Semil Shah

Investor via Haystack Fund

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON June 06, 2017

Discussion

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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
Hi Everyone, Semil here. I am an investor and writer based out of Silicon Valley. I created and invest out of a small fund called Haystack, which is proud to be an early investor in over 70 companies, including Instacart, DoorDash, Hired, and Managed By Q (see full portfolio here). I am also Venture Advisor to GGV Capital, and am proud to serve on the Advisory Boards of StrictlyVC and The Alpha Network. Ask me anything!
Ben Tossell
@bentossell · Community Lead, Product Hunt
Where do you think the most interesting opportunities are in the cryptocurrency & blockchain space?
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@bentossell I focus on two areas: 1/ Who is rebuilding S3 and what are their backgrounds? and 2/ Smart hedge strategies as most people don't know what will work over time.
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Nick Abouzeid 🕴
@nickabouzeid · Social & Growth Intern at Product Hunt
How do you feel about the rise of ICOs as a fundraising mechanism for young companies to circumvent traditional fundraising practices?
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@nickabouzeid It's great! Time will tell how sustainable these are. I also expect both the SEC and IRS to monitor.
DRFarrell
@d_r_farrell
What are some areas or problems you wish more people would try to solve with some real business opportunity? Anything very specific?
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@d_r_farrell I want to co-found a Calendar startup!
Patrick M. Hodgdon
@patrickh · Storytelling & Go-To Market Strategy 💡🚀📈
What's the deal that you wish you could go back and do that you passed on at the time?
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@patrickh It's important to caveat this by saying these are ones I had access to but didn't act in time or didn't see it: Coinbase. Casper. Numerai.
Ayrton De Craene
@ayrton · Code @ Product Hunt
What is the number one piece of advice you ever received?
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@ayrton In a work context, that only the paranoid survive; in a personal context, to focus on being grateful for what we have vs seeking out other things and desires.
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Nick Abouzeid 🕴
@nickabouzeid · Social & Growth Intern at Product Hunt
@semil @ayrton Can you expand on when it's productive to be paranoid? Interpersonally?
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@nickabouzeid @ayrton my belief in work, especially in the Valley, is that everyone around you is smarter than you, and that people are very innovative, so the best chance for survival is to be hyper aware of that dynamic and let that infuse how you work. Can't take anything for granted.
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Niv Dror
@nivo0o0 · Writer/Social Editor @ProductHunt
Hey @Semil! Thanks for joining us :) How did you get started with angel investing? What were your first few deals like, how did you know those were companies/founders you should invest in, and what have you done that's worked particularly well that helps you get into deals?
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@nivo0o0 I started my first fund, my first investing activities ever, in Q1 of 2013. I started investing other peoples' money in a fund because I couldn't get a real job at a VC firm. When I started investing, I didn't know what I was doing, to be perfectly frank. I knew a lot of founders and had some intuitions about people and products I was drawn to, and I had some intuition about looking for certain patterns, and I just started to ask to invest and since I was early and small, people said "sure, OK." Here are some of the seed investments from my first 18 months of investing: Hired, Instacart, Hashicorp, HelloSign, DoorDash, Envoy, Navdy, Pillow, AltspaceVR, BlockScore, Cambly, Narvar, and Giphy. Some of these could be billion-dollar outcomes. One could be really really huge. I was very fortunate, now looking back.
Sherad Louis-Charles
@slouischarles
@semil @nivo0o0 That's impressive especially for the first 18 months. What do you think made you successful?
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Niv Dror
@nivo0o0 · Writer/Social Editor @ProductHunt
@semil wow, quite an impressive list. Love the 2nd line "I started investing other peoples' money in a fund because I couldn't get a real job at a VC firm." 👌
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@nivo0o0 That's the truth. I tried for 18 months and eventually hit rock-bottom. Luckily, I had some friends who encouraged me to try this and then I got lucky.
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@slouischarles @nivo0o0 not sure if it's successful yet, but if I had to isolate one thing: reading people.
Ben Tossell
@bentossell · Community Lead, Product Hunt
Hey Semil thanks for joining us today! If you were to be a youngun starting out in tech today where would you focus your energy?
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@bentossell First, I would try to learn how to invest. I don't mean VC investing, just any kind of investing. Just to develop that muscle.
Ben Tossell
@bentossell · Community Lead, Product Hunt
@semil I like @naval and @nivi 's post http://venturehacks.com/articles... - are there any others you'd highly recommend?
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@bentossell @naval @nivi I would just read all of Naval's back catalog and tweets and his podcast interviews. All of his content could be a book or college course. I don't have much to add.
Ben Tossell
@bentossell · Community Lead, Product Hunt
@semil @naval @nivi I thought that may be the case
Seth Williams
@sethbwilliams · Web Designer
What does success look like for you?
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@sethbwilliams In a work context, to earn the respect of founders and investors I respect; in a personal context, to control my schedule and pace of work so I can create opportunities for my family to spend time with each other during the precious years we have together.
Radial
@radialtt
Hey Semil, we're struggling with focus right now. When you can go after 2 different markets (consumer vs corporations) with a product, what framework should we use to decide who to choose?
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Semil
@semil · Product, Swell
@radialtt Hard to know without context, but in the absence of that, let the market decide?