John Gannon of Going VC interviews Nick to discuss The Story Behind TFR & New Stack Ventures. In this episode, we cover:
- How did you get Brad Feld on early on?
- How did you stay true to your vision when you were getting asked early on by entrepreneurs to feature them on the podcast? (you mentioned this in episode 10, w/Brad Feld)
- If you were starting TFR again, in 2019, what would you do differently?
- Why the podcast format vs blogging vs. … ?
- When did you know that the podcast was “working” … bringing deal flow or whatever you thought was a strong signal that things were clicking for your audience?
- What surprised you once the podcast got “big”? Anything unexpected on the positive or negative side?
- How did the podcast tie into your recent fundraising process? Where did it help, and did it hurt or cause any issues, too?
- How did the podcast tie into your recent fundraising process? Where did it help, and did it hurt or cause any issues, too? Do you measure deal flow that is podcast related, and how much of your deal flow is it.
- How many completed investments came from the TFR community?
- I have heard from multiple Angel List employees re: Angel List syndicates that it’s very hard to get people to back a deal unless the deal has a lead like Sequoia or KPCB or another top firm attached to it. Has that been true for your syndications? If no, why?
- What benefits did you see by using Angel List syndicates platform so early on? For those thinking of starting up a syndicate now, how has the game changed?
- How do you find and vet interns for your fund? Or how do they find you?
- Are there any processes at your fund that you think work REALLY well, and what are they? How do you execute them?
- Since we’re both Dads: Other than having less time now that you have a child, have there been new tactics you’ve applied to the podcast, the firm, etc to help you get more leverage at work and free up time for home life?
- For the last 10 years, John has run the longest running VC job board, an email list spanning over 13,000 members
- Over the last three years Johns main focus has been on a new program called “Going VC”, which is an intensive 16 week program that helps people break into VC. Over 40% of the folks who have gone through that program have landed either a VC job or an internship within a year of finishing.
- Regardless of the industry you’re in, it’s important to differentiate and build a brand. Nick began The Full Ratchet podcast with that as his main focus after realizing at the time, there was nobody else doing a podcast about VC.
- Nick encourages founders that are starting out and raising their first round of capital or just getting into the space to not under appreciate just asking people for help. Everyone has to start somewhere!
- If you’re not going through a referral, it’s important to have a good “hook.” The key to a really good hook and to get a VC’s or anyone’s attention is to keep it brief, make your ask clear and find something really relevant about the person you’re reaching out to that they’re going to take notice of.
- The best gift you can give anyone is being a really good listener. Networking and connecting with people has a lot to do with really listening to their perspective and expanding on it.
- At the start of TFR, Nick wanted to stay true to the goal of demystifying venture capital from the VC’s perspective. This goes back to the point about differentiation and specialization, just like with a startup business, it’s all about focus, driving toward an MVP, finding a beachhead customer market and being very, very clear with yourself about your target market and what your mission is.
- Through TFR, Nick was able to build a network, a brand for himself, a robust deal flow pipeline and his investment network of Angels by not being too ambitious early on and setting small incremental goals that aligned with his focus.
- The original inspiration for TFR’s “investor Stories” segments came from Jerry Seinfeld’s show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Nick loved the concept of covering a specific topic with a variety of guests to create a fun, quick hitting segment with varying opinions.
- Just as it’s important for startups to build an “edge” and differentiate themselves, VCs should be doing the same thing in terms of sourcing, branding, networking and building an acceleration advantage in the way that you work with portfolio companies after you invest.
- In talking to the folks at Angel List about syndicates recently, the vibe John has gotten is that the deals that tend to fill out their syndicate as syndicated rounds are the ones that basically have a tier one Silicon Valley VC investing in the round.
- The signal that’s received from having a Sequoia or a Benchmark on a deal is high. The likelihood that the fund of funds entities, that participate in Angel List, invest in those deals is much higher if there’s a blue chip lead.
- Doing true Angel round, pre-seed or early seed deals on the Angel List platform is very tough because most of those blue chip investors do not invest at the earliest stages.
- Nick suggests to any VCs in the audience that are looking for qualified interns, to try out a tool that he’s used with much success called “Handshake,” which allows you to push out a job posting across a number of universities.
Transcribed with AI:
welcome to the podcast about investing in startups, where existing investors can learn how to get the best deal possible. And those that have never before invested in startups can learn the keys to success from the venture experts. Your host is Nick Moran, and this is the full ratchet
Welcome back to TFR. We have a special edition today where former guest John Gannon becomes the interviewer. John suggested doing an episode where we cover the origin story of TFR, the AngelList Syndicate, and ultimately, the new stack fund. Because I love the sound of my own voice so much. I was happy to oblige. Hope you all enjoy this special edition nearly five and a half years since the first episode. Here it is.
Today, John Gannon is back on the program. However, we are flipping the script. So John will be interviewing me today. We’ve been discussing this over email for some time. And I think it’s the opportune time to have John back, talk about what’s involved with him what’s going on in his world, and also talk about some updates for new snack. So John, welcome back to the program, would you like to give a refresh and a reminder to the audience about your background?
Absolutely. So I’m John Gannon, I run and have run for the last 10 years, the longest running VC job board and email list spanning over 13,000 members on the email list and more who are checking out the job posting content every week, the last three years, I’ve really focused on a new program called going VC, which is an intensive 16 week program that helps people break into Vc. And we’ve seen great results from that over 40% of the folks who have gone through that program have landed either a VC job or an internship within a year of finishing. So really excited about how that’s grown and how it continues to grow.
Well done. And where’s that based out of John? So going
VC is actually a global program, we have members coast to coast as well as some across the ocean as well. So really trying to make it a global program. And we think that’s one of the strengths of the program is that we have such diversity of members across geographies and across countries.
Very good in Are you splitting time between New York and LA? No,
I’m, I’m based in New York, and I’m married with three kids. So you know, you know that drill. So I try actually to stay close to home. But I can keep plenty busy even though I’m not on a plane.
Good, good. Well, we we can let you take this wherever you want to go. So you know, feel free to fire away.
Awesome. And thanks, Nick, for having me on. Again. I had a ton of fun last time. And I’m excited to be able to flip the script, as you said, and learn a little bit more about the origin story. Likewise. So one of the things I was curious about, in the very beginning, when you were thinking about starting this podcast, what was your headspace in terms of doing a podcast, versus doing a blog versus an email list versus running a meet up? Because this is a question I get a lot from folks who are looking for jobs and venture capital or they’re already in VC and are looking to really build their, their personal brand out. So I really would love to just hear how you settled on, on that specifically and in in how you had that discussion, I guess yourself of what would be the right medium to kind of start building a brand and an audience around?
It’s a good question. You know, I think regardless of the industry you’re in, you need to differentiate, you need to figure out where the whitespace is at, and carve out some unique real estate and opportunity to build a brand. And it’s especially true in venture capital. I realized that very early. I followed Brad Feld and Fred Wilson and Mark Schuster, etc. On the blogs, and I saw how they were able to build these robust, credible, trusted personal brands. So the question wasn’t, if I was going to do something, it was what? So to your point, you know, do you do a newsletter? Do you start a meetup group? Do you start working with local universities? I had these questions and I didn’t know what I was planning to do. But along the way, after speaking with enough different VCs and get getting some good advice, I had this realization that nobody was doing audio. And while I knew very little about podcasts, I knew very little about audio production and and building a studio. I learned pretty quick. I’m the type of person that maybe is a little OCD, but I throw myself into things I geek out quite a bit. And I like kind of taken on a new challenge and learning something new. So now I know quite a bit about audio production and you know how to put together a studio and how to create you know, audio content. And yeah, the choice was, was pretty clear after I realized nobody was doing audio and in venture, I thought I could be first. And while being first isn’t the most important thing, it certainly gives you a leg up. So that was kind of the origin of TFR.
Awesome, thanks. Thanks for sharing that. And, and thinking again, to those early episodes, one of the things that struck me was when I was looking at who was on and in sort of the very beginning, you were able to get Brad Feld on to the podcast. And so that’s another thing that I’d like to dig into a little bit, because you have a lot of folks again, who are they’re starting the podcast, they’re starting the blog, whatever the case may be, and they’re trying to figure out, how can I get these folks who are clearly well established influencers in either the VC space? Or maybe it’s a sector they’re interested in investing in? What was the conversation there? Or how did that come to be realized in a cold email? Or have you gotten to know Brad before? I’d love to hear how that came about? Or if there’s other early guests, where maybe there was an interesting story in terms of how that came to be? I would love to hear that?
Well, it’s probably not the answer you’re looking for. But it’s simple. I just asked. I mean, this was over five years ago. So I don’t remember the specifics of the email. But I reached out to Brad cold, I think I kept a concise, I made an ask, I was probably pretty polite. And I would imagine I paid him a compliment, or two. But that’s kind of you know, this was early in my my tech VC sort of experience. So I was not an expert in networking, you kind of have to do a lot of it in this space, as you know, to to learn how to email people how to network around how to get referrals. And at the very beginning, I made a lot of cold asks. So you know, while we get advice from from VCs on this program, to never reach out cold and always get a referral, you got to start somewhere. And for you know, somebody like Brad Feld to respond to that. And really live the good first approach that he espouses with David Cohen as well, was amazing. So I’d encourage every founder out there that’s raising a first round of capital or just getting in into the space to not under appreciate just asking people for help. A lot of people are great about delivering.
Thanks. And that brings me to another thing that comes up a lot comes up a lot for me, given the the email list and in the blog, and I’m sure comes up for you now that you’ve really built an audience around TFR. But how do I get you to pay attention to me? In other words, you know, I’m, I’m Nick Moran four years ago, right before the podcast and just getting it started. Or I’m starting that blog. And I reach out to you with an ask how do I get when you got the fund? You’ve got the podcast, right? You got family, you’re super busy. How do you? How do you stand out on a cold asked to you? And maybe you don’t answer this? Because maybe it opens the floodgates, but like, what are some maybe sort of cold asks recently that I’ve come across that have really struck you? Because of the way that the person handled it? And what made you pay attention?
Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s if you’re not going through a referral, you gotta think of a hook, there’s got to be some sort of angle. You know, I’ve had founders do some research on me, and I don’t know where the heck this is posted online. But someone figured out that I’m a craft beer enthusiast. Or at least, you know, I was five years ago, probably more so than then now now that I have kids. But but so you know, a number of founders have actually sent me, you know, very unique custom craft beer from from some of the best breweries in the country. I mean, that’s a pretty good hook. They’ve done their research. I don’t know where they dug up that information, but they found it somewhere. So I think that the key to a really good hook and to get my attention or anyone’s attention is to keep it brief, make your ask clear, and find something really relevant about the person you’re reaching out to, that they’re going to take notice of, you know, I’m a person just like anybody else. So a really well placed compliment goes a long way. You know, somebody’s saying, Nick, you’ve got the best voice ever, of a podcaster not exactly the compliment I want to hear, right. Somebody’s talking about one of my blog posts or one of my tips of the week and telling me what resonated with them about that, you know, telling them that whatever, you know, corpus of knowledge I’ve contributed was meaningful to them. Now, that is a compliment that I would love to hear. So if you’re a founder you’re trying to get get the attention of a VC. Do a little research on them, find something that maybe they’re passionate about or or they have a viewpoint on, and if you focus very concise See on that, you’ll probably get their attention.
Great. Appreciate that, for sure. And quick note on the craft beer gifting that looks like maybe a founder to have have gotten into, there’s a book that your listeners might be interested in by a guy named John Ruhlin. I think it’s ru H li n. And he’s written a whole book about gifting, and how you can leverage gifting into building a really strong network. So definitely worth worth checking out. Agreed,
and I, I haven’t read the book. But I think the best gift you can give anyone is being a really good listener. So if you’re in a meeting with somebody, and you’re, you’re connected with them, you’re hearing what they’re saying. And you’re really dialing into that. They’re, they’re gonna appreciate it so much more. And to your question earlier, you before you’ve had an opportunity to sit down with somebody, you can still demonstrate that you listen, by doing your research on someone and reading their work. So, you know, networking and connecting with people has a lot to do with really listening to, to kind of their perspective, and expanding on it.
Absolutely. So I was listening to Brad Feld episode, Episode 10. And one of the favorites, or one of the favorites. And you you had a bit at the end where you you basically mentioned like, after Brad was off, it was at the end of the podcast, you said, Hey, I appreciate all the inbound interest I’m getting from entrepreneurs and founders about featuring them and having them on the podcast. But I’m really trying to be focused and stick with interviewing investors only at this time. And when I heard that, given how early you are right, you’re on episode 10. You’ve had built this this platform yet. I feel like maybe it would have been tempting to say, Oh, this really interesting founder ones come on, like, cool. I’m on right. Yeah. So I’m curious. How did you sort of stick to your guns? Or was it just easy impediment on event when those kinds of requests were coming in? I’d be curious how you thought about that. Because like, I think especially early on, it’s very easy when you’re building out that platform and that brand to kind of get whiplash and just go in whatever direction winds blowing, but you clearly didn’t. So I’d love to hear a little about that.
Yeah, the the request came early, and they continue to come. And for the most part, have stayed locked in on VCs, we do feature portfolio company founders that new stack has invested in. So that’s, of course an advantage to those folks that that we partner with. But I think this goes back to an earlier part of our conversation about differentiation and specialization. No matter what you do, you kind of have to carve out your unique space, and try and be best in class at that. And when I launched the VC podcast, there were no VC podcasts. But there were probably 20 Plus really well done startup podcasts, where a host was interviewing founders, right. Now, you know, having a renowned founder on the show, like an Aaron Levie type from box, or, you know, some of the older grades. I mean, that would be amazing. But for me to start doing that, I think would have confused the program a little bit, I think we wanted to stay true to the goal of really demystifying venture capital. And founders certainly have something to say about that. But I really tried to stay focus, tried to double down on VC unpacking VC from VCs, and try and build a brand and a network in this investment community. So while it’s been tempting, and while, you know, to some degree, I probably should feature some more founders. I think early on, just like with a startup business, it’s all about focus. It’s all about driving toward an MVP, finding a beachhead customer market, and being very, very clear with yourself and your target market, what your mission is. And so in light of that, I just stayed true to being different. Being the only person focused on interviewing VCs. And I think it worked out quite I mean, it certainly worked out much better than we expected. And other entrants have come along, of course, to podcasts, and we we can talk about that if you want but I mean, there are great, great shows out there. Andreessen has a great show. Harry Stebbings has a great show. So we’re not the only one around now. There’s, there’s, I think more than 70 vc podcasts at this point. Yeah. But but sticking to our guns and sticking to our focus, I think was important to carving out a niche and keeping things clear.
Yeah, that’s, that’s a great point. And it’s one thing that comes up too when I’m talking to VCs or folks who are trying to break in and they’re trying to figure out you know how to I differentiate, one of the things that they sometimes get stuck on is like, like, wait a minute, John, you’re telling me to get like hyper specific about my audience. And that worries me. Because I don’t think that the people who are interested in enterprise infrastructure applications of the blockchain, there’s, there’s maybe 50 and a master, I’d say, yeah, there might be 50 of them. But here’s the thing, those 50 are going to love, love what you’re talking about. And they’re going to tell other people. And if you keep showing up for those people, over time, what happens is the sort of brand and the audience actually expands. Because you’re able to logically go into other areas that are connected, but aren’t sort of the original niche focus. I’m curious if that resonates with you at all.
100%. You know, Bill Gurley was, was recently talking about this, but being best in class, or being one of the most knowledgeable or most prolific in one very specific field is far superior than being, you know, just one of masses targeting a very large market. And to your point, creating that wedge, and creating that progress within one space provides an opportunity to expand far beyond the space, once you build a critical mass of followers. And, in my opinion, that’s the best way to do it. Whether you’re hosting a show, or creating a group, or starting a new business, it all starts with focus. And that provides access, and that provides opportunity to do much things that are much bigger. But if you go too broad at the beginning, then it can be a long, hard battle.
For sure. How did you know? Was there ever an epiphany as right, where but did you ever have a moment? Maybe it was the first year or or sort of somewhat early on where you’re like, Wow, this this is working. And by working whatever definition you would consider to be working? I’d love to hear if there was ever a point or where where that became really apparent like that this is achieving some measure of success. However, you you had to find that?
That’s a great question. So much like kind of the structure of the show my KPIs, and my outcomes were also incremental. And I started small with them. So my initial goal was really to build a network. You know, how do I get a meeting with Brad Feld? How do I get a meeting with an Winblad with Steve Blank with, you know, some of these huge figures in the space? You know, how can I get into their network and have the opportunity to share deal flow to solve problems. And that’s where I began with the show, the show wasn’t about making money. It wasn’t about, you know, being the biggest influencer in the space. It was it was very incremental in nature, I wanted to focus on building a network. First. Second, I wanted to build a brand for myself. So I wanted people to start thinking of me with regards to venture capital and early stage tech investing. And subsequently, I wanted to build deal flow pipeline. I think that that was a lofty goal at the beginning. But the hope was, you know, if if the audience numbers get large enough, and the network of guests that I interview gets sufficiently large, that should result in deal flow, assuming you know, I’m clear about what I want to invest in and folks know what I’m doing. So, yeah, there was there were a lot of incremental goals along the way. When I started out, I tried not to be too ambitious. You know, now that we’re over five years in, I think we’ve had a lot of great results from the show, we certainly have built a large network of investors, we certainly have a robust pipeline of deal flow. You know, I’ve been lucky enough to become an influencer, at least within the podcast, VC space. And, you know, capital, I was able to build my Investment Network, and the angel group that we call the Syndicate, you know, that that was built on the episodes, messaging a lot of people in the audience that are angel investors or aspired to be angel investors that subsequently joined the group. So yeah, we’ve had a lot of successes along the way. But I tried to go into it without being too ambitious, and setting the goals too high. Because even the smallest of goals, building a network with MVC was something that would be incredibly valuable to an independent Angel, located in Chicago, of all places. So that’s where we begin.
Yeah, one of the points you brought up, I think, is really, really critical for folks who are getting started. And it’s like, don’t go into this with the ambition of like, I’m going to have the hugest most popular, most downloaded venture podcast, your goals should be something that’s much more achievable. And in your control. Like, I am going to write one blog post a week, or I’m going to send one email newsletter a week, or I am going to run one meet up a month or whatever it is, right? Yeah. And don’t don’t get hung up on the outcome. And just like, you really focus on just doing the thing and in showing up and I think that’s where people also get stuck. If it’s like, yeah, kind of things when you’re getting started, and you’re sending email to a newsletter list of 20 people, right, I mean, doesn’t stink, but in the sense that it’s not that large audience that you’re quote unquote, hoping to build. But I think if you’re coming from a place of, and I think you you do this, and I think this is one of the reasons why you got started on it, like, yeah, you wanted to build a network, but also, you know, you wanted to teach, I mean, you were a teacher, is what it comes down to, right. Like, you’re really teaching people through these interviews about the world of venture capital. And, and I and myself, and just right, I know, that’s like, that’s the dirty little secret to right, like you’re learning a ton in the process. So you’re getting like a, like a double benefit. And I would argue, like even just that learning by itself would be valuable. Even if you didn’t have a podcast audience, if you had two people listening to this thing, but the fact that you have had all these great conversations and learn so much, and internalize that it’s just hugely valuable on its own.
I couldn’t agree more. I think you’re right, I think this particular medium was a good fit, for me and my style. And it worked out quite well for me, because I, I like to learn and I like to teach and often I learned better by by teaching others by getting my thoughts together. And, you know, working with other folks, I had to recognize early on that I was not the expert in so many of these topics. But if I could locate folks that had built expertise, like Brad with the term sheet and many other things, then to a certain degree, I could outsource a lot of the knowledge creation and the content creation. So yeah, worked out quite well.
Awesome. One more thing, before I switch gears, I want to dig into the fund and the investing piece of things. You run this big podcast, right? There’s not many folks in the space, who have a similar size, and sort of scale of audience. And I’m sort of curious, like, do you have mentors that you go to specific to how you build that brand further? Like, I think from a personal perspective, my email list of 13,000 some odd folks on it, both NBC and folks who want to be VCs? And when I’m thinking through things related to like how I build that further, like, I actually don’t, I don’t really have anyone at like, I can talk to you about it, but like I couldn’t count on one hand, or more than one hand, who else I could go to to get advice on that sort of thing. So I’m curious, like, do you? Do you have anyone you go to when you’re thinking about these topics specifically? Right?
The short answer is no, I don’t not with regards to the show. I certainly have some mentors, and some advisers on on the fun side. But with the show, I’m more of a, I guess, a media observer. And so I look for interesting elements and things that people are doing in different topic areas or different media formats, people that are having a lot of success, things that are new things that are fresh things that are interesting. And I try and Co Op those or steal those and apply them to what I’m doing with TFR. So it probably doesn’t get as much focus as it should, you know, now that I’m a fiduciary, and I’m managing fund on behalf of LPs, you know, there could be more time and effort put into the show if if it was you know, more of my time. And it’s not. But I still love to borrow or steal from from other industries that maybe I’ve talked about this before. But the the original inspiration for investors stories, Jeremiah, sort of three part segments where I’m bolting together thoughts from different VCs. The original inspiration for that was was actually a show called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Oh, nice by Jerry Seinfeld. And that is that years ago, right? He’s been doing this thing for years. But he I don’t know if they still do it. But they used to have something called single chats where Jerry would be asking, you know, Sarah Silverman about family, and then asking Chris Rock about family, and then asking, you know, another comedian about about family. So he would have kind of one topic area, or one question that he was asking a variety of different comedians, and then he’d bolt those things together. And it was really well done, I enjoyed those are kind of quick hitting, they were really funny. And they utilize something I’m not at comedy aficionado, by any means, but they utilize something in comedy called the callback where you see somebody much later. So the core episode, or the main focus is, is was done, you know, at one period of time, and then much later, the audience sees that person again, gets a good laugh out of it, and then they want to go back, and you know, rewatch the original episode and, and that’s worked really well for us, you know, somebody hears, for instance, Paul Martino, talking about lessons learned, and the point really resonates with them. They’re gonna go back and listen to Paul Martino’s episode that we recorded, you know, a year or two ago. And so from that standpoint, I’m always trying to borrow and steal and look for interesting new ways that people are doing things in media and see if we can incorporate it.
Nice. Yeah, I think like one thing that that I’m hearing is there’s, it might not be obvious to folks who don’t have a podcast or do blog or newsletter or whatever. But there’s a lot of creativity actually involved as well. And I have a, I have a theory about VCs. I’d be curious what you think is that, you know, because VCs, right, there typically are not typically they aren’t investing, right? They are not operating. And yes, they’re building a firm in a portfolio. But on a day to day basis, you don’t actually see the ball move forward, right, it’s a much longer time horizon. And so I have a theory that one of the reasons that VCs are certainly be more prolific in terms of sharing their thoughts and blogging, podcasts, and all that kind of thing is because it’s, frankly, a creative outlet. And you can kind of see the results or the production or what you’ve done in a very short time cycle. And you just don’t get that in the venture business. And I’m curious if that if that resonates with you at all.
It resonates it’s it’s certainly a creative outlet. You know, I call it sort of affectionately a labor of love. I mean, there’s a lot of labor that goes into it, and to do it well, and, but it’s something I love to do. And as you know, VC can be a pretty lonely business. As can be, you know, being a startup founder, being at the top of anything is, is a difficult place to be at times and a lonely place to be. So it’s great to have a creative outlet and opportunity to share your thoughts with others and get their feedback. It Yeah, it’s great. Awesome.
Well, I’m going to shift gears now and really dig into the new snacks and the kid and the fun because I have some questions. So they’re just kind of seeing you over the last several years build this out. In terms of the the recent fundraising process? How did the podcast tie in, like, obviously, people know about you from a podcast? But like, were there any specific areas where it really helped? Like maybe it came up as part of your your meetings with LPs? Or maybe where it hindered you in a way? I’m just curious how how that played in directly, if at all?
Well, it helped quite a bit. I can’t think of a reason on how it may have hindered us, but it helped a lot. I mean, from a strategic standpoint, on the fun side, TFR provides us a networking edge sourcing edge, a thought leadership edge. I mean, those are three huge things that everybody wants, right? Everybody in VC is looking for those things. Everybody in VC wants to build a brand that founders are attracted to. And TFR gives us an edge on all of those things. And so from that standpoint, the strategy in our fun deck that we’re pitching to LPs, people could see it. People know about TFR, whether they listen or not, there’s an awareness. I think it’s actually kind of funny, but we’ve done some investments in some founders that have cold outreach to us. And I think, probably a decent number of those people don’t even listen to TFR. But they know about it. And maybe they listened to an episode or two or 10 and got some value out of it. I don’t even know if they’re regular listeners, and they probably shouldn’t be because they, they should probably be a bit more focused on the business. But just having the brand out there and people’s awareness of it is a huge asset. So strategically, it really helped with the fundraising process from like more of a tactical standpoint, it was also very useful having a large audience. So if you think about a funnel, for instance, you know, with the output of the funnel, converting people into the fund, the mouth of the funnel, could be the podcast audience. So you know, we have this, this large audience of founders and investors, and then kind of the interim step is convert those listeners into investors in our syndicate or angel group. So as people join that group, it’s a very low risk way of just seeing our deals, seeing the way we think through our investments. And then if people want to invest, they can, or they can just kind of stay on the sidelines and watch. And then from that group, you know, taking that group of professionals that have gotten to know us have seen the way that our thesis operates, how we make investments and converting those folks into fund LPs. So that that worked quite well. I mean, I don’t have the biggest fund in the world, but we were able to raise more than we targeted. And for a first fund, I’m quite happy with it. And then you just get all the networking benefits. So I would reach out to folks in the audience, listeners, newsletter subscribers, and ask, do you know, do you know folks that are interested in this asset class that want to invest? Do you know family offices that are targeting venture capital and looking for emerging managers, a lot of those connections even if they were not the person that became an LP, they made referrals, they made warm referrals and were able to speak highly of me and my efforts and everything we’ve done with TFR even people. I don’t know all that, well. We’re able to send referrals, trusted referrals, because, you know, a lot of these people have been listening to me for years. So it was a very big asset to us. It was a huge confidence builder to me, you know, having a networking edge having a deal flow sourcing edge, becoming a thought leader of sorts in the podcast space. So it was a huge advantage and one that I don’t take for granted.
Yeah, yeah. I’m not surprised that you were able to get get all that leverage there related question. I was talking to someone who works at a family office here in New York. And we were talking about what he looks for, because he invests in a lot of emerging managers. And one of the things that I was really surprised by is that certainly returns and potential returns is a consideration, who follows on to your existing portfolio, it is a consideration. But one thing that I hadn’t considered that he brought up that he said was pretty important for some family offices is sort of just like the association with something interesting, or something cool, or something different. And I’m curious if if you saw that sort of surface itself in some of your LP discussions, either with family offices or other kinds of LPs? Absolutely,
everyone’s looking for, quote, unquote, edge, you know, what is your edge relative to others? You know, how are you gaining an advantage? I think the discussion may even become more interesting and fun, too, because, or maybe fun three, because at that point, a certain level of returns and metrics become required. And, you know, getting follow on rounds for your portfolio companies, hopefully, by some blue chip investors and some good markups. Those kind of become table stakes, or at least a certain level of those become table stakes. So if your ability to pick and your returns and your up rounds are not good, it’s not going to go well. But if they are at a certain level, and they are interesting, let’s say top quartile, for instance, then it becomes you know, what is your strategy? You know, how are you doing this differently? Why do you have an edge over others? It’s kind of the same thing we look for in startups, right. Like startups get some traction, maybe they got some MRR. But what’s really important is like, what’s your secret, as Peter Thiel would say, you know, what’s your differentiation? How are you seeing this market differently than anybody else? And getting a huge advantage because of that. And so, you know, it’s one step removed the VC, but funds should be thinking the same way, in my opinion, you know, how do you have a sourcing edge? How do you have a branding edge? How are you able to build a better network or, you know, drive better deals or better acceleration of those deals? Right? Do you have a sourcing advantage? Or do you have an acceleration advantage in the way that you work with portfolio companies after you invest? So these are all interesting questions, and they come up more and more, as the level of LP institution kind of gets larger.
Interesting. So flipping over to the AngelList, syndicate side of things. So in talking to the folks at AngelList about syndicates recently, the sort of vibe I get is that, really the deals that tend to fill out their syndicate syndicated rounds are the ones that have a basically a tier one Silicon Valley VC investing in the round. And I have to admit, I did not pour over the portfolio and CO investors for your syndicate before we got on this call. But I’m curious if that was also true for you and syndicating? Or did you just see such leverage from the podcast, etc, that you were able to fill deals that that maybe did not have an Excel or Sequoia or Kleiner, etc? in them? Yeah,
it’s a really good question. There’s, and it’s a multi layered answer. I can try and keep it brief. But yeah, me and a number of syndicate leads have joked around that AngelList should be rebranded as a series a list or syndicate leads can, you know, carve out a tiny allocation and in blue chip lead startups, because for a lot of syndicate leads, that’s what they do. They do not invest at the angel round, they invest later, when blue chip investors are leading something, and they have a relationship with the founders, for instance. And so they’re able to carve out a 200k 300k allocation. And in one of those rounds, those are the ones that tend to attract the most capital on the platform. The signal that’s received from having a Sequoia or Kleiner, an Excel or a benchmark and a deal is high. The likelihood that the fund of funds entities that participate in Angel List invest in those deals is much higher, if there’s a you know, a blue chip sort of bulge bracket lead. So, doing true angel round deals doing precede deals or early seed deals on the platform is very tough, because most of those blue chip investors do not invest at the earliest stages. Some of them have you know, Scout programs or pilot programs and so will dabble will do like very small checks at the early stages. But typically, you know, it’s, it’s the angel crowd, the precede crowd and the seed crowd of VCs that are leading those deals like ourselves, like new stack is leading a lot of our deals. So, you know, clearly it’s not led by, you know, Sequoia if if we’re putting it together and circling up a syndicate of other VCs that provides some value. So it’s very difficult to have success with an AngelList syndicate. I think these days, if you don’t have a huge following, if you haven’t built credibility with that following, I think, fortunately for us, we did a hybrid approach. So we have a group of angels in Chicago, that we began getting together with for lunch and talking through deals that like to co invest. And then we also had this large group of podcast listeners that were joining our AngelList syndicate. And so we did kind of this two pronged approach at certainly at the beginning, where we leveraged our relationships with existing folks in our city, as well as folks on the coasts that were a part of the syndicate. And between the two groups, we were able to put together, investments of 100k or greater, but we had to hustle for the first like, three, four deals, we really had to hustle, we had to socialize these deals, we had to campaign on behalf of the founders in the startups. I mean, we really had to work, our first deal was a company called Cybrary, you know, have closed a lot of capital have done some big rounds, and have a lot of really interesting investors involved at this point. But at the time we invested, that was a hard deal to get, I think we raised 120 530k, of which actually Brad Feld invested, which was really nice to have him involved early. But that was hard to put together. So anyone starting an angel syndicate today, that is doing the true sort of early stage rounds, that doesn’t have the big name investors involved with needs to kind of bring some of their own friends and some of their own capital to it. One other thought on that is, you know, we still kind of employ localized strategy, where it makes sense. And an example of that would be if it’s a Chicago based startup founder, we won’t just launch it on the platform, to all the investors out there, we will hold a lunch in Chicago, including all the lps in our fund, as well as key angels in our network. The last one we hosted, I think we had 85 people show up. But you know, those folks are all accredited. They’re all top tier investors. They’re all very interested in, you know, what we’re doing, we’ve built credibility with them. And they come to the lunch and they get to meet the founder, the founder can tell their story. You know, it’s not one of these normal pitch events where you got a dog and pony show with 10 different startup founders in front of the room. It’s much more curated, it’s typically just one founder telling their story. We’ll open it up for q&a. And then that tends to generate a lot of checks. So yeah, we don’t have a problem filling our allocations on the syndicate anymore. Because I mean, we have over 650 backers. So there’s a critical mass there. But it’s hard. It’s hard to get there. I’m not gonna lie.
Thanks for sharing that. I wanted to shift gears probably one last time before we run out of time and talk a little bit about really building the firm. And clearly I’m interested in in venture capital hiring and and how firms hire and find interns and find people for the fun. What’s your sort of channel for that? Do you just find candidates from people who listen to the podcast and reach out? I know, you have some interest in the fund, which is why I’m asking so how does that sort of typically work out for you? Are you just kind of cherry picking for that audience? Are people finding you in other ways?
Yeah, it’s, it’s an interesting challenge to find good talent. I do want to kind of give credit to our team that we have in place quickly, before I answer your question directly. But the team consists of Jr. Moran, he’s our COO really keeps the trains running on time. Mark lad, who’s our venture partner. He’s our deal. Expert deal vetting expert. We have Elizabeth Santiago. She’s our executive assistant. And then Currently, we have three interns, Stefano Glasgow. He’s our deal lead. So he owns the funnel, and deal flow. We have Steven joy, who’s just he is pioneering new ways of hunting and sourcing deals in really creative ways. He’s creating strategies on capital raising and how to work with family offices. And then we’ve also got William Oberg, who really owns our portfolio interaction. So how do we provide benefit to our portfolio companies? He’s also sort of reinventing the way that we’re marketing and branding new stack as a firm. So really doing some cool things there. So that team has just been incredible to work with the summer. I cannot sort of undersell the value that these guys have provided. And Elizabeth Of course, and we have two new interns coming on. So we have John least and now Nik Feeny. So we’re looking forward to working with them. But to answer your question, you know, how do we find these folks? So a lot of them find us. So there are listeners to the show. We’ve had, I don’t even know how many but north of 20 interns at this point, and at least half of them have reached out because they’re, they’re a listener to TFR. But aside from that, Chicago actually has really good MBA internship programs. So the University of Chicago Booth and then Northwestern University, Kellogg, the students that are enrolled in the full time MBA programs, they can take a class called the PVC lab, where they’re basically working for us and getting course credit. Of course, we still have to hire them. So we go through a whole hiring process. And we get a pretty obscene number of applications for that, as I’m sure the other VCs in town do. But it’s just a great sort of opportunity for them to get experience. We don’t have big budgets as a firm. So we get a lot of really talented, smart, skilled help. And it’s kind of a win win for all involved. So So those programs are fantastic. We really lean on the Kellogg program, and the booth program a lot for internships. But aside from that, we’ve had interns from Michigan, Penn, Harvard, Virginia, MIT. I mean, we’ve we’ve had interns from kind of all over the place, University of Southern California. So we get a lot of interns through just kind of the network, they reach out, they listened to the show reached out to us directly, we have utilized a tool, sort of software tool called handshake, which allows you to kind of push out a job posting across a number of universities. You know, if you’re a VC in the audience, you’re looking for qualified interns, I might suggest trying handshake out we were able to get for the summer, I think we get 286 applications, for one position of which we we expanded to two. But yeah.
Nice. Next time you’re looking let me know, too.
That’s right. I should be reaching out to you. Going VC? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, the internship program is really nice. I mean, JR has put so much work into that. And so we think the folks are getting value, and we were definitely getting value from their contributions.
That’s great. You mentioned that it sounds like it’s kind of a structured program that some of the schools have, I remember, when I was in business school and trying to get my first venture job, these things didn’t really exist in a formulaic way. So bringing up in case that helps some listeners who are like, Wait, my school doesn’t have that thing that that was just described. Basically, what I did is we did have the ability to do an independent study, for course, credit. So I basically went in pitch, I pitched Hyland up in Boston on a project related to enterprise software and said, hey, you know, you don’t have to pay me because I’m gonna get school credit for this. And, you know, basically, I’ll do a bunch of good work for you. And if you don’t, you don’t actually have to pay for that. And that was really my first break in terms of getting like a great name on the resume that kind of helped me move forward and start to see additional opportunities, and ultimately, to get into venture after I finished business school. So that’s something that anyone can do, even if their school doesn’t really have a formalized program.
I love that, right? I mean, that demonstrates your level of hustle, your commitment to the asset class, your ability to network your way in to a VC firm to even get that meeting. You know, so many people, I think, just want to add VC to their resume or want to see what’s going on with tech and they’re dabblers, right, they want to dabble on this, but they’re not truly committed. And I think your story illustrates, you know, this is how you can hustle your way in and work your butt off to demonstrate to somebody that you’re truly committed to the asset class, and you know, how, how to hunt down opportunities. So, you know, props to you for doing it.
Thanks, Nick. One more before we wrap up, I’m curious, you know, you’re a relatively new Dad, I’ve got three kids to two girls and a younger boy, do you have a tip for someone you know, like yourself who clearly the podcast takes up a lot of time, you’re a fiduciary now, right, you’re running this fund, you have a lot on your plate, is there one thing that you would call out as maybe a new strategy or tactic you’ve either taken at work or terms of of your family life that has really helped you either be more productive or just kind of be happier or help facilitate more of a work life balance, anything that you’ve kind of added to the routine that you think other listeners might benefit from?
Well, the displeasure of my wife is not something I want to face. Let’s leave it at that. So I mean, I’m at home with my son, you know, when I get home from the office, we’re spending quality time together. The weekends, she’s, you know, fairly protective of so I need to clear it with her if I’m going to, you know, spend time working so that’s a huge change. I mean, I used to just work all the time. And now that we have a son who’s just just over to can’t do that anymore, you know, she won’t have it So she’s the Enforcer. And so then we have to figure out, you know, how do we get the work done more effectively with less time. And fortunately, I’ve really got to give credit to my brother Jr. Moran, who’s our CEO. He joined us in January, but he was born to manage, I was not, I consider myself a leader, and a creator, and a strategist. But once I put processes and strategies in place, or initiatives in place, I do not want to manage them on an ongoing basis. It’s just not what appeals most to me. And it’s not my skill set, but it is his. And so he’s really helped us professionalize the firm, you know, spin up all our project management on Trello, spin up all our deal, flow management on streak, and manage that stuff. So that things are being done, right. They’re being done on time, you know, new interns are being on boarded, and being educated, learning our process, learning the tools, learning our heuristics, so I have to just give a ton of credit to him, because he, he keeps the trains running on time, and allows me the creative freedom to work on deals to think about strategy for fun to, to think about marketing and branding strategies, really, you know, giving me the freedom to lead this firm and figure out the direction, while he keeps, you know, the productivity and, and the execution sort of dialed in. So that’s all I got for you on that one.
That’s amazing. And I think that the level of effort and care, like some folks I think, might think, oh, once I have $100 million fund, you know, really put effort into building a firm and like, what you’re doing actually goes to shows like No, even if you have a, a 567 $10 million fund, like, you need to put in that effort, right and build those processes. And so it’s awesome, and I’m sure your LPs, really appreciate it, that you’ve been able to put that kind of infrastructure and process and a team in place to really help you scale this thing. So I’m excited to see fund to fund three and wherever else you go from there.
Well, to your point earlier, it’s my wife has forced us to get my son, of course, but it’s, it’s great, you know, it’s great to kind of have that motivation. And to figure out how to make things more efficient. And you don’t want to be the sole source of all decisions in all execution that can be done. You know, it should be a cop for anybody in a leadership position, it should be a constant question, you know, of what can I offload to somebody else? Right? And for my brother, it’s a constant question for him. What can I offload to our executive assistant? So we’re always asking, you know, how do we just focus on the most strategic things? How do we just focus on the most important things, and push down or push over all these elements that are non strategic that we can have others do? So? Yeah, working on it all the time. And I appreciate you acknowledging that, and, you know, complimenting us on that.
Absolutely, you know, we can all all find ways to get better, for sure. It’s, anyway, I’m tapped out. And I want to thank you again, for having me on. And, and really being able to ask you some questions that I’ve just been personally curious about. I’ve, I’ve loved sort of just over the years, kind of building relationships with you, and, and just kind of seeing what you and the team have built. And also be no bounce ideas and just try to get creative. So want to thank you again, for the opportunity. John, you’re and excited to see where things go.
John, you’re you’re a great thought partner and have been for many years, we’ve shared a number of conversations, and it’s very valuable for me to kind of bounce ideas off of you. But But before we wrap up, can you can you tell us a little bit more about going VC, you know, what, what is the future hold? Where do you see it going next? Can you tell us like timing of your next cohorts and how people can get involved?
Yeah, absolutely. So right now we’re at the beginning of August here, when we’re recording, we’ve opened up applications for our fifth cohort of going VC, which again, is it’s an intensive 16 week program that helps people break into Vc, you’re learning all the practical skills around sourcing, due diligence, etc. We’re bringing in VCs, to do interactive q&a sessions and courses as well. So we’ve had folks from firms like Spark capital, foundation capital, folks, it’s sort of that tear and folks everywhere in between. And over 40% of the folks who have done the program end up in a venture job or an internship after which, as you know, is a pretty good hit rate considering how hard these these jobs are to get. And the other piece we bring to it is because I’ve run the longest running VC job board an email list for the last 10 years or so. We see a lot of opportunities out in the market before folks know that firms are hiring. So that’s a real differentiator as well to be able to access those kinds of under the radar opportunities or frankly, opportunities that will we’ll never get into the public eye.
Got it. Got it. So when is the next cohort spinning up? So we’re
right now we have applications To open, and there’ll be open for the next few weeks. And the new cohort, cohort five will be starting in October. So if you’re interested, just go to going vc.com. There’s plenty of links, etc, to learn about the program and also to apply. Great
and that’s for people located anywhere, right? They don’t have to be in New York or San Francisco or LA,
you can be, yep, no, anywhere. And we also for folks who do happen to be on the coasts or in cities where we have a significant concentration. We do do in person events. For example, we’re doing one with beta works next week. There’s that element of it as well. It is a virtual program and lets people stay in their jobs, etc, while it’s going on. But also they do have that opportunity to meet VCs and other folks who are in the program in person.
Yeah. Great. Well, I look forward to sending some folks your way. I definitely know some young aspiring individuals that could benefit from the program.
Awesome. Thanks so much, Nick.
That we’ll wrap up today’s episode. Thanks for joining us here on the show. And if you’d like to get involved further, you can join our investment group for free on AngelList. Head over to angel.co and search for new stack ventures. There you can back the syndicate to see our deal flow. See how we choose startups to invest in and read our thesis on investment in each startup we choose. As always show notes and links for the interview are at full ratchet.net And until next time, remember to over prepare, choose carefully and invest competently. Thanks for joining us