Josh Kopelman

Partner, First Round Capital

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 04, 2015


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 · 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@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@daniellevine Probably Narcos on Netflix
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@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@lisacuesta I wish I could double upvote this question. 😊
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 - 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@_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@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@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@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 Hodgins@ems_hodge · 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@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@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@calipitchel · Creative Director | Belief Agency
@joshk @calipitchel Awesome. Lots of kudos to the First Round Review team!
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@joshk curious what was your reaction was when opening "that" envelope?
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@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@lejlahunts I visit hockey rinks on weekends :-)
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@andrewett · 👟 @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@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@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@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 -
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@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 -
Tigran Hakobyan@tigranhakobian · Entrepreneur, Co-founder/CMO @ inapptics
@joshk Thanks for answering my question and sharing the blog post link with us :)
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@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
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@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@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@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@patrickleeadams I just followed you on Twitter. DM me ;-)
Patrick L. Adams@patrickleeadams · Creator of @sparq_app and @LionBrowser
@joshk thank you!
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@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@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@joshk · Partner, First Round Capital
@faraazahmed We typically invest before launch
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @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@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@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@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