Lauren Kolodny

Lauren Kolodny

Principal, Aspect Ventures

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON May 02, 2016

Discussion

Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
Hi! I’m Lauren. I’m a Principal at Aspect Ventures an early stage focused venture capital firm here in San Francisco. Our firm has been around for two years and, in many ways, we’re a startup ourselves. I invest in great teams solving hard problems. I’m particularly excited about “future of work” and fintech. Before Aspect, I worked in several operational roles - the most recent was in product marketing at Google where I led the go to market strategy for a number of Google at Work products including Google Drive. I’m happy to share my views on investing and startups, reflections on my career, fun facts, … Ask me anything! :) ---- Enjoyed chatting with you all! Happy to continue the conversation on Twitter: @LaurenKolodny
Mike Coutermarsh
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Hi Lauren! Would love to know. What's the one thing you've done so far in your career that scared you the most?
Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
@mscccc Hi Mike! My first job out of college was working in partnerships for the Clinton Foundation in New Delhi. Not knowing anyone and never having been there before, I moved to India as a 22 year old. That was probably the scariest. Also hugely rewarding.
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS@candriopoulos · https://medium.com/strictly-curious
Hello, Lauren and thanks for taking our questions. Where do you look for emerging trends (e.g. sources, events, websites, etc.) and founders who want to capitalize on them?
Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
@candriopoulos My first step when I’m intrigued by an industry or theme is actually to talk to relevant people - ask questions, listen, discover pain points, refine relevant people and questions, listen some more. This can be done from the perspective of a business or a consumer, but it’s about engaging with the people who experience the pain point every day and listening to their answers. Once I have a good sense for the problem, then I can turn to a few different resources to discover what solutions already exist. My favorite resources for this are Mobile Action for mobile apps, Pitchbook for broader industry context and Product Hunt to see what all of the engaged experts are saying ;)
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS@candriopoulos · https://medium.com/strictly-curious
@laurenkolodny Dear Lauren, thank you for your informative answer.
Faique Moqeet
Faique Moqeet@admithero · Founder @ Admit Hero
Hi Lauren! Thank you for taking the time to do this! I'm a student at Northwestern University and I've been working on a project, Admit Hero (www.admithero.com), for about a year: it's something like The Muse for high school students. Instead of having media-rich profiles of companies, we want to have media-rich profiles of colleges. Like The Muse, we're powered by content, which is one of our core, unique values to our users. It's an almost identical product but for a younger demographic. I would love to hear why you invested in The Muse and what you see as the billion dollar vision for a company like The Muse?
Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
@admithero Faique - Admit Hero sounds like an interesting idea. Would have been something I could have used when I was in HS ;) First and foremost, we invested in the The Muse because we really impressed by Kathryn and Alex’s deep understanding for the changing labor economy and their vision for how to become the career destination for millenials. Early on, they accomplished a lot with very little - they had millions of very engaged users on the site, gaining career resources and advice from their content. We learned that because users were attracted to the content initially for career development, they tended to be more passive job seekers and, thus, very high quality candidates for jobs. We heard time and time again from employers that the quality of applicants coming in from the Muse was unparalleled. We were so impressed by what we learned we led their Series A last year. They’ve been killing it ever since. The billion dollar vision is to be the career development platform for all millenials and, therefore, the companies that want to employ and retain them.
Pritish Sanyal
Pritish Sanyal@sanyalpritish · Director Business Development
Thanks for taking the time. Do you see startups pivoting as a growth hack or reorientation/ failure of the startup's business model?
Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
@sanyalpritish Starting a company should be a constant learning experience. Pivots are great when they occur because the team has discovered a meaningful insight from their users and are proactively responding to it. When a pivot is more reactive and driven primarily by the fact that the current solution isn’t working, that’s less appealing. It’s also important to note that sometimes the pivot is not really a pivot, per se and was always part of the company’s roadmap. That’s harder to see from the outside.
Pritish Sanyal
Pritish Sanyal@sanyalpritish · Director Business Development
@laurenkolodny thanks for your response. I think in the last part of the response you are referring to evolution rather than a pivot.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What are your favourite questions to ask founders?
Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
@bentossell One of my favorite questions to ask is, “Think about the last time you were firing on all cylinders, at the top of your game, making real impact. What were you doing?” This helps me understand what drives them. In general, I love to learn about a founder’s story and why they are uniquely suited to build their company. I want to see that they have a personal understanding for the problem and/or a serious toolkit to solve it.
Trenton Tyler
Trenton Tyler@trenton_tyler · Founder @ Forkit
Hi Laruen, I am currently apart of a startup that is looking to get funding. What advice can you give to a mobile app startup that you think VC firms look for the most?
Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
@trenton_tyler If it's a consumer app at the seed stage, you want to show that your users are getting tremendous utility out of your app which normally comes in the form of high engagement (i.e. DAU/MAU ratio) and that you can acquire users cheaply - ideally through some viral hook in the product or another strong organic channel.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What apps are on your home screen?
Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
@tomstocklein Waze, Slack, Gmail's Inbox (which I love for quickly decluttering), Instagram (I'm @laurenkolodny), Alexa (the potential of voice platforms is super exciting to me), Chime (awesome mobile first banking). I have a few of our portfolio companies' apps on my home screen too. They're awesome apps which is why we invested. Plus, I like to play around with them in my free time to send product feedback to our founders. They include: Hobnob (beautiful mobile first invitations), Crew, and Later (for managing my instagram).
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Besides providing funding, how does your firm helps its portfolio companies in terms of user growth, operational improvements, hiring, product management, etc.? What are Aspect Ventures' superpowers?
Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
@tomstocklein We help with all of the things you mention, but I think our superpower is really our ability to help with subsequent rounds of financing. Even the best entrepreneurs only fundraise a handful of times in their lives. We do this everyday. And though we’re an early stage firm, our team has experience investing at every stage. We help our entrepreneurs decide when to seek funding, from whom and how. We help our entrepreneurs to raise strategically and efficiently, so that they can focus on their strength - building their companies. It’s also important to note that at Aspect, we pride ourselves in direct, long term relationships with our founders. We’ll loop in people in our network to help with specific functional or strategic questions but the investor will always be the primary partner to the company.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are the major questions you typically try to answer when conducting research & diligence for potential investments in the consumer and enterprise space?
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
If you had to spend a week as a founder, who would you pick to be and why?
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Lauren thanks for being here today! Have you ever received any advice that has helped shape your career path? How?
Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
@ems_hodge Always try to have a clear vision for where you want to be in 5-10 years. That vision will constantly evolve - and that's actually the point. Having the vision gives you the direction to keep developing, learning and redefining the vision.
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
How did you first get into tech? What has your path to now and is there anything you would change about that path if you could?
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What qualities do you look for an a founder before deciding whether or not to invest?
Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
@ems_hodge There needs to be good alignment between the founding team the solution building or pain point they're addressing. Some of our companies are founded by people with deep domain / functional expertise who are well suited to build a particular solution. Others are founded by people who very personally understand the pain point they're solving. Some have both. They have to have at least one.
Natalie Samarjian
Natalie Samarjian@natalie_samarjian
Hi Lauren, how have you evolved in the way that you approach investments?
Megan Matt
Megan Matt@meganmatt42 · Megan, Augl
Hi @laurenkolodny, thanks for being here. I was just talking to someone about B corporation election, if your business has a commitment to certain social/environmental principals. Is this something that might impact fund-ability? Not that investors would be opposed to the principals, but that it might put in place extra considerations/restrictions, when there are already multiple players to accommodate between the company and current/future investors.
Syed Ahmed
Syed Ahmed@tabishis · Altimus Solutions, Inc.
Do you think MOOCs will eventually replace traditional learning, specifically tech focused learning? Do you invest in products that are focused on solving problems for MOOC students?
Paresh Khatri
Paresh Khatri@paresh_khatri · Managly - Get your team in Sync
Is it advisable to get seed fund when you are at your early stage? if yes what is the stack we probably give? and what is the great strategy for launching your product which helps grabs more users...
Dessa Brennan
Dessa Brennan@dessa_brennan · Food/Tech Brand Strategist
What advice do you have for someone wanting to formalize an idea into a pitch-worthy business?
Megan Matt
Megan Matt@meganmatt42 · Megan, Augl
@laurenkolodny How do you envision our use of smartphones for work and productivity evolving over the next five years? Are there any thought leaders in "future of work" that you find inspiring?
Lauren Kolodny
Lauren Kolodny@laurenkolodny · Principal, Aspect Ventures
@meganmatt42 I think we’ll see many more mobile first solutions for work across a variety of industries and types of workers (i.e. desk workers, hourly workers, freelancers). We’ve all seen stats like these: 87% of millennials say their smartphone never leaves their side; 41% are likely to download applications for work in the next 12 months and use their own money to pay for it; 38% are freelancing and mobile in their work. Still, it’s actually surprising to me how few truly mobile first, business quality solutions are on the market today. This is bound to change.