Michelle Tandler

Michelle Tandler

Associate at Trinity Ventures

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON May 05, 2016

Discussion

Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
Hi - I’m Michelle Tandler, an Associate at Trinity Ventures, an early-stage venture firm based on the infamous Sand Hill Road. I used to work on the Product Team at Yammer, and now I spend my time looking for awesome startups in social media, consumer-y enterprise, real estate tech and marketplaces. Happy to talk about technology, fundraising, or anything else! The weirder or more esoteric the question, the better :)
CK Yap
CK Yap@chinketyap · Founder, Shoppertise
How do you make a decision in who to invest in? What do you normally look for?
Isabelle Tristrant
Isabelle Tristrant@spacedesigner3d · Co-founder @SpaceDesigner3D
@chinketyap very interesting questions :)
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@chinketyap Well, I'm still an Associate so ultimately the final call is made by the GPs. With that said, there are founders that I strongly advocate for in the Investment Committee meeting and there are a few things I love to see. 1) That the founder is passionate about what they are doing and believes that it is important and can help people and businesses be more effective, productive and happy 2) that the founder has done his or her homework - coming unprepared or unknowledgeable about the market and space is a major problem 3) That there is some traction and skin in the game. I like to see someone who is really betting on their team and what they're doing.
CK Yap
CK Yap@chinketyap · Founder, Shoppertise
Appreciate for sharing how decisions are made.
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS@candriopoulos · https://medium.com/strictly-curious
Hello, Michelle 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? How do skills gained through a History degree help in identifying emerging technology trends?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@candriopoulos Ah I love this question! I studied History in undergrad, and concentrated in Intellectual History - which is essentially studying the history of philosophy, or the history of ideas. I loved seeing how ideas shaped over time, and how people (in my program's case, philosophers) built on one another. I see a lot of similarities in tech. We see trends that emerge over time as people build on the work of others before them. They say that to predict the future you must study history. I hope that as I continue to work in the tech industry, I develop more pattern recognition and historical context to enable me to spot trends more clearly before they happen.
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS@candriopoulos · https://medium.com/strictly-curious
@michelletandler Thank you for your answer - very much appreciated.
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@candriopoulos course! thanks for the question :-)
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
If you had to delete all but 3 apps on your smartphone, which apps would survive?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@tomstocklein Spotify, Outlook, Twitter
Isabelle Tristrant
Isabelle Tristrant@spacedesigner3d · Co-founder @SpaceDesigner3D
@michelletandler @tomstocklein and Product Hunt app ;-)
Hunter Ashmore
Hunter Ashmore@hunterashmore1
@michelletandler @tomstocklein Whoa, Outlook? Honestly surprised. I know they have done great things recently, but not Gmail or any other mail app?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@hunterashmore @tomstocklein I use Inbox too - but Outlook is for work and right now I like those emails more than all the spam I'm getting on personal!
Rui Delgado
Rui Delgado@rui · Tech Entrepreneur • Consultant • TV Nerd
What are the industries Trinity Ventures is really interested right now?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@rui it's an evolving thing but there are a few mainstays. We're really deep in enterprise infrastructure (e.g., New Relic & Docker) and we also are consistently interested in commerce (e.g., we invested in Starbucks back in the day and recently led the Series A for Bulletproof coffee). We have a lot of experience in security, marketing software and Real Estate tech. Also constantly looking for new areas to explore (e.g., right now we're looking a lot at FinTech)
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS@candriopoulos · https://medium.com/strictly-curious
Which are the websites and newsletters that inspire you?
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@michelletandler hello Michelle, thanks for joining us! Every week you see a lot of new companies... curious what you look for in founders where you want to bring them in to pitch in front of the partnership? Is there anything in particular that needs to be in place (like having a co-founder, some amount of traction, big enough market) where without it, you would not have someone come in? (at least at that time)
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@nivo0o0 thanks for the question! I love to see founders who are really passionate about the problem they are trying to solve, or the consumer they are building for. Product/founder fit is also pretty great, when present. It's unique to see someone who really knows a space, sees a gap or something they want to solve, and goes for it.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are some specific skills/experiences/etc. you gained while getting a Harvard MBA that help you at Trinity Ventures today?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@tomstocklein The MBA is a bit of a mysterious experience. For me personally, I learned a lot about how to absorb tremendous amounts of information, analyze it, and present a viewpoint. Speaking for 30 seconds in front of 100 pairs of eyes once every two days is nerve-wracking. When I first started contributing in class I would sometimes be trembling! Over time I got more used to expressing myself in the classroom, and I think I developed my analytical and verbal abilities because of it. Additionally, reading 3 cases/day for 2 years about various companies, roles, governments, and industries was incredibly mind opening. I came away with a much broader perspective of the world and how things fit together.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
How many pitches does Trinity receive on average per week?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@tomstocklein We get a lot of decks and intros sent our way but we pass quickly on most. I think on average each of us meets with 3-7 founders/day - so x 8 people -- let's say about 50/week?
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Besides providing financial capital, how does Trinity help its portfolio companies grow? What makes the firm different from other top tier VC? If you had to pick one, what's Trinity's superpower?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@tomstocklein I think Trinity's super power is our people - the GPs. I am astounded daily by their passion and commitment towards supporting the founders we back. I am lucky to spend a lot of time with the Partners - and hear them speak about their companies and founders in depth every monday at our Partner Meeting. We tell founders that we hope to be their first call - both in times of celebration and times of trouble - and I think that is what happens. I've seen some partners on the phone upwards of 4 times a day on the phone with a founder, answering questions and providing support. This inspires me a lot, as I hope to become the kind of investor that founders trust and go to in times of need.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are the most important aspects of successful product marketing based on your experience at Yammer?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@tomstocklein at Yammer we had some unique challenges because in being both consumer and enterprise-focused we had to walk a careful line between being "too fun" or "too serious". For example, our copy would have to focus on security and admin features for our customers, but usability and effectiveness for our advocates and users. I think successful product marketing requires a deep understanding of the product, as well as of your customer and user. Also, a little creativity and fun can go a long way. The best PMMs could seamlessly switch between discussing a product with deep technical expertise, and letting it shine as something really special. I sometimes described my role as being the voice of the product to our users, and the ears towards our users back to product. Being able to switch back and forth between these roles, and being able to filter through a lot of noise to know what is important for each side, was 🔑
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?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@tabishis you know, I don't think they will replace traditional learning, because so much learning happens outside the classroom. Many of my most mind-opening experiences in undergrad happened after class. I had long discussions with students over dinner or sitting on the lawn before/after class just debating what we had learned. With that said, many kinds of learning absolutely can happen solo or via the internet (e.g., especially hard skills that require a lot of practice). But other types of learning - like creative writing, or languages, or deep analysis and debate - are really supplemented by the social interactions with classmates).
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@michelletandler so amazing to see you here. I am intrigued with your interest in the categorisation of social groups into networks for minorities/disabled/construction workers. To what extent do you think we are seeing the unbundling of social? Do you expect this to be a continuing trend?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@harrystebbings what a great question! I think that social is still in its infancy, and we will continue to see many social technologies built into our lives - via apps, websites, or other types of tech. It's a timeless human desire to connect with other people, and the stats on social networks and socially-oriented websites confirms this. Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook and the various email clients are all in the top 20 websites on Alexa. I think we'll continue to see companies that facilitate connection rise to the top of our global mindshare.
noah rosenberg
noah rosenberg@nrose · founded Pikazo, now a new thing
A lot of investment best practices are built on evaluating fast followers in an existing market. What qualities do you look for in new-market entrants when comps aren't effective?
Culture In Theory
Culture In Theory@cultureintheory · Culture In Theory
How can the little guy catch the attention of a venture firm like Trinity Ventures? Has a cold approach ever worked? Why or why not?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@cultureintheory -- there is no one "too little" for a venture investment! I think most of the great VC investments in history come from people who were previously unknown. Trinity typically looks at companies that have been around for a while - anywhere from a few months to a few years. If you have a product that is working, that users and/or businesses derive value from, it shouldn't be hard to find someone who is connected to some angels or a VC firm who can advocate for you.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
If you had to swap lives with a tech founder for a week, who would it be and why?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@bentossell hmm tricky one! Honestly I might hold back on swapping lives with a founder because I would be worried it would confuse the employees if I showed up instead of the founder!
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What are your favourite questions to ask founders?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@bentossell I love to ask founders their story of how they got to where they are today. For me it's really important to understand where someone is coming from, and connect with them as a human being, not just as a builder of something. I don't think I have any routine questions, but usually I ask along the way through the pitch, and try to poke a few holes here and there. Much of the experience of meeting with a founder is getting a feel for how they think, and how they present their business. It's very important for founders to be able to fundraise and recruit, so I look for elements of passion, and I ask myself, would I want to work for this person? If the answer is yes, I'm bringing them to a GP.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Michelle! Thanks for joining us today 🙌 What catches your eye when looking into startups to invest in?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@ems_hodge of course! Thanks for having me! I love to see indicators of consumer passion and adoption. This could be in the form of metrics like user growth or engagement, or stories of customers/users who absolutely love the product or service. I also love to see things that solve a real painpoint - or disrupt something that's broken. Those are often the most inspiring.
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
Knowing that most startups fail - have you had to guide founders through tough times when shuttering their company and what has that experience been like? As a follow-up, when a startup shuts down, what are a VC's main concerns?
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
When planning a hackathon for Yammer - what outcomes did you anticipate and what were the design and structural decisions you made to make it a productive experience for employees?
Azam Khan
Azam Khan@azamkhan · Co-Founder @ Distru
What are your thoughts on the live streaming industry? How do you see niche focused live streaming apps faring in the future and what do you see as the key to success in this space for independent live stream apps?
Matthieu Dederichs
Matthieu Dederichs@mattdederichs
@michelletandler How do you manage your personal brand as a VC? Any good or bad advice you received in that regard?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@mattdederichs This is something I've been thinking about quite a bit - and frankly, am challenged by. There are a lot of VCs out there who are famous, and I'm junior, and new to the industry, so I'm still thinking about how I can best compete. Primarily I try to do the following things 1) be authentic 2) add value after every meeting 3) treat people with respect (e.g., respond to all emails) and 4) ask good questions. I also try to know when I don't know something, and be honest with myself if there is an area I'm just not that interested in. I think founders hate when young VCs use meetings with them as an opportunity to get educated on a space that they don't know anything about, so I try to focus on areas I'm actually interested in and following. I find that founders really appreciate that.
Bennett Mathews
Bennett Mathews@bennett_up · Early stage investor @ Bessemer, Xoogler
Alex Yergin
Alex Yergin@alex_yergin · Director, Dataminr
HI Michelle-how did working at Yammer prepare you to shift from being in an operating company to being an investor?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@alex_yergin I think it gave me a lot of empathy for how hard it is to build a product. I spent two years, every day, with teammates who were engineers, designers, support & sales people, etc. We could spend weeks working on a product no one used, or something that would ultimately not work properly. I dealt with the wrath and love of customers and users on a daily basis - which led to a lot of highs and lows for the team. I'll never forget the feeling of launching something you've poured so many hours into. As an investor, I try to never forget how hard it is to build something.
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What do you want your tombstone to say? 💀
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@jacqvon whoa! that is quite the question! I will have to think on this.
Adele F
Adele F@adele_faure
Hi Michelle! How do you go about identifying and doing research into potential companies that you might want to invest in, and is this different from how other VCs approach this?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@adele_faure love this question! I try to be as sponge-like as possible. There are so many ways to gather information from the world - outside of the usual areas like databases, tech blogs or overhearing conversations at the Creamery. ;-) The best personal investment return I ever had was from investing in Chipotle shortly after the IPO. I had seen people lining up in the streets in New York to get their burritos and I had this aha moment where I thought "New Yorkers don't wait for anything, this company is special." Today I try to observe the world around me as much as possible still. I look at what groups in Reddit are taking off, and what categories on Pinterest are biggest (e.g., Crafting and DIY). I ask my friends not in tech to show me their home screens, and I look to see what is trending in popular media (e.g., iTunes store, youtube). Someone this week told me that African American teenagers are the #1 trend-makers right now, so I'm starting to follow some new accounts on Twitter. It's really important to look outside the eco-chamber of San Francisco. Sometimes I even joke that if a product appeals to me, it probably won't be successful more broadly, because I'm kind of weird!
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What are your top fundraising tips for founders?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@ems_hodge I was actually thinking about this today as I anticipated this question. While this is a little controversial, I actually do believe that founders should "always be fundraising". There are times I reach out to a founder to meet, and they say they are too "heads down". I get that, but I think it's a missed opportunity. When someone is really interested in you and your business, why not have a short call? You never know if that VC will fall in love with your business, and help you in some way because of it. Also, I think you should always have a working deck. I cannot tell you how many meetings I've had where the founder wanted to just "chat", but ultimately I walked away from the meeting not understanding their business properly. A deck could just be a few slides, with a few images of the product and metrics on the business, and that will make all the difference in my ability to get and remember what is important about the company.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
If you had to have your body and mind but the head of an animal, what would it be and why?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@bentossell since I'm on Product Hunt there is only one right answer to this question. A super cool cat!
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Richard Dulude
Richard Dulude@rdulude · next thing enabler // vc & entrepreneur
What is an area you think is underinvested and huge?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@rdulude Social and Real Estate :)
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
What company would you like to create in future and which industry (with respect to that company) excites you the most?
Masoud Ardestani
Masoud Ardestani@masoudardestani · Designer @Recharge | Founder of @hicezan
Hi Michelle, I got a question. What do VCs don't want to hear from founders when pitching to them?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@masoudardestani once a founder told me he was considering moving away from his company to follow his girlfriend to med school. That was a little concerning. Another founder told a story of how he had broken the law to prove a point about the industry. I didn't like that either. I also hate to see signs of emotional instability or people issues (e.g., "I hated my old team").
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
In what new ways did business school challenge you, which were unlike your experience at Yammer?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@charles_kunene at Yammer I was surrounded by a lot of like-minded people -- my teammates loved social media, tech, San Francisco. Arriving at HBS it was sometimes hard to be around people that mocked these things. People made fun of the fact that I love Twitter, or would make comments about the tech bubble and how "bandwagon" it was to be moving to SF. I had to remain confident in myself, and my passion for this industry and the people in it. It wasn't always easy, and sometimes the bankers and consultants drove me a little insane, but I tried to remain strong :)
Masoud Ardestani
Masoud Ardestani@masoudardestani · Designer @Recharge | Founder of @hicezan
When working on the Product team at Yammer. What was the day-to-day like?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@masoudardestani Oh man, I remember feeling like I was juggling 100 balls at once. I managed product releases, and in any given week we would have 5-10 of them. I was constantly on Yammer answering questions from sales and community and our CSMs - and then in and out of meetings with the product managers, designers and engineers. I used to joke that I needed a baby carrier to hold my laptop so I could type as I walked around the office. It was so exciting and fun and challenging. Lots of late nights, lots of fire drills, and lots of laughter. I miss it, and my team, all the time.
Snah Desai
Snah Desai@s_haverford · Operations Analyst, ServiceTitan
Hello Michelle! I wanted to know what your day to day is like at Trinity Ventures?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@s_haverford lots of meetings! And lots of email. Trying to reduce drive time :)
Megan Matt
Megan Matt@meganmatt42 · Megan, Augl
@michelletandler Thanks for being here. I'm interested in how you see the division between B to B and B to C changing as we have more solopreneurs (40% by 2020 in US)? I've noticed Slack positions themselves in "working life" and really changed the style of productivity tools. As investors, how do you differentiate between the spaces? Do you see it changing?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@meganmatt42 ooh I love this question. I think it's changing *dramatically*. Technology - and particularly mobile - has completely changed the way businesses work. For example, your average construction worker and plumber now have a computer in their pocket, which might not have been the case a few years ago. The rise of Android is particularly important in driving this trend, and I'm always on the lookout for apps that enable everyday working people - and particularly independent workers (e.g., owners of SMBs, independent contractors) to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. Additionally, new types of marketing have opened up entire markets to tech. You can just target people so much more easily. Frankly, of every space out there right now, I think consumerization of enterprise is absolutely the most exciting and under-invested in. I'd love to see more apps focused on helping business owners and professionals (both white collar and blue collar).
Megan Matt
Megan Matt@meganmatt42 · Megan, Augl
@michelletandler And globally. My prior business was an IT procurement business and my first hire was an accountant in India who lived in a remote village. She was able have the flexible schedule to attend temple every night, earned enough money to get eye surgery and eventually able to get a masters in accounting from a US university. It was VPN technology, later cloud, now mobile and her ability to exchange her skills on these new technologies that made something formally impossible suddenly possible.
noah rosenberg
noah rosenberg@nrose · founded Pikazo, now a new thing
How important is a pitch deck, and have you ever backed a company where the meeting wasn't, "send me your deck"?
Megan Matt
Megan Matt@meganmatt42 · Megan, Augl
@michelletandler Do you think early stage companies really need to be focusing on revenue early because of tightening capital markets? How can we do this without hamstringing ourselves from getting heavy growth, through say a widely marketed free model?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@meganmatt42 Revenue certainly doesn't hurt! With that said, it really depends on the type of business. Some companies (especially consumer) need to show a lot of user traction, and if the potential for strong unit economics is there, then revenue doesn't necessarily need to be taking off right away.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Have you ever received any advice that has had a real impact on your life / career?
Michelle Tandler
Michelle Tandler@michelletandler · Associate @ Trinity Ventures
@ems_hodge I've gotten a lot of advice in my life. My dad has consistently told me "just do your best" - which actually is quite a challenging piece of advice because I always feel like I can be doing better! (we've had some debates on this). I also have received a lot of advice to focus on my strengths, and try to find a path that enables me to express them. For me, VC has been a better "fit" than anything I've done to date - and I think it was my focus on finding a role where I could put myself to my "best use" that helped me find this career path.
Fairuz
Fairuz@__fairuz · Founder looking at next steps
Hi @michelletandler, thanks for taking questions here.
Hunter Ashmore
Hunter Ashmore@hunterashmore1
Given all the current hype around AI / machine learning, are there areas/applications of this evolving technology Trinity is watching or is weary?
Mark M. Whelan
Mark M. Whelan@mark_m_whelan · Founder, Fellow and Executive Coach
@michelletandler An esoteric question: in what ways is fundraising like alchemy?