Ron Conway

Founder and Co-Managing Partner of SV Angel

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON February 03, 2016

Discussion

Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
I’m the Founder and Co-Managing Partner of SV Angel, a San Francisco-based angel firm that has invested in internet software companies for 22 years including Paypal, Google, Facebook, and Twitter. In recent years, investments include Airbnb, Pinterest, Square, Snapchat, Dropbox and many others. I founded sf.citi (San Francisco’s tech-backed civic organization) and am an advocate for technology companies and civic engagement in San Francisco. I’m also an advocate for gun safety and immigration reform (I am a co-founder of FWD.US). Ask me anything!
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hi, Ron! You've invested in hundreds of companies in various industries. What space do you think is most neglected that you'd like to see more entrepreneurs explore?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@rrhoover Thanks for having me! For the good of society, I would like to see more companies focused on social impact. It's cool that YC is also accepting non-profits, like Watsi, the very first one they ever accepted and it's doing awesome
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are the most common pitch mistakes entrepreneurs make when trying to raise money from SV Angel?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@tomstocklein some thoughts – exaggerating, one founder talking over the other founder, not having a concise elevator pitch, not being able to clearly describe the product – you need to do that within the first minute while you're talking
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
@ronconway Thanks, Ron! That's great advice. It sounds so obvious, but I can see how some founders get carried away and forget about the basics.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Hey Ron! What are you favourite questions to ask founders?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@bentossell How'd you come up with the idea...what inspired you. How did you pick your cofounders. What is your background & upbringing.
Avery@averyalchek · Business Operations, Mashable
How do you separate a pitch of a good product from a pitch with a good salesman?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@averyalchek the whole SV Angel team uses the products. We look for the founder to be a good fit for the business – founder/market fit is important....after talking to founders for 20 years I can pick up on who is genuine and who is not. I have a lot of pattern recognition that the SV Angel team has now picked up on since they have all been with me for 5+ years
Alexander Parker@awesomeafalex
Do you think that startups working in the gun safety space are being given enough attention?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@awesomeafalex they will never get enough attention until we have safe guns as the norm throughout America. See the Smart Tech Challenge website – https://smarttechfoundation.org . There is an 18 year old in Colorado, Kai Kloepfer, who is designing a smart gun – this is just the beginning. He is the Mark Zuckerberg for guns.
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What is your best advice for aspiring venture capitalists who have no money?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@tomstocklein A lot of the best VCs came from startups themselves, so that's a great way to get started
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What was the best and worst pitch you've seen?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@bentossell I can't recall the specific companies but it's when founders talk over each other in the pitch and have a different vision for the company
George Mills@gfcmills · Investor at BGF Ventures
Hi Ron, for those of us outside SV: Which company are you most excited about now than none of us even know about?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@gfcmills off the top of my head, check out Peach (peach.cool), Hooked (hooked.co), Brighten (brighten.in), TripleByte (triplebyte.com)....and Product Hunt of course, it's the place to find more!!!
George Mills@gfcmills · Investor at BGF Ventures
@ronconway Thanks for the tips!
Michael Goldman@mightbemg · The Farmer's Dog
@ronconway @austinkevitch Big shout out, keep it up!
Kyle Hendrick@w_kylehendrick · Founder & General Partner
Ron I understand you are passionate about smart cities. Have you ever had the chance to see up and coming smart cities like Dubai, Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, Singapore, etc?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@w_kylehendrick I think what Sidewalk Labs is doing is very cool and innovative, it's part of Google. I really don't know about the other cities you called out
Alex Rodriguez@headhanchoarod · Founder/CEO at WorkMand & Code2040 EIR
Hey @Ronconway, you've helped a ton of startups and many say you offer the best advice. :) I have a few questions I'd love to hear your answer. :) 1.) From your experience, what's the difference between startups that go on to become market leaders (Airbnb, Stripe, Google, Snapchat) versus those that don't? 2.) Best advice to entrepreneurs just getting started? What's the 2-3 most important things to focus on when starting a startup? 3.) How can we improve diversity & inclusion (more minorities to launch startups or work for startups) in the Tech Startup community?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@headhanchoarod 1. Founders are the biggest factors of success. No doubt about it. The founder builds the culture and the success and carries the vision. 2. Focus focus focus on the product!!! And nothing else. Once the product is off the ground, then focus on hiring. 3. Startups should use the example of Pinterest who has one of the best programs for inclusion and diversity.
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
Thanks everyone for the great questions - had a lot of fun today!!
Aashay@big_aash
Hey Ron! Thanks so much for chatting today. Why do you surround yourself with younger investors at SV Angel? What sort of value do they bring to the table when working with exceptional entrepreneurs?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@big_aash As you know it's easier to be younger than me, but the younger partners at SV have a great pulse on the market and use the products constantly so we can find and evaluate the winners. Of course the founders are often younger too so a good match
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
I always love asking VCs this: Bessemer Venture Partners' anti-portfolio lists companies that the firm didn't invest in, but in hindsight should have (e.g. Apple, Telsa, etc.). What are some notable companies you missed/didn't see the potential at the time?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@tomstocklein Salesforce, Palantir, Uber...off the top of my head
beltran@lyricalpolymath · co-founder eyevel.com + berrocal.net
Do you have a specific "investment philosophy" (besides investing in founders that look promising) or believe in certain market trends you'd like to invest? if yes which ones, how did they change across your 22 experience in Angel Investing, and what do you see coming in the near/distant future?
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@lyricalpolymath We always bet on the characteristics of the founders themselves, and right now the spaces we like are sharing economy, messaging, on demand services, marketplaces, saas, infrastructure...and always consumer internet!! And we have been doing this for 22 years –– investing in the best internet software companies in the US
Dhananjay Yadav@dhananjay_yadav · Growth Hacking and Performance Marketing
As an investor, what excites you the most in investing on a Start-Up ? Any suggestions for upcoming entrepreneurs in a country like India, which is seeing massive upsurge in Digital Penetration, combined with a strong young user-base.
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@dhananjay_yadav I love meeting founders. Talking with founders is like looking into a crystal ball into the future of innovation
beltran@lyricalpolymath · co-founder eyevel.com + berrocal.net
what's the most underestimated question nobody usually asks but you think is among the most important ones? (anything goes, can be about life, about being an entrepreneur/ startup founder, about navigating a company towards product/market fit...) thanks
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@lyricalpolymath As an entrepreneur, they should always ask investors how they can add value to their business, especially domain expertise
beltran@lyricalpolymath · co-founder eyevel.com + berrocal.net
In your vast experience, across time and several categories of companies, have you ever encountered startups creating a radical new category, a completely new market / solving a new need? which ones and what lessons could you extract from that experience that we could apply today? Thanks for your time and answers
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@lyricalpolymath Yes we come across new markets all the time, but we focus on our core competencies. Climate Corp is an example of a company that we invested in that was in an entirely new space. And now we're investors in FarmLogs. Think about how radical Airbnb was when the idea was first pitched!! Nobody was talking about the sharing economy back then, it didn't even have a name! THEY CREATED AN ENTIRELY NEW CATEGORY!!!!! And congrats for that!!
beltran@lyricalpolymath · co-founder eyevel.com + berrocal.net
Describe what the world looks like when sf.city will have accomplished it's major (current) goals. What's the big vision and how you think we should all contribute to making it real? this is the last question I promise :D ... but I could go on thanks for your time
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@lyricalpolymath We have a lot of work to do and it's going to take a lot of time. But housing is the core issue to be resolved and Mayor Ed Lee has a concrete plan to add 30k housing units by 2020. We also need to find a solution to the homeless issues as well as income inequality. The beauty of sf.citi (sfciti.org @sfciti) is it gives the tech community a voice in policy and volunteerism. 50 SF schools have been adopted by tech companies in the Circle The Schools program.
beltran@lyricalpolymath · co-founder eyevel.com + berrocal.net
@ronconway @sfciti yes the homeless problem is something that really surprised me when I came to SF. It's struck me as an eclectic contradiction, walking up the street and looking on one side desperate people sleeping with no shoes on the sidewalk and, on the other side of the street, the slickest hipster with his newest, most expensive, latest model of phone diving in this digital world of serviced wealth and opportunity... and there in the middle a generation of people trying to look for a ladder to bridge the two sides. I'd help with that
Anush Mp@21anush
Hi Ron, VCs and investors in the US are far more open and transparent compared to the rest of the world. How long do you think it will take until the world internalises the SV mindset and and people from any geography and culture can raise capital with the right mindset and for the right reasons. And what do you think is needed for this process to accelerate. Thanks!
Ron Conway@ronconway · Founder, SV Angel
@21anush We love leading by example and hopefully others are taking note. As the ecosystem gets bigger, these practices will take hold