Josh Kopelman

Josh Kopelman

Partner, First Round Capital

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 04, 2015

Discussion

Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
Hello Product Hunt! I am Josh Kopelman and I am a partner at First Round Capital, a seed-stage venture firm. Before that I was an entrepreneur, founding and exiting three companies (one IPO, two acquisitions). I'm based in Philly - but First Round invests nationally, and our biggest office is in San Francisco. My fund has invested in the first rounds of companies like Square, Warby Parker, Uber, On Deck Capital, Appnexus, Flatiron Health, Birchbox, and Blue Apron. First Round is laser-focused on helping seed stage companies become the next big thing. By connecting entrepreneurs with the tech, resources and community they need at the earliest stage, we aim to make a lasting impact
daniellevine
daniellevine@daniellevine · Fireside
@joshk Hey Josh! Thank's for doing this AMA. I'm wondering, what's the best thing you've come across in the last 30 days and why? Could be anything, a product, an article, a tea, a quote. Anything! Thanks for answering.
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@daniellevine Probably Narcos on Netflix
Lisa Cuesta
Lisa Cuesta@lisacuesta · Product Specialist, Google
First Round differentiated itself with a community platform that provides resources and operational support to portfolio companies -- and other VCs have copied this model (a16z, Google Ventures). What does First Round see as the next iteration or evolution of VC and how is First Round continuing to innovate and support its portfolio companies?
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@lisacuesta I wish I could double upvote this question. 😊
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@lisacuesta We've launched two new products/services to our community in the past year. One is focused on startup advising (which we think is broken - https://medium.com/@firstround/s...) and the other we haven't announced yet (but plan to soon). While some might view us as a venture firm, we view ourselves as a startup - and try to continually improve, innovate and iterate the ways we support our community.
Jack Smith
Jack Smith@_jacksmith · Serial Entrepreneur & Startup Adviser
Josh, you've been in VC a while and earned your seat at the table having been a successful entrepreneur. Why do you think so many new graduates and people with relatively little tech experience are all wanting to "get into venture capital"? — Do you think that the profession has become over glamorized, like being an investment banker or something? (I've just been trying to get my head around what the motivations could be).
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@_jacksmith Yes - I think that most of the roles in the startup ecosystem have become over-glamorized -- from founder to VC to media. That's primarily because for the last 5+ years the market for startups has been extremely strong. But the market goes in cycles. And this is a long term business - it takes years of hard work (and luck) to create something of meaning. And when the market turns (which it ultimately will), you'll see a lot of the tourists go home...
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
Hi Josh, thanks so much for joining us today. Would love to hear how important you believe personal branding is for VCs? If you were to try and establish your personal brand from scratch again, what platform would you target? Newsletters, blog, twitter, research papers? Would love to hear your thoughts.
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@harrystebbings I think that every person's branding needs to match reality - it needs to be authentic. Venture capital is a crowded space - there are a lot of really smart people trying to "win" the opportunity to work with gifted founders. I'm not sure there is any "formula" (or specific platform) one needs to follow to build a brand. Personally I think that a good goal is to be helpful to founders in each interaction you have.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hey Josh! Thanks for being here today. 🙌During your career to date, what has been your a) most challenging moment and how did you overcome it? b) proudest moment and why? c) most surprising moment? Thanks!
Cali Pitchel
Cali Pitchel@calipitchel · Creative Director | Belief Agency
@joshk Josh, First Round is producing some of *the best* content on startups, VCs, and growth (I'm surely not alone in this opinion). How did you decide to focus on content creation, and how does long-form content play into your overall marketing and growth strategy as a firm?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@calipitchel Thanks so much for the kind words. @camillericketts and her First Round Review team are really incredible... The Review started as a byproduct of the work we were already doing to create content and community for the companies we invested in. A few years ago we realized that our content could be beneficial to entrepreneurs who are not (yet) in our community - and began to share it more broadly...and it seems to have resonated.
Cali Pitchel
Cali Pitchel@calipitchel · Creative Director | Belief Agency
@joshk @calipitchel Awesome. Lots of kudos to the First Round Review team!
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@joshk curious what was your reaction was when opening "that" envelope? https://twitter.com/joshk/status...
Lejla Bajgoric
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Thanks for being here Josh! Besides participating in watermelon eating contests, what does someone as busy as yourself do in his off time to relax and recuperate?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@lejlahunts I visit hockey rinks on weekends :-) http://instagram.com/jkopelman/
Scott Weiner
Scott Weiner@brandwagon · iOS Development. Web Development. UI/UX.
@joshk Hi Josh. What do you think can be done to help entrepreneurs focus on solving real world problems in areas of the world they are unfamiliar with?
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
In today's world, aside from having personal capital, what is the best path to becoming a VC? MBA? Law degree? Experience? Prior exits? Knowing people?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@andrewmettinger I think that entrepreneurs want to work with investors who they believe will help them win. I think a good investor needs to have experience, patience, connectivity, humility and empathy.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
@joshk Great to meet you here. Your fund has invested lot of companies in several verticals. Any vertical you are excited to invest in future? Your fund has invested in subscription based services what are the challenges you face in this business model and how do you overcome it?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@neeeharika I've been spending a bunch of time focusing on the automotive vertical (with a focus on the pathway to autonomy). It is a challenging space to invest in as a VC, however, because (1) it's hard to determine which opportunities will be won by a startup (rather than an incumbent), and (2) the time period for demonstrable results is longer than the traditional 24 month period that VC's fund. I've shared some of my thoughts here - https://medium.com/@firstround/3...
Tigran Hakobyan
Tigran Hakobyan@tigranhakobian · Entrepreneur, Co-founder/CMO @ inapptics
Hi Josh, thanks for joining us today! Let's imagine you have two (almost) equal startups to invest in but you can invest only in one of them. What is that single factor which will be critical for you in the decision making process? Is that the product (idea), team, market opportunities, right timing, traction or maybe something else?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@tigranhakobian At the seed stage, I'd say team. (If I were a later-stage investor, it might be hard to ignore traction). Successful startups face so many unanticipated/unexpected challenges - and thousands of tough decisions - that I believe the founder/team is critical. More on what I look for in this old blog post - http://redeye.firstround.com/201...
Tigran Hakobyan
Tigran Hakobyan@tigranhakobian · Entrepreneur, Co-founder/CMO @ inapptics
@joshk Thanks for answering my question and sharing the blog post link with us :)
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi Josh! What's your take on online schools/learning and what do you think is the missing piece that will make them explode?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@theo_dimarhos I'm actually more excited about the way that technology can deliver an adaptive, personalized education in physical schools. That's why we're so excited to be investors in @AltSchool https://www.altschool.com/
Justin F Harris
Justin F Harris@justinfharris · Co-Founder, Beehive
@joshk Thanks for doing this AMA! At what point do you like for founders to connect with you and tell them about their company and progress? (Is any point to early?) Whats your opinion on the Patent Process in the US?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@justinfharris We're seed stage investors - and like to invest in the "first round" - so we'd rather meet with an entrepreneur earlier than later. (Caveat being that an entrepreneur should have selected an idea they want to pursue - and be willing to pursue it fulltime). I think the patent process needs a pretty meaningful overhaul. We've seen the process get abused numerous times by companies seeking to "tax" startups and innovation...
Patrick L. Adams
Patrick L. Adams@patrickleeadams · Creator of @sparq_app and @LionBrowser
@joshk I'm an entrepreneur (in Philadelphia) and want to get my startup funded. What do I need to do to connect with First Round?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@patrickleeadams I just followed you on Twitter. DM me ;-)
Patrick L. Adams
Patrick L. Adams@patrickleeadams · Creator of @sparq_app and @LionBrowser
@joshk thank you!
Tamar Weiss
Tamar Weiss@deleted-342517 · independent consultant
What kind of personality do you look for in an entrepreneur and a team? Does experience starting a company/industry knowledge matter as much when we talk about founds who are in their 20s?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@tamarweiss I've actually found that industry knowledge can sometime serve as an impediment to a founder. The best startup ideas are typically contrarian -- and in my experience people who have spent years working in an industry might have the hardest time identifying opportunities for disruptive change. Amazon wasn't founded by someone in the book industry. AirBnB wasn't founded by someone with hotel/hospitality experience. Travis didn't work for a taxi or limo company.
Faraaz Ahmed
Faraaz Ahmed@faraazahmed
Hi Josh For consumer/social apps what level of traction does First Round look for at the seed stage to be get interested?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@faraazahmed We typically invest before launch
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
I imagine the life of a VC is pretty busy. How do you balance that and your obligations to the many companies you sit on the board for?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@andrewmettinger I actually think the job of a VC is pretty simple: (1) find great entrepreneurs, and (2) help them win. And successful VC's balance their time appropriately between both...
Tom Limongello
Tom Limongello@tomlimongello · CEO of Truffle
hi! what have you learned from making all the fun first round holiday videos? have any new deals or ideas come directly from that annual process ?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@tomlimongello I've learned that it's important to have fun -- and not take yourself too seriously. I've learned that company/firm culture can be created in the most unexpected of ways/formats. And, yes, we've gotten dozens of emails from people who want us to invest because they want to be in the holiday video
Christoph Auer-Welsbach
Christoph Auer-Welsbach@awchristoph · Partner, IBM Ventures | Founder, City.AI
Josh, First Round's Reviews and your community efforts have become important elements to scale your VC firm. What is next to shape the future of venture capital?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@awchristoph Holiday Videos :-)
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Welcome, Josh! You've invested in a ton of companies. Which startup are you most surprised to have invested in and why?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@rrhoover I'd probably say Planet Labs. I never thought that a startup would be able to launch dozens of satellites with a mission to image the entire Earth every day, and provide universal access to that data. When my partner @robhayes brought the company in to our partner meeting, at first I thought he (and the idea) was crazy. It sounded like something a government would do - not a startup.
JJ
JJ@outdreamer · Web Developer/Writer/Idea-generator
Eventually convenience services will eliminate time spent on activities that can be delegated like picking up food or driving yourself somewhere, & at some point these activities will be automated. What would convince you to invest in a machine that can provide services like package delivery, over an app interface for that service economy between human demanders & suppliers?
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@joshk as the creative director behind tech's most viral videos, can you tell us a little bit about the process behind First Round's epic holiday videos, and have you started working on this year's yet?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@nivo0o0 To be fair, I'm not the creative director. For the last several years that honor has fallen to @brettberson and @christina3996. We typically build a list of viral videos throughout the year - and around October/November we begin the process of selecting the theme. We've just begun this years video.
JJ
JJ@outdreamer · Web Developer/Writer/Idea-generator
Hi, I have a couple of questions, I'd appreciate if you could answer one or two. When the service economies have been eliminated in favor of markets for machines that adequately provide those services, the only remaining goods exchanged from person to person will include: - cognitive functions that we cannot make algorithms for, such creativity & certain analysis types - machines, & machine improvements So after conquering the service industries, machines will eventually be our expert consultants - writing our legal arguments, articles, & books for us. 1. What's the best way to prevent the process of legislation from becoming mechanized? 2. What potential societal impacts do you see as a result of an economy based on software updates? Clearly automating these processes will make previously complex tasks like colonizing other planets easier - what about higher-level tasks like selecting the best topics of research, the fairest legislation with the fewest future externalities, generating new fields of study, adapting social policies for use in a foreign country, identifying a stock that will underperform, and so on - do you think tasks like this will ever be successfully automated?
JJ
JJ@outdreamer · Web Developer/Writer/Idea-generator
@outdreamer Follow-up question - when programmers' software runs the machines doing all of our automated daily tasks for us, how do you envision the government structure & legal framework changing to handle malicious code inserts into our self-driving cars & delivery drones? I think tech will become more accessible & component-based so that DUI kits will exist for drones, weaponry, processing power, task-builders, & so on, so that people can assemble their own tools. Then the major concern is restricting access to the best software, which will also have components that can be assembled by non-programmers. There will need to be laws to handle malicious code inserts in that case, or else we'll have to rely on government drones serving safe updates, which - being government property - will undoubtedly get hacked. If I were an investor, I'd be looking to invest in future-oriented security firms.
JJ
JJ@outdreamer · Web Developer/Writer/Idea-generator
Other than comparing a problem to a previous problem, what are some thought-processes you use to identify insights? Do you focus more on assessing the individuals associated with a startup or the product & its economic indicators? The internet has created a partially unregulated market for opinions, insights & other intellectual property - do you see those being successfully associated with a traditional business model, such as subscriptions to news sites/content platforms?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@outdreamer I focus far more on the individuals than the product. At the stage we see a company, the product is incomplete. That said, a product is a great "lens" through which you can rewind hundreds of decisions - and get a really strong sense of a founder's priorities and decision making capabilities.
JJ
JJ@outdreamer · Web Developer/Writer/Idea-generator
What do you think of a social network specifically for startups & investors with forums to pitch ideas & get votes/feedback on?
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@outdreamer Could be interesting and useful - though would be hard to get open and candid information flow, given the (understandable) hesitation of founders to share so transparently so early on in their process...
JJ
JJ@outdreamer · Web Developer/Writer/Idea-generator
@joshk @outdreamer True. Im thinking early feedback could be a useful filter in weeding out the companies that look promising but can't deliver
Brenner Spear
Brenner Spear@brennerspear · Software Engineer at @Affirm
@joshk I wanted to ask the same question as @patrickleeadams, but he beat me to it. Any chance I could DM you, also? 🙏🏼😁
Josh Kopelman
Josh Kopelman@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
Chad Grills
Chad Grills@chadgrills · Founder, Life Learning
Hi @joshk, Greetings from a coastally challenged veteran, designer, and entrepreneur :) I’m wondering if you or any of the First Round team are particularly obsessed/excited about education reform or the quantified self?