Eric Friedman

Eric Friedman

Head of Expa Labs

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 08, 2017

Discussion

Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
Hi - I am Eric Friedman, Head of Expa Labs and I am excited to be here and answer your questions. I have been working with startups my entire career and I love investing and operating at the earliest stages of company creation. I was previously at Foursquare for nearly 6 years, and before that I was at Union Square Ventures. I am here to answer questions about the program I run called Expa Labs. Expa Labs is not your typical accelerator or incubator -- it is an early early stage program that invests $250K to $500K in companies giving space to create, learn, and grow. I am looking forward to a good discussion. **EDIT** Thanks ProductHunt community for your great questions - I am excited for the future of Expa Labs - thanks for taking the time, now its time to review applications - quick reminder the deadline for Expa Labs 2017 is 3/31!
Scott Hirsch
Scott Hirsch@scott_hirsch · CTO, TalentMarketplace
Hi Eric, for the new Vancouver Expa Labs location, what are the top 3 things you are looking for in a business/team to join the program?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@scott_hirsch this is true for any, but coachability matters - working with a team that wants to work with us. Working there with our partner Milun Tisovic present gives a great foundation and office space where we hope a company will thrive. To address my top 3; 1. Coachable team, 2 people willing to spend 10 years on solving their problem or need, 3 a large scale opportunity
Scott Hirsch
Scott Hirsch@scott_hirsch · CTO, TalentMarketplace
Saba Mohebpour
Saba Mohebpour@saba_mohebpour · CEO at Spocket - Techstars Alumni
What early stage means to Expa? Idea only, team formation or traction ? @EricFriedman
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@saba_mohebpour Thanks for asking - hoping to get great questions about Expa Labs and provide perspectives on my experiences and how companies can be successful.
Saba Mohebpour
Saba Mohebpour@saba_mohebpour · CEO at Spocket - Techstars Alumni
@ericfriedman Was hoping to get an answer to what Early-stage means to Expa? Thanks
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@saba_mohebpour Sorry looks like your question was edited I think I answered here: https://www.producthunt.com/live...
stuart
stuart@soppstu · CEO Current
being a native new yorker, what is your favorite bagel? And how can a decision on a bagel be attributed to picking a potentially great founding team and idea?
BPLewis
BPLewis@bplewis · VP Comms @Expa. Beards Not Bombs
@soppstu similarly, what is your favorite donut?
stuart
stuart@soppstu · CEO Current
@bplewis Boston Creme, like Current is solves the problem of 2 amazing forces, and making them agree in a palatable construct. Parent/Teen debit card and app coming out later this month!
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@soppstu Thank you Stuart from Current :) Here is my answer: http://www.ericgfriedman.com/200... this is also the post that got me banned from Hacker News http://www.businessinsider.com/e...
Christopher Spiller
Christopher Spiller@christopherspiller · Leading @ Bizy
Thanks for chatting here on PH. What intangible elements of new products have you seen make the greatest positive impact in early attempts at product-market fit? (i.e. the kinds of things that are hard to precisely plan or measure but that matter nonetheless).
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@christopher_spiller The first 10 people matter most. After that, the stickiness of the product that solves a real problem, not a solution in search of a problem. The best companies I have seen have the core group of people identified charging towards a unified vision and excited to tackle the problem. I also firmly believe that if you are not embarrassed by your first version, you didn't launch early enough.
Christopher Spiller
Christopher Spiller@christopherspiller · Leading @ Bizy
@ericfriedman Agree, no substitute for a passionate team solving real problems. Thanks!
Alex Chuang
Alex Chuang@alexchuang72 · Managing Director, Launch Academy
What kind of support do startups get after the six-month program? Can you give us an example?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@alexchuang72 Companies get a few things that are both structured and unstructured. We provide some software they use (think wiki) where they can communicate with their team and ours, Slack for the community (all Expa + Expa Labs), and events that we host. Another component is ongoing help that doesn't end when the program does - a good example is I am doing a final interview for a senior sales hire for one of the Expa Labs 2016 companies tomorrow. Knowing the team (culture fit), the product (expertise), and my background building and scaling sales I can offer insight through a interview. I assist with launches (see Radar and Dovetale on PH in the last 30 days!) and we help with as much as we can.
Vitor
Vitor@vit05 · tapan.ga
@ericfriedman How is the interaction between the funded founders teams in Expa. Do you think you are building a great community that would generate business that goes beyond the time spent on the program?
Adam
Adam@nextbigtechidea
How best to decide to apply for $250k vs $500k? Are there different requirements / stage of maturity you'd like to see? For many pre-seed stage startups that have evidence of traction (like mine - playvici.com), more capital simply means iterating prod-mkt fit faster for longer. Thanks for the guidance.
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@nextbigtechidea Different companies have very different capital needs, which is why we have multiple investment tiers. Depending on the stage of the business, you may want to have more runway (also more dilution) or if earlier stage $250K to get to a launch, growth, and early team members. It is also dependent on the category - hardware companies obviously need more runway earlier.
Adam
Adam@nextbigtechidea
@ericfriedman Appreciate the response. Look forward to continuing the conversation.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Eric, thanks for joining us today. What advice do you most often find yourself giving to founders you work with at Expa?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@ems_hodge I like to calibrate my answers based on the experience level and knowledge base of a founder and life stage of the company. It usually ends up being the following; shipping earlier, changing plans (and being ok with it), fundraising (and the difficulty of it), and how they can continue to learn - outlined these in more detail here: https://medium.com/@ericfriedman...
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What do you think the biggest benefits are to founders and investors with the startup studio model?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@bentossell There are a number of things that benefit a company best served by an example. Once of our companies announced new funding for Current.com - providing collaborative banking services for families with a smart debit card + app. Our model provides more runway, deeper hands on help, less potential risk for partners (think banks, payments, fintech in general), longer time horizon to tackle a huge market and working alongside other early stage companies. You never know what crossroads another CEO has had experience with, and sitting alongside someone who has been through it before can help. Whether a company is 6, 8, or 12 months ahead in startup time that is forever.
Saba Mohebpour
Saba Mohebpour@saba_mohebpour · CEO at Spocket - Techstars Alumni
What early stage means to Expa? Idea only, team formation or traction ? What else are you looking for in the teams specifically?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@saba_mohebpour answering through the lens of Expa Labs and what we look for; early stage can mean idea stage (before forming an entity), post idea where there is a demo or a working product, a venture scale idea that has initial investment (from angels or similar), or a company that needs the right help to launch or continue to grow. Its a hard thing to define perfectly but in my experience this has meant <10 people, <1MM in funding, pre-product market fit.
Mojahed Qashoa
Mojahed Qashoa@mojahedqashoa · PayableTask
Hi Eric, I have several questions if I may .... 1) is the $500K investment in the form of cash inflow into the company's account? or does it include the value of your lab's services? 2) can we use the funds totally for OPEX? are there limitations on the seniority of the staff that we can hire? 3) is the equity share % fixed or does it depend on the opportunity? 4)Can we setup the company in Toronto? do we have to be fully attending the Vancouver labs? 5)I read that we have to have a US entity ... is this in the form of a wholly Canadian subsidiary or a stand alone legal entity? 6)Can you please shed some light on the services offered beside the office space, especially: legal services such as trade marks, IP, company registration ... or what? also, what about market research? finally do you offer any technical development support? 7)is the program for 6 months? what happens after the 6 months? 8) do you take full lead in the next round of funding? 9)from your experience, how much does the average cloud services cost per user per month assuming no user attachments allowed? 10)what are the next steps in the selection process? Thanks.
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@mojahedqashoa wow thanks for the great questions 1. Cash in the account 2. No restrictions - the company control is in the hands of the founder. We have a responsibility to report back to our finance team and partners, and hope to advise as best we can. 3. The equity is fixed on our two tiers 4. We can invest in US and Canadian entities, so yes you can be based and work in Toronto. The distributed program is meant to have folks apply and work from anywhere, starting in the US and Canada 5. See above 6. We offer guidance and support in a few ways; structured events (we do a breakfast series bringing in experts in their fields), regular demo days with Expa Labs + Expa Studio where people show off what they are building or have learned (usually monthly), give space to focus on building and shipping products 7. 6 months yes - after companies move into their own space (also see other Q about what happens after) 8. No. Specifically to avoid signalling risk we only have the option to take our pro rata 9. ?? 10. We are reviewing applications after the deadline: March 31st then bringing in finalists in May and starting the program in June.
Adam Revetta
Adam Revetta@arrev · Founder, CollaborDate & ScareHunt
What's the greatest early indicator to success that you've seen consistently across startups (if any)?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@arrev Early traction. A great idea that solves a true problem or pain point. A great team that is coachable and understands the larger parts of their market with real domain expertise. Traction or revenue solve all problems, and seeing that early can point to a potential success.
Benji Brown
Benji Brown@theprojectabot1
hi @ericfriedman - stoked to listen in. Question: how do you find building a moat or creating a defensible product in software is attainable at startup levels vs mega large corps? Is it relationships, tact, focus, or something other?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@theprojectabot Most companies don't realize that a lack of resources is a blessing not a curse. The fact that you have to focus on one thing (you only have resources for one thing) give you a competitive strategic advantage. Usually doing 1 thing really well, is better than the platform or mega large corp approach which can mean a customer base that loves you and a way to bridge to other areas in the future. Defensibility is something I look at and can be achieved with domain expertise (team), a product that is 10X better than the rest, or a first to market opportunity that will create a first mover (hardest to do!)
Serge Salager
Serge Salager@sergesalager · CEO, RetargetLinks
Hi @ericfriedman, how do you approach startups that want to be part of Expa Labs but for which the valuation would be a down round to current investors?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@sergesalager We haven't had that situation yet. Definitely something for founders to think about. Putting on my investor hat I would think about having a company survive to fight another day rather than shut down but every investor is different.
Kyle Collier
Kyle Collier@kyleacollier
Hey Eric, thrilled that you were able to take some time out for other entrapreneurs. I've had friends and colleagues admitted to YC and have built unicorns. What they had in common was that they could certainly tell a great story. When it comes to crafting a story, in particular to your vision. What do you feel most startups fail at doing during the submission process to accelerators?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@kyleacollier being super clear and concise about what they are building. The description in applications throws people off because they go into grand plans and backgrounds that don't apply to the business they want to build. Things don't have to be perfectly figured out, but it helps to have a very clear vision.
Chris Howard
Chris Howard@chris_howard_21 · CEO, Classary
How do you choose what to focus on as a startup? Sometimes I feel like a fireman, putting out fires and addressing issues as they pop up.
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@chris_howard_21 Great question. Take a step back and look at each fire you are putting out. Take it one step at a time and don't let the number of fires get you down. I wrote further about this here: http://www.ericgfriedman.com/201... (sorry to be self promotional!) Here are questions I find helpful: 1. Which of these things matters in the long run of 1, 3, and 5 years 2. Which of these can you delegate? 3. How can you carve out time for building and time for "fire fighting" Hope this is helpful
Kunal Bhatia
Kunal Bhatia@kunalslab · Co-founder & Design Lead @SlidesUp
Thanks for being here @ericfriedman! You've described startup knowledge as an equalizer and that learning never stops. As you try to get founders up to the baseline, how do you decide the best way for that founder to learn? Do you use any frameworks or methods to think through the approach to learning?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@kunalslab This is all about calibrating my experiences to where a founder is with their business and knowledge. There are plenty of things I can't help with (technical) and things I can (revenue). I try to start looking at the foundational elements of a business - who comprises the management team, what does the capitalization look like, what market is someone going after, where do they have a blind spot or a void in their knowledge. From there I can see where they need the most help. Most importantly, they have to be open to accepting outside help and that is a great signal for me to see if its someone that wants to work with me and vice versa.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
Hey Eric, if you had to swap lives with a tech CEO for a week, who would it be and why?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@bentossell I am sure lots of folks also say Elon Musk but for me its true. The idea of working on rockets, solar panels, and electric vehicles for a week sounds like a lot of fun. As a huge X-Men fan as well, the fact that he named all the Tesla factory robots after my favorite characters doesn't hurt either: http://www.teslarati.com/tesla-f...
Anthony Pizzarelli
Anthony Pizzarelli@str8anthony · owner of Str8ReaLestate.com #USa
@ericfriedman @bentossell Maybe set up an EXPa LaB experiment @ a Tesla Factory. =]
Marcos Antônio Araújo
Marcos Antônio Araújo@marcos_antonio_araujo
@ericfriedman @bentossell Huge X-Men fan toooo!!! Logan was an amazing movie!
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What’s your morning routine?
Shariff Raffi
Shariff Raffi@shariff · Founder @ LifeStak
@jakecrump This i gotta hear... :)
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@jakecrump I wake up before everyone, read at least 1 book, crush my todo list...just kidding. I usually wake up, we take of our baby daughter, take my dog for a walk, and head into work.
Amer Justice
Amer Justice@amer_justice · Co Founder of Affidavit
Thanks for doing this Eric, what is the definition of an "early" start-up to you?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@amer_justice Thanks for the question - answered here: https://www.producthunt.com/live...
Anthony Pizzarelli
Anthony Pizzarelli@str8anthony · owner of Str8ReaLestate.com #USa
Hi Eric... Nice meeting you a few weeks ago @EXPa NYC for your mixer thingi. 1. I'm curious what industries most excite you regardless of their professional & profit potential? 2. What industries do you feel hold the most potential for the next Unicorn. 3. How many companies have submitted/do you expect to submit to your current EXPa Labs class? 4. When can @Str8ReaLestate expect our term sheet and acceptance to EXPa Labs Summer 2017? :-} 5. What most excites you about working @ EXPa? 6. How much consideration or preference do you have for EXPa companies complementing and working together with each others business? For example I see where Str8 ReaL estate can integrate KiT & Dovetale and would that be an arrangement EXPa would encourage, discourage or has a neutral opinion about? Thanks E.F, a. www.Str8ReaLestate.com 561-670-3844
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@str8anthony @expa @str8realestate 1. I really love where autonomous cars can take us :) living in NY with gridlock I see a future where this is solved 2. Unicorns are imaginary :) 3. I look for quality over quantity 4. Getting back to folks for final interviews in May 5. Great people 6. Totally up to each founder, I really love that we empower folks to make their own decision
Anthony Pizzarelli
Anthony Pizzarelli@str8anthony · owner of Str8ReaLestate.com #USa
@ericfriedman @expa @str8realestate thanks for the bounce back. I hope to see Ya again in the Spring! Keep #CRUSHiNGiT, a.
Christopher Owen
Christopher Owen@christopher_owen
What is the breakdown of Expa Lab incubator applications by host city?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@christopher_owen We have space in NY, SF, and Vancouver - however we are taking applications from anywhere in US and Canada - most are currently in NY, SF, and Vancouver
Christopher Owen
Christopher Owen@christopher_owen
@ericfriedman sorry if this is prying, but I was trying to suss out the number of applicants received so far/expected by host city?
Anthony Pizzarelli
Anthony Pizzarelli@str8anthony · owner of Str8ReaLestate.com #USa
@christopher_owen @ericfriedman Me too C.O.... LoL!! #RockoN
Amer Justice
Amer Justice@amer_justice · Co Founder of Affidavit
in terms of priority, do you put importance on startups that are heavy into machine learning and AI?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@amer_justice No. We prioritize the team over everything else. Spaces that are hot come and go, but when someone is working on something for 10 years - that has the most staying power.
Bryce Daniel
Bryce Daniel@bryceoflife · Perpetual Side Hustler
Hey Eric, thanks for going live on PH! If you had to name one attribute, what is one thing you and your partners at Expa Labs look for in first time founders? Cheers!
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@bryceoflife Coachability. I have touched on it in some previous answers and wrote about it in depth here: https://medium.com/@ericfriedman...
Bryce Daniel
Bryce Daniel@bryceoflife · Perpetual Side Hustler
@ericfriedman Thanks for the response! My team and I have made it a point to seek out mentorship wherever we can, and use that to guide our thinking. I'm a firm believer in strong opinions, weakly held.
Chris Howard
Chris Howard@chris_howard_21 · CEO, Classary
I have regret for not starting marketing long before dev was rolling and features were being released. Do you have any early regrets that have shaped your strategy when advising startups.
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@chris_howard_21 Launch Earlier. That is probably a sign I should make and hang up over my desk. This always comes up and I always think teams should launch earlier.
Shariff Raffi
Shariff Raffi@shariff · Founder @ LifeStak
Question that is more related to Expa Labs: I understand that it is an early early stage program, but are you more inclined to turn down companies that have raised some angel funding (on a SAFE instrument for example) in addition to founders own pre-seed capital, or would this be seen as a plus point?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@shariff We selected companies that had previous funding for our 2016 group. We would have no problem doing that again.
seenazzz
seenazzz@craze3 · Co-founder @ Helios / Founder @ Pitche…
When can early applicants to Expa Labs expect to hear back? I received an email urging me to submit early so that I could get invited to community events....but still i've yet to hear a word. Looking forward to an update. Thanks!
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@craze3 We are trying to encourage folks to apply, and have events to meet people earlier. Last year we did final interviews, and this year we are spending more time with founders. The exact timeline is to go through and setup final interviews in May for a program start in June.
Bobby Jones
Bobby Jones@bobby_jones
Hi Eric - thanks for doing this! Do you have any advice for how to let intangible qualities such as coachability, hustle and grit come across in an application for a program such as Expa Labs?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@bobby_jones The video is a great way to assess these things - I look at it as a virtual chat over coffee and should be very conversational (albeit one way!)
Bobby Jones
Bobby Jones@bobby_jones
@ericfriedman - appreciate the reply!
Danny Freed
Danny Freed@dannyfreed · Founder, Joy
1. How are you guys thinking about Remote applicants vs. non-remote applicants? Is there different criteria? Are you only accepting X remote teams? 2. I am curious to hear how you / other partners at Expa think about single founder companies. I am a solo founder right now (http://www.hellojoy.ai) and planning to submit an application -- wondering if there are certain things I should address in terms of how I am mitigating the risks of being a solo founder?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@dannyfreed 1. We want to make the path to entrepreneurship easier, not matter where you are. This is starting for us in the US and Canada. I think the bar is slightly higher for remote CEOs because we can't see them every day. 2. We like to have multiple founders, but had a single founder in Expa Labs 2016, so its not a requirement. Typically this model helps in many ways in the beginning, middle, and even end of a company :)
Danny Freed
Danny Freed@dannyfreed · Founder, Joy
@ericfriedman Thanks for taking the time to answer! :)
Edis Murtic
Edis Murtic@nextenergylabs · StudentCoin
Do you think that the startup industry have gone too far, before launching a startup meant to change the world like Apple, Microsoft with more. There is a sector called startup tech, it is companies that assist startups, like pitch deck startups for exempel. When will we see companies in the same grade as Apple and Microsoft that will take the world to a whole other level in the technology but also economic ways. Expa Labs is also a product of the startup industry, Garrett Camp launched Uber, gain a profit from it and then launched Expa Labs that will launch even more startups. Do you think billionaires in the world don’t know what to do due to the limitation in the world? We as humans seek immortality, health, travel to other planets, become interplanetary spices, unlimited energy and water with more. Do you think that there will come a company that will make all that possible and become the first trillion dollar company. Sorry for the long text, answer what you can.
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@nextenergylabs The best part about people starting things in general is that you truly don't know where the next giant company will come from.
Brayson
Brayson@braysonware
Hi @ericfriedman any new startups we should look out for coming out of Expa Labs? Also what's the best way for a startup that's raising to send you materials?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@braysonware Best way is to checkout and apply via Expa.com/labs - Here is the full roundup of 2016 companies https://techcrunch.com/2016/11/2... - some have had more formal launches than others, but feel free to check them all out.
Joseph D. Robbins
Joseph D. Robbins@joseph_d_robbins · CEO & Co-Founder, VenUse
Hi Eric, Thanks for spending the time with us today. I was interested in hearing what you think Expa Labs does best, and what you consider Labs' greatest strength to be?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@joseph_d_robbins Thanks for the question. Our greatest strength may be assembling great people at various stages of life - Expa Labs founders and teams contribute as much as Expa Studio companies that may be further along. Expa Labs provides time with folks who have seen every stage of a business and can usually weigh in with advice/strategy/a clear answer where others may be pulling from experience that is 5-10 years old. Having operating partners that are in market, fundraising, and dealing with similar issues is a huge help to founders.
Joseph D. Robbins
Joseph D. Robbins@joseph_d_robbins · CEO & Co-Founder, VenUse
@ericfriedman Great, thanks very much, Eric!
Hi Eric, Thx for hosting this. "early early stage" means different things for different products. Will Expa entertain a robotics/AI (i.e. HW + SW) product with early prototypes & a narrowly defined market ?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@raffy yes definitely - we are agnostic to category and topic - its more about the team at this stage. Also gave some more info here: https://www.producthunt.com/live...
Marcos Antônio Araújo
Marcos Antônio Araújo@marcos_antonio_araujo
How do you work with teams that are working remotely? How is the collaboration done? Do you see less progress from teams working from your offices compared to from their own base?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@marcos_antonio_araujo This is the first time we are doing this. As a distributed office ourselves we have several tools that we use; an internally built system for communication (think wiki), Slack, all kinds of video conferencing...additionally for any distributed team we select we are going to bring them in during various points in the program (at our expense) to be together in person. This underscores that we want to help fund great ideas no matter where they are.
Marcos Antônio Araújo
Marcos Antônio Araújo@marcos_antonio_araujo
Why did your team choose a 250k and 500k investment for 10% and 20%? Do you see this limiting the startups you can work with?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@marcos_antonio_araujo We think that more capital can provide time and runway to figure things out. When we set out to build the program I looked at what was out there and came up with a list of things Expa could provide - more here: https://medium.com/@ericfriedman...
Lizzy Bates
Lizzy Bates@lizzysbates · Bessemer Venture Partners
Hello Eric -- Can you please walk through the structure of the Expa Labs investment? Is it a convertible note with a 2.5M cap and no discount? What about pro rata rights? Thank you!!
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@lizzysbates convertible note, we have pro rata rights but don't lead the next investment to avoid signaling risk in to make sure we can work with folks like Bessemer. Say hi to Charles and Talia for me :)
Busayo Ogunsanya
Busayo Ogunsanya@busayo_ogunsanya · Entreprenuer
hello, are you looking at machine learning in the fintech space?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@busayo_ogunsanya We are looking for great people working on large scale ideas - ML in fintech could be one of them!
Vern Howard
Vern Howard@vernon___ · ceo - cofounder , hallo
Hi Eric, Thanks again for taking time out of your day to engage in this Q&A with us. 1.) The distributed program looks very promising for some teams, in your opinion what are the factors for being selected to participate in the distributed program? 2.) The EXPA Labs application ask for referrals, how are those evaluated during the selection process?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@vernon___ 1. I would say the bar is slightly higher as teams are really working on their own day to day. 2. We like to know when someone sends a team our way. It is used as one data point of many, but not a deciding factor.
Vern Howard
Vern Howard@vernon___ · ceo - cofounder , hallo
@ericfriedman Great, thanks for the response Eric.
Hi again Eric, does Expa have themes (or specific ideas) that they'd like to see applications for ?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@raffy Common question - no. We don't have a specific vertical or category focus - rather it is on the teams. These companies are usually very early and the people matter more than the idea. My assumption is that teams may come in with an idea in one category and may end up at the end of 6 months changing it (possibly multiple times)
Jay
Jay@jablonski002
You answered one question re American and Canadian incorporated companies. How about those who are incorporated elsewhere? Do they have to be incorporated in the US or Canada to be eligible? Or do you welcome applications from anywhere in the world and, if selected, have them incorporate in the city they opt for?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@jablonski002 we have to invest in US or Canadian entities - companies can be located and work elsewhere but it may be tricky to figure out for 2017 but we welcome the application.
Raffi Kayat
Raffi Kayat@raffikayat · CEO, Co-founder of borderless
@ericfriedman What space do you follow the most and why? (I'm assuming sales/marketing?)
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@raffikayat Because of my work with the Current.com team I follow the fintech space more closely than before, and have a big interest in what is happening there.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
Do you think we will see more companies launch startup studios?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@bentossell We have already seen a number of them - they are all different and have a different approach. Many define the space this way, but the reality is that each is very different from one another. I think we have hit on something very special at Expa, but I try to meet with others building similar things. What I have found is that each has their own flavor and specialty. Some see others as competitive, but at the end of the day we are all trying to help startups and entrepreneurs.
Marc Milberg
Marc Milberg@marc_milberg · Co-Founder & CEO
1. What are the primary indicators that you use to judge submissions to Expa Labs? 2. I know that you want companies to have at least one person that has a "tech" background. Does that mean they should be able to develop the entire product themselves or is it a more generalized term that the work could still be outsourced as long as there is experience with tech? (Should be able to code at a very high level vs. being able to manage coders and have experience doing it)
Marc Milberg
Marc Milberg@marc_milberg · Co-Founder & CEO
In regards to 1, primary indicators for companies that are at the idea stage?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@marc_milberg 1. Team, ability, vision, traction (if any), coachability, and ambition 2. I always say that having a technical co-founder provides much faster iteration and feedback loops for teams. If I have a session with someone that needs to write up notes, funnel them to someone else (or remote) you lose a lot of what happens in person. With a technical team you have exposure to the folks building, faster building, and usually better products. Many have proved this wrong, just my opinion.
Carolynn Quigley
Carolynn Quigley@carolynn_quigley · Quigley Transportation Inc
@ericfriedman In regards to 1. how would you like to see founders present these indicators on their applications? Are referrals the best bet for supporting the founders strengths in these areas?
Marcos Antônio Araújo
Marcos Antônio Araújo@marcos_antonio_araujo
We are a media company that creates sports content for LatAm... Have you worked with media companies before? How do you go about introductions to potential partners? Have you guys worked with people in the sports industry before?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@marcos_antonio_araujo Not worked with media companies before in Expa Labs. We are open to get applications from everyone. Introductions are done (double opt in) and trying to be helpful to both the company and the person/company we are introducing. Having worked in BD it is not about getting the intro, its about actually being able to help towards the goals of the company and their mission. I have not worked with people in sports industry before.
Rebecca Yip
Rebecca Yip@rebz135
Hi @ericfriedman - I'm working on Snow Connect, a ski/snowboard instructor marketplace, and am applying to Expa Labs now. What would you say are the 5 key things you want to see in the startup application for Expa that I should definitely highlight?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@rebz135 Clearly identify what you are doing - sounds like a marketplace for Ski/Snowboarders :) but you would be surprised at how many folks can't articulate what they are doing clearly. 5 quick thoughts 1. Why are YOU the person to succeed at this 2. Why the TIME is right 3. Why the tech is right (this trifecta I went into here: https://medium.com/@ericfriedman...) 4. Can this team attract talent 5. is there a clear vision
Shariff Raffi
Shariff Raffi@shariff · Founder @ LifeStak
Hi Eric, I read that on a recent techcrunch article that “The idea of a distributed program and having people who aren’t based in one of those cities is actually really interesting to [Expa]". It's certainly encouraging to know that Expa is forward thinking in it's approach to seek the best people and startups across the world. I'm interested to look at how I can be of assistance to bring Expa Labs closer to this part of the world, and bridge founders from Asia to the valley. As a founder who is based in Singapore, where tech talent can be expensive and hard to come by, I've been forced to employ a remote team across the region and figure things out (like devops) and managing a distributed founding team. From this experience I can certainly attest that there are "diamonds in the rough" talent in this region, be it founders or even tech talent. On the side, I'm also interested to explore Expa's Distributed Program first hand (if given the opportunity) with the product I'm building, and look at how we could expand that to this side of the world in the future. What would be the best way to get in touch?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@shariff Apply! Thanks for your questions. As you may know all the Expa partners are from outside the US, and one of the goals of Expa Labs is to make the path to entrepreneurship easier for founders. The distributed program in the US and Canada are the beginnings of making it easier.
Benefit Kitchen
Benefit Kitchen@benefitkitchen · Dan Beeby, CTO Benefit Kitchen
Hi Eric. When you invest in startups that focus on social impact, how do you weigh "impact" (usually large) vs "revenue" (usually small)?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@benefitkitchen If you look at a company like NINAYO.com (Expa Labs 2016) its about the team that we could help. Jack is building a marketplace, needed some capital/advice/guidance towards his amazing vision - more on Jack and his adventures here: https://medium.com/the-mission/r...
How do you communicate your business concept and excite potential investors without revealing too much, especially if your product/service is not patent-able?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@fay embrace the fact that nobody is going to steal your idea - solid investors should be able to see and understand everything about your business. Investors are not going to pack it up and go after an idea they heard that is amazing, and even if they did - a founding team would have spent XX years thinking about the space and have a huge head start over someone just interested in copying what they heard. Another thing to remember is that copycats typically copy the wrong things too and don't know what is working and what is not :)
What three main actions in business development do you think are necessary before a startup applies to Expa Labs?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@fay possibly none - BD comes later. If contingent on some deal or partnership - having a competitive advantage in that space with prior knowledge or relationships can help.
Jt Liddell
Jt Liddell@jt_liddell · Founder @ Promenade
Hello Eric - how "veteran friendly" is your organization in these three areas: 1. Bringing on new orgs 2. The business concept/direction/customer base, and 3. The team members themselves?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@jt_liddell Thanks for the question. We actually backed a company that is specifically building something in this space: Shift.org - hire exception veterans - We also have another Navy vet who is working on a project inside Expa. I think we see this as a large opportunity and want to embrace and encourage veterans to apply and work with us or one of the Expa Studio companies.
Jt Liddell
Jt Liddell@jt_liddell · Founder @ Promenade
@ericfriedman Thank you Eric. I am very familiar with Shift and know the founders as well. I wasn't sure if this was a continued area of interest for you all, but you have answered my question. Thank you so much!
Jt Liddell
Jt Liddell@jt_liddell · Founder @ Promenade
@ericfriedman Thank you Eric. I am very familiar with Shift and know the founders as well. I wasn't sure if this was a continued area of interest for you all, but you have answered my question. Thank you so much!
Jt Liddell
Jt Liddell@jt_liddell · Founder @ Promenade
@ericfriedman Thank you Eric. I am very familiar with Shift and know the founders as well. I wasn't sure if this was a continued area of interest for you all, but you have answered my question. And I see you went to GW as well....Go Colonials! Thank you so much!
Jt Liddell
Jt Liddell@jt_liddell · Founder @ Promenade
@ericfriedman Thank you Eric. I am very familiar with Shift and know the founders as well. I wasn't sure if this was a continued area of interest for you all, but you have answered my question. And I see you went to GW as well....Go Colonials! Thank you so much!
Jeffrey Beck
Jeffrey Beck@jeffrey_beck1
Hey Eric This forum is great, relatively new to the startup space. You spoke earlier about pain points and traction. Are there numbers that your or Expa Labs looks for in early traction (i.e. 10 paying customers, 100, 1000 or monthly revenue of $500, $5000 or $10000)? Thanks!
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@jeffrey_beck1 Good question - clarity is important. However we do not have a set number we look for in growth or revenue - but factor in all things combined and the time it took to get there.
Carolynn Quigley
Carolynn Quigley@carolynn_quigley · Quigley Transportation Inc
Hey Eric, What are your thoughts on a start up where the founders know an industry very well but want to build a business in technology that services the industry but have no technological background?
Eric Friedman
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
@carolynn_quigley We always like to say having a technical co founder is a requirement (reasons answered elsewhere here) and it really makes a big difference. Having domain expertise can sometimes be a detriment as things seem "impossible" but to an outsider they are just opportunities.
Carolynn Quigley
Carolynn Quigley@carolynn_quigley · Quigley Transportation Inc
@ericfriedman Thank you Eric! An opportunity Indeed!