Ryan Lawler

Venture Partner at 500 Startups

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON April 05, 2016

Discussion

Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
Hey, this is Ryan Lawler. I'm currently a venture partner at 500 Startups, where I'm looking for early-stage startups. I have also been helping out with the 500 Startups Accelerator as part of the latest batch, and can tell you more about that. Previously I worked as a tech journalist at places like TechCrunch and Gigaom. I basically just love seeing new apps and services, meeting founders, and learning about cool new tech that they're working on. EDIT: Thanks for all your questions, sorry I didn't get to them all!
do you miss being a journalist?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@drew I miss writing! And I miss the people I used to work with, although some of them (yourself included) have moved on to other things. But I don't miss the constant deadlines, and embargoes, and some of the less glamorous parts of the job. And anyway, I'm trying to do more writing in my spare time, which I really can do any time...
Jonathan Shieber@jshieber · Senior Editor, TechCrunch
Hi Ryan... Longtime admirer, first-time writer. Quick question for you, why are you so dreamy?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@jshieber It would be easy to say I was born this way, but I've worked really hard to become this dreamy. I'd love to let you in on my beauty secrets, but unfortunately, they are secret. (For those of you who don't know, Shiebs is a good friend and this question was a plant.)
Jonathan Shieber@jshieber · Senior Editor, TechCrunch
Ryan... a followup question. What's the best way to turn your frown upside down?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@jshieber It can't be. My face is frozen those way.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What are your favourite questions to ask founders?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@bentossell "Why are you doing this?" I feel like real conviction from founders is the #1 indicator that they see their company as something they want to work on for the next decade... Which is really how most founders _should_ be thinking about it.
John Holt@john_holt
Hi Ryan, Wanted to see what advice you might have regarding creating a venture firm built around investing in students at the high school and university level? I am a student myself at Cornell and providing young entrepreneurs with the capital and resources they need to be successful is something I feel extremely passionate about.
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@john_holt Hi John, this is a little outside my realm of expertise (having not founded a fund myself), but I would suggest reaching out to and talking to folks who have executed similar plans at other universities. Stanford has a pretty robust accelerator and investment program with StartX, and Dorm Room Fund are some good examples. I'd hunt down the people behind those programs and learn more about what worked for them!
John Holt@john_holt
@ryanlawler thank you for the advice! Much appreciated
Aby Mathew@aby002 · Mocioun TechLabs Pvt. Ltd.
Hello Ryan, your advice to writing / publishing entrepreneurs?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@aby002 Just do it! Writing is kind of like running -- anyone can do it, but your results will vary mostly based on practice. I've found the best writing I've done was always more for myself than for an audience. Given the easy availability of publishing platforms and distribution, there's no reason that entrepreneurs (or anyone, really) can't start writing. Now, all that said... If you want to write WELL, read this post from Om Malik, who's a boss: http://om.co/2016/03/26/how-to-w...
Aby Mathew@aby002 · Mocioun TechLabs Pvt. Ltd.
@ryanlawler Thank you for the link Ryan. As mentioned in one of my comments, we are working on TaleHunt, an app that help aspiring writers to write stories in 250 characters. From our experience we came to know that, writers always love positive feedback from their readers. May be for aspiring / upcoming writers.
Alex Scott@alexscottco · Cofounder, Revere.ai
How do you see the role of design and design thinking in small-team early-stage startups?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@alexscottco This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think design can be overrated in the development of an MVP. The goal of most startups is to build something that works and that people want to use. You can always make an app or website prettier or easier to use after it's launched and you know people find it valuable. But you can get bogged down trying to make the design perfect before you even know if it works or if people will use it.
Sateesh Kumar Srinivasan@sateeshsrinivasan
Happy birthday Ryan. How do you keep yourself update on tech trends on a frequent basis. What journals or websites do you visit.
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@sateeshsrinivasan Hi Sateesh. Great question... I still have to keep tabs on what's happening in tech, even though I'm not as laser focused on being on top of all tech news as I was at TechCrunch. As a result, I've been able to pare down my reading list a fair amount. I will read TechCrunch every day, visit Product Hunt multiple times a week, but find most of my news from Techmeme... It's an absolute must read for what's happening in tech every day.
Sunil Acharya@acharyasunil · Founder @ Coverstory
Hi Ryan - based on your experience in news coverage, what is the most underrated industry ripe for tech innovation?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@acharyasunil I think there are a number of industries we don't think too much about that are still largely untouched by new technology. For instance, I'm very bullish on industrial IoT devices and applications that can provide real-time data in industries that are still managed with pretty analog processes.
ALASKANJACKSON@alaskanjackson · Nobody of Consequence
Is it true that Alex does not wear pants while recording start-ups and stuff? https://t.co/wcVgCTOrSC Also, VC activity in health care seems to have continued unabated. Any interesting ideas that you are following in HealthCare?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@alaskanjackson first things first: Alex always wears pants while we record the pod. Second: Healthcare, health tech, digital health -- it's not my specialty, tbh. But I think there are some interesting companies out there that are helping SMBs to offer better services to their employees, esp. in light of the Affordable Care Act. That's where I'd like to see the most advancement, because frankly those businesses and their employees have been screwed by the healthcare industry for decades and something needs to get better for those people.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What is your personal investment thesis?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@bentossell Invest in people who are singlemindedly devoted to solving a certain problem. They don't necessarily have to be domain experts (though it certainly helps), and they don't necessarily have to be pedigreed (though it certainly hopes), but they have to convince me that they are willing to move mountains to make a difference with their company.
Pablo Fuentes@provenpablo · CEO, Proven
Hi Ryan...as a journalist and then as an investor...what is a mistake that you see founders repeatedly make even though they know it's wrong...in other words, what is the stove that founders just HAVE to touch to know it'll burn them?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@provenpablo In a lot of cases, a 'BIG LAUNCH' ends up not being the right thing for most startups to do. In some cases, a company will raise a bunch of money based on team and idea, and fail on execution or because there was no market for their product. I think in a lot of ways, founders need to find their customers, find their audience, and then do press once they have something they know people want, rather than just something investors want to back. Once you've found that, then it's the right time to start talking to press about what you're doing.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Ryan, upon becoming a VC, what's something you used to fervently believe that you now see as fundamentally misguided?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@eriktorenberg That all problems can be solved with technology!
Danny Espinoza@abcdannye · Founder @looksyvideo
Hey Ryan, do you ever think of getting into the startup game yourself?
Ryan Lawler@ryanlawler
@dannyjespinoza To be honest, until recently there wasn't problem I felt strongly enough about or uniquely qualified enough to spend the next decade on. I think that founders, in general, need to think about things that way. If not, they shouldn't be founders!
TehHero@tehhero_sg · TehHero
Hello Ryan, Will you like to share your opinion on Lifetime Value and how things works in 500co to determine the value a company has created?
Gercek Armagan@fricklers · Co-founder @Ultimate Trade | Designer
Hyperlocal homemade food marketplace - one click meal posting: would you prefer ordering over other options?
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Which consumer tech space are you most excited about? Are you more bullish on VR or AR? cc @tzhongg
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What is the best advice for founders looking to get press coverage, on how to pitch?
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What has most surprised you about working at 500 Startups?