Two years ago we set out to bring Israeli hi-tech startup founders and investors closer together and to harness our collective experience and contacts to help fellow Israeli hi-tech startups succeed worldwide. Today we’re over 1,600 members meeting monthly in Israel, Silicon Valley, New York and Boston. I have the privilege to meet and befriend some of our industry’s sharpest and most creative minds on both sides of the table. It’s truly an honor.
Facilitating TechAviv has also exposed me to many of the inherent flaws in the relationship between founders and venture capitalists. I’ve also experienced them first hand as a VC-backed entrepreneur, a board member and as an advisor to investors, but not on this scale. Here’s the bottom line; while we ideally need to be as tight as co-founders, our jobs and who we are as people are often radically different:
- Entrepreneurs, at least the successful ones I know, are driven by ideas and passion, have super-human stamina (never accepting “no”) and a love for problem solving. Their job is to create new value for customers. They’d like to be rich so that they can do whatever they’d like in life, but they’re already doing that now.
- Venture capitalists, at least the successful ones I know, are driven by money and discipline, have uniquely accurate insight (knowing when its not the usual “no”) and a love for deal making. Their job is to create great returns for their limited partners. They need to be rich because most of their friends are, and well, its good to be rich.
At different stages of a startup these differences, ideally meant to compliment each other, often cause great friction, fundamental misunderstandings and even total meltdown. Throw in a global recession and the new economics of starting-up web businesses and you’ve got yourself the makings of one fascinating and desperately-needed group therapy session.
It’s time to “invest” in our relationship. First step is communication. We need to get some things out on the table. Those taboo subjects between founders and VCs that we talk about behind the other’s back. Those questions we’ve always wanted to ask. What’s working, what’s broken and how can we make things better moving forward so that the Israeli hi-tech ecosystem as a whole succeeds. In a time when the business and economics of building and investing in hi-tech startups is changing so dramatically, its more important than ever that we get on the same page.
UPDATE: Results of the pre-meeting questionnaire appear below:
On September 2, 2009 from 3:00-6:00pm at the IDC Herzliya the TechAviv Founders Club will convene the first in a special series of smaller town hall style meetings between founders and investors to candidly discuss our working relationship and practical ways to optimize it. We’re now over 400 strong in Israel but will limit attendance to keep the conversation as intimate and candid as possible. Priority will be given to VC-backed startup founders that can speak from experience. 20 of Israel’s top VC have also been invited. TechAviv Israel members can RSVP here. If you’re a founder of or investor in Israeli hi-tech startups and based in Israel, you can apply for membership here (free).
Thanks Danny and Adi. The idea for this meeting was inspired by conversations I had recently with Danny Cohen and Adi Pundak-Mintz of Gemini Israel Funds. They’ve been think about ways to bring investors and entrepreneurs closer together and have been doing so regularly with their excellent round-table events at Gemini. I’m proud to have them as sponsors of TechAviv. These guys embody our spirit of paying things forward. I’ve known Danny for a while. He’s one of those rare VCs that tells it like it is and sincerely cares about entrepreneurs and Israel. He’s doing something right but will be the first to admit he’s gotten lots of stuff wrong dealing with entrepreneurs. Danny recently returned from a 3 year stint at Gemini’s Silicon Valley office and gave a talk on Israeli venture capital at TechAviv CA on March 30th, the day before his last in CA. Here’s the talk with some good data and topics for the meeting on Sept 2nd. Enjoy.
UPDATE: Pic from the event: (Thanks @OurielOhayon)