Ryan Sarver

Ryan Sarver

Partner at Redpoint Ventures. Ex-Twitter. Lover of products.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON August 24, 2015

Discussion

Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
Hi, I'm Ryan. I’m currently a Partner at Redpoint Ventures and focus on early stage, consumer investments. I’m on the boards of Luxe and Memoir. Previously, I was an early employee at Twitter where I ran the Platform (and for a short period, BD). I am a college drop-out and a self-taught engineer that got started in the days of AOL chat rooms, IRC and Winamp skins (I used to design them). Outside of work, I'm a partner in a restaurant in SF called, Alta CA, and recovering hockey player. Married to an amazing woman (@devon) and a new father of a great kid (@milosarver). Ask me anything!
Andy Rubin
Andy Rubin@arubin · Playground
Hi Ryan -- I'm thinking of starting an open source operating system for mobile phones. Do you think this is an investable idea?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@arubin I have a term sheet on it's way to you right now...
Ryan, I'm an aspiring VC with only a few thousand Twitter followers. Do you have any advice for people like me who want to reach an audience in the hundreds of thousands? How did you do it?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@ttunguz hahaha. I was going to ask you how to build an audience :) I just got lucky by being an early Twitter employee and being part of the Suggested Users List. Now I just try to keep people from unfollowing me by just RTing your content.
Sameer Noorani
Sameer Noorani@sameernoorani · CEO, Roomvine
@ttunguz A high level analysis shows that there is a direct correlation between followers and read-end-selfies, technically called "belfies" in the industry. You could try incorporating that in your strategy.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
How does Product Hunt get verified on twitter?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@eriktorenberg work on your beard game cc @jack
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
Aaron Batalion
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
Now that you're a VC: If we do see a correction that impacts early stage startups, how does your strategy change in response to that.
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@abatalion good question, and it's hard to hypothesis since I haven't been through that as an investor before -- only on the operating side. One thing that I think has been interesting to see over the recent few decades of startups as that some of the most interesting ones were started during the toughest times, not the high times. I think a serious correction would mean a concentration of capital and hopefully talent. Right now money is so free flowing that it spreads talent out across opportunities -- I would love to see more talent focused behind fewer, bigger ideas.
Brendan O'Neil
Brendan O'Neil@brendan_o · Professional emailer at Robin
Hey Ryan - given the last 6 months of volatility at Twitter and being so familiar with the company what would you like to see them focus on in the next 12 months?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@brendan_o I still love Twitter as a product and have a lot of great friends there. It's been frustrating to see something with so much potential not reach what we all know it could be. I'd like to see them make it drastically easier for the average user to get value out of. For those of us who have spent the time to find great people to follow, we have an amazing experience. With so much great content on their, it's way too hard for the average user to find it and it misses the opportunity. So I would like to see them make some bold product changes that focus on delivering that value sooner. It sounds like that's where they are headed and I think Kevin Weil is the right guy to lead a product team to do it. I'm cheering for them for sure.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@rsarver Hey Ryan, thanks for doing this! What is the craziest thing you have witnessed in a pitch meeting (that you can tell us!)?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@bentossell I sadly don't have any crazy pitch stories. Clearly I need to try harder for some content here.
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
Thanks so much for tuning in. This was a ton of fun. I have to jump into a pitch now (vote yes or no for us to invest :), but I'll continue to answer questions throughout the day. You can find Redpoint on Twitter at @redpointvc and please feel free to tweet me with any questions you have in the future. Huge thanks to @rrhoover, @eriktornberg and the whole ProductHunt team for hosting me.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@rsarver BIG thanks for joining us (and for all your support over the past year). 🙌🎉
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Ryan - Thank you for joining us and thank you for your support throughout. After Twitter, how did you think about what you wanted to do next? What factors guided your decision to do VC? If "Impact" was a factor, how do you measure it as a VC?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@eriktorenberg thanks for having me and congrats on another great feature launch. After Twitter I planned to take the summer off and then start my own company. I had two specific ideas that I had been thinking about and was talking to a few firms about EIRing to explore those. Redpoint was one of the firms and they asked pretty early in the process if I had thought about investing full-time. I hadn't thought about it at this point in my career, but it made me do some introspection about what I was looking for. I thought back through my career about when I was happiest and it was the early days of Twitter, when things were super undefined and there was a lot of whitespace. Venture felt like a way to potentially get to do this over and over again and get to work alongside the best founders out there. It's a huge change from operating and I find myself learning every day. Loving the Redpoint team and the entrepreneurs I get to meet and talk with every day.
Matt Solar
Matt Solar@mattsolar · VP of Marketing @ nDash.co
@rsarver What percentage of your day at Redpoint is spent adding to your portfolio vs. nurturing your existing portfolio?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@mattsolar right now I'm only on 2 boards, so most of my time is spent talking to new companies, but one of the really great things about Redpoint is the way that we support each other's companies. I spend a lot of time helping companies in our portfolio that I'm not on the board of. It's super rewarding and probably the part I enjoy most.
Gordon Bowman
Gordon Bowman@gordonbowman · Mobile, Twitter
@rsarver Are you able to share more about the two specific ideas you were thinking about?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@rsarver i love this answer. as a follow up, I've been asking this to early employees who've been very successful: Do or did you ever feel like you needed to be a founder to scratch some itch or to prove something?
Hey Ryan, let's say you have to choose between an investment that has a good potential from monetary point of view but you're not excited about the idea and between one you're really excited about but you can't see how it will generate money. Which one would you choose?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@sc3wnet maybe it's because of my operating background, but I skew towards the ones where I can intuitively understand the product and the motivations for the average user to use a product. I think I'll be a better investor and be more helpful to the company if I'm passionate about what they are working on instead of thinking of it as just a valuable asset. With that being said, generally the most valuable companies don't start out by looking like great investments. So hopefully investing in passion also leads to great returns :)
Andreas Klinger
Andreas Klinger@andreasklinger · Tech at Product Hunt 💃
Given more and more startups focus on becoming profitable businesses in niches but not "the one unicorn that refunds the fund" where do you see startup investing going in the next 5 years?
Judith Straetemans
Judith Straetemans@judithstr · Product Manager @ Addapp
Hey @rsarver! Jonathan Sposato announced he will no longer invest in start-ups without female founders. As a VC yourself, do you keep gender equality in mind when investing? With a career in tech, how do you deal with sexism or when noticing sexism and what advice do you have for female leaders / women in tech?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@judithstr really good question and an important topic in our industry. I would like to think that I keep gender equality in mind when investing, but we all have hidden biases that affect us. One of my two investments (Memoir) is in a company with a female founder and I would love to see more companies with female founders. As for advice for female founder, I would give them the same advice I would give to other founders. Focus on building a great product that solves a huge need in the market. Female founders might see opportunities that male founders don't. Stay hungry and be bold.
Hari Jeevakumar
Hari Jeevakumar@harijeevakumar
@judithstr watch some interviews with elizabeth holmes. She says that if a VC or angel rejects you solely because you are a woman, and if you genuinely are a good founder, then it's their loss. You're going to eventually find the right people that want to invest in you. But if you're not a good founder, then being female or male makes no difference.
Norm Liang
Norm Liang@normanliang · VP of Growth, Sungy Mobile
@rsarver what's the best lesson you've learned from an entrepreneur now that you're in venture?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@normanliang great question. Hard to pick a single lesson. I think what comes to mind more is the experience of getting to meet and hear pitches from so many amazing entrepreneurs. The best ones are amazing story tellers, have a deep passion for their space and incredibly strong command of their business. I've also learned that there is no single prototype of a "great entrepreneur" -- it's more about is this a great founder for this specific idea. Zuck was the perfect founder for Facebook and Travis was the perfect founder for Uber. Imagine if those were reversed. We may have never heard of those companies.
Norm Liang
Norm Liang@normanliang · VP of Growth, Sungy Mobile
@rsarver it's hard to replace hustle and hard work in growing something at massive scale and velocity. Having been there at a time of crazy growth at warp speed, how do you coach the founders/entrepreneurs you meet and more importantly the ones you partner with?
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
@rsarver keeping in mind you dropped out of college, what is your opinion on higher education and it's worth in the current market (on hiring, careers, entrepreneurial success et cetera)?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@katesegrin I think it's a very personal answer for each person. I don't think formal education is a bad thing, but it's about what structure and environment leads to the best personal growth and learning for you. For me, school wasn't it. I found myself much more engaged and excited about learning once I was self-directed and working within startups. I think, the most important thing is to be thirsty for new knowledge and knowledge that challenges the things you innately believe. I read way more now than I ever did in school and find myself constantly searching for new people to learn from.
Can Comertoglu
Can Comertoglu@cancom10 · Product @OneDrive (prev: Vimeo, Amzn)
@rsarver what do you think about services like Luxe/Instacart, etc. turning early-career post-college students into service workers? Do you think they're getting good experience? How do you see the trend going forward?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@cancom10 I think it's a great thing that Luxe/Instacart/Uber/etc are offering recent grads tons of employment options to choose from. Lots of people want flexible, non-office desk work and I think they are all going to have tons of options to choose the one that fits their specific interests best. I ask Luxe valets all the time how they like their job (they don't know my involvement) and the two things I hear back most are 1) they love the flexibility and 2) they love an opportunity to drive fun cars that they wouldn't get to on their own. One of the guys was a total car nut and I loved hearing how much he enjoyed the job.
Can Comertoglu
Can Comertoglu@cancom10 · Product @OneDrive (prev: Vimeo, Amzn)
@rsarver Thanks for the response - that's an angle I haven't thought of.
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
Hi Ryan! I just left college as well. As an investor, you see many promising early stage products that have traction and a strong start. What differentiates a good product from a GREAT product? Aside from team and market, on the product level, how do you go about evaluating if somebody who pitches you has a really outstanding product vs. a mediocre one (but perhaps is just a great pitcher or has a great idea).
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@sydney_liu_sl great question. Great products are ones that fill a huge, unmet need for users. One thing I don't hear enough from founders during pitches is what the problem is in the world that they are trying to solve. If you can't articulate it well, then it becomes really difficult over time to continually build a product for that audience. I usually look for great teams going after clearly articulated problems. The "problems" can be small to start if you feel like it's building on a growing trend.
Danielle Newnham
Danielle Newnham@daniellenewnham · Founder, The Junto Network. Author
Hi Ryan, what's your most favourite memory from the early days of Twitter?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@daniellenewnham planning and hosting the Chirp conference. It was an incredible experience that brought together everyone at Twitter and everyone that was excited about Twitter. It was a HUGE undertaking for a small team and at such an early stage in Twitter's history, but it was immensely rewarding and still some of my favorite memories.
Randy Miller
Randy Miller@milla_killa · srWorx. Vitality Films. Ex-MoversSuite.
What's your litmus test for a startup to know if you're a good fit for them? And, how do you provide support to them to protect your investment?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@milla_killa startups need to do diligence on their potential investors. It's one thing to have a VC tell you what they can do for you, but it's way more important to talk to companies that they have been involved with before and hear from a founder what value they found. Pro tip: make sure to talk to the ones that failed to see what an investor is like during the hard times.
Rodney Rumford
Rodney Rumford@rumford · Co-founder of HipGif & Product Manager
What was your biggest challenge & the most fun part in growing the developer ecosystem at Twitter?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@rumford that's a really good and hard question. The biggest challenge of growing the Twitter ecosystem was managing so many developers through a changing strategy on the Twitter side. We had so many people building on the platform before we had defined what company we were going to be. When we had to change directions, it was really hard to usher people through that. I had become close friends with many of the affected developers and it was hard to see them upset. The most rewarding part was getting to meet so many interesting people doing such a myriad of things on the platform. From getting to be in the NYT newsroom on election night, to getting to meet small developers working on building cool things on the API, it was invigorating and fun to enable them to build great products and services. I also felt really lucky to build and work with an incredible team on the Platform. They were all incredibly passionate about what they did and happened to be some of the most talented people I've ever worked with. Many of us stay in touch today.
Blake Robbins
Blake Robbins@blakeir · VC at Ludlow Ventures
@rsarver What is your biggest piece of advice you give to aspiring VCs?
Ryan Sarver
Ryan Sarver@rsarver · Partner at @redpointvc. <3er of products
@blakeir I'm still an "aspiring VC", so it's hard to give advice. I personally focus on learning from people who are already great at it and see what I can apply to my own personal style. I spend a lot of time talking to more experienced investors and entrepreneurs. VC has such a long horizon that I think it's really hard to know if you're any good at it for a long time. So hopefully my strategy works out :)