventures, Yuri Milner, Ivanka Trump). Why are all these really well known groups interested in Spring?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@iankar_ Thanks so much Ian. I can't comment on why specific investors invested in the company, our vision is very long term and really focused on aligning brands and consumers, and doing so through a consumer driven mindset. And I think we did a good job telling this story from the get go, by building a great team, a product to communicate our vision, and working with brands who were aligned with the mission.
@davetisch what is your take on meerkat vs. periscope? Are you a aloha and karma customer?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@ktoney I think the opportunity for live on the internet is still in its infancy and there is a lot more room to make great experiences. Periscope has done a fantastic job over the past year, Meerkat is working on some cool stuff and i'm excited to see it live. I have a karma and use it. I am not an Aloha customer, but my body is a really bad temple.
@davetisch @ktoney lol love your candidness. ordered aloha protein bars and powders last week. trying out this week. have provided them feedback on protein bar. liked that they were receptive.
Kyle Goldman
Kyle Goldman@kyle_goldman
@davetisch What are your views regarding investments in the fashion industry (tech/non-tech related)? Do you know of any VCs who specialize in making investments in that sector?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@kyle_goldman Hey Kyle, at BoxGroup we try and focus on tech company, or tech enabled. There are a bunch of investors who invest in fashion companies, Andrew Fine at Novel is one of them.
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
@davetisch At a broad/macro-scale, what is happening in culture that gives you hope for the future? On flip-side, which trends have you concerned about where things are going? Thanks :)
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@charles_kunene You can find good and bad in any story or trend, I was once a lawyer and trained to find the other side of an argument. I am hopeful that the proliferation of smart phones will allow more people access to information and tools than every before. Access to information and education gives me hope. The blurring of right and wrong and the harshness of society is a bit scary to me.
Zach Booker
Zach Booker@zabooker
Thoughts on the increased use in liquidation preference built into many funding rounds? Good, bad, natural given the tendency to stay private longer?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@zabooker No deep thoughts here, or different ones than have been expressed many times over. I spend most of my time focused on the opposite end of the market, super early stage. I think each company is different, and the public and private markets have pros/cons for each.
Tommy Nicholas
Tommy Nicholas@tommyrva · CEO @ Alloy
@davetisch what's next for the NYC ecosystem? My company has been in NYC for a little over half a year, and it has been SO much better to us than even our high expectations coming in. Should NYC double down on the verticals in which it is strong (Fintech, eCommerce, AdTech) or is it going to (continue to?) move into a more generalized startup ecosystem with wider varieties of expertise?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@tommyrva Hey Tommy - As you know, NYC has a mind of its own, so I don't think NYC is a unit... The city needs amazing companies to get built here and scaled here, that's what most important.
Tommy Nicholas
Tommy Nicholas@tommyrva · CEO @ Alloy
Geoffrey Weg
Geoffrey Weg@geoffreyweg · Betaworks, TechStars, White House
Hey David! What's your average day like?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@geoffreyweg Hey Geoff... I don't really keep a schedule as everyday is a bit different. And I just had a daughter, so there is really not much planning going on. As an investor, I try and use meals for longer meetings with existing relationships, and then spend my day meeting new companies or networking with investors/big companies to intro our portfolio to. I spend my evenings watching TV and hanging with my family, then I do email from about 10pm - 2am every night. So most of my email replies come at weird times.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@davetisch what has been your a) most challenging moment and how did you overcome it? b) proudest moment and why? c) most surprising moment?
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
@ems_hodge Hey Emily, in my career... a) I worked at a big company once, and we struggled to ship a product, for many reasons, some were my fault, some mine and my teams, but a lot was the big companies fault... and that was really hard. I got depressed by the end and it took a while to build back up. I had failed, and it stung. I needed to find somewhere to put my energy so I could succeed and that's how I overcame it. b) I felt like my first program at TechStars NYC, at Demo Day, was awesome. The companies had worked so hard to get there, the team at TechStars had as well, and the NYC community was incredible supportive that day, it felt awesome. Launching Spring was a fantastic moment too. c) most surprising was being part of a reality TV starting on my first day at TechStars NYC. Also surprising - how much I enjoy working with the students at Cornell Tech - I was excited, but I enjoyed it so much and i'm ready for the new class to begin in February.
David Tisch
David Tisch@davetisch · Partner, BoxGroup
Thanks everyone so much for the great questions... Appreciate you spending your time waiting for me to type... Mavis Beacon didn't teach me well enough...
Tom Skypek
Tom Skypek@tomskypek · Co-founder, GovBizConnect
Thanks for taking the time to share. Piggybacking on the question regarding traits of successful founders, any additional insights for B2B and B2G companies?
Daryna Kulya
Daryna Kulya@darynakulya · Co-Founder @ OpenPhone | Product Hunt TO
Hi David, thanks for being here! I'm sure you have a lot of young ambitious people asking for your advice on choosing between VC and startup career paths. What do you usually tell them? What factors determine your answer? Thanks!