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@bentossell · newCo
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@bentossell · newCo
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 Hodgins@ems_hodge · 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?