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10 Challenges for Emerging Market Startup Ecosystems

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10 CHALLENGES FOR EMERGING MARKET S TA R T U P E C O S Y S T E M S @ D A V E M C C L U R E @ 5 0 0 S TA R T U P S 5 0 0 . C O


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Dave McClure
 Founding Partner & Troublemaker, 500 Startups 00’s & 10’s: • VC: Founders Fund, Facebook fbFund, 500 Startups • Angel: Mashery, Mint.com, SlideShare, Twilio • Marketing: PayPal, Simply Hired, Mint.com, O’Reilly 80’s & 90’s: • Entrepreneur: Aslan Computing (acq’d by Servinet/Panurgy) • Developer: Windows / SQL DB consultant (Intel, MSFT) • Engineer: Johns Hopkins‘88, BS Eng / Applied Math


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500 Startups
 Global Seed Fund & Startup Accelerator • What is 500? – $200M under management – 100+ people / 30 investing partners / 18 Countries – 2500+ Founders / 250+ Mentors • 1300+ Portfolio Co’s / 50+ Countries – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Wildfire (acq GOOG, $350M) MakerBot (acq SSYS, $400M) Viki (acq Rakuten, $200M) Simple (acq BBVA, $117M) Credit Karma (~$3.5B) GrabTaxi ($1B+) Twilio ($1B+) Ipsy SendGrid VivaReal Udemy Zozi The RealReal Virool BarkBox Tradesy


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1) THERE AREN’T MANY INVESTORS. MOST OF THEM ARE EVIL OR STUPID. • low valuations and crappy terms: “51% for $100K” • supply vs. demand problem; fewer investors than startups, lack of competition = no urgency, • NO to business plans / revenue projections • YES to mktg plans, expense projections • wins & exits => FOMO, competition increases


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2) THERE AREN’T MANY ENTREPRENEURS. MOST OF THEM ARE CLUELESS. • more mentorship, more founder experience • product management, design & UX, growth hacking & marketing • changes after 1st gen founders exit -> 2nd gen startups


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3) THERE AREN’T MANY CUSTOMERS. M O S T O F T H E M D O N ’ T PAY. • no longer true; 3B+ smart phones; massive mobile market • increasing internet availability + rising consumer GDP • improved payment & logistics • local/regional markets are BIG • access to global markets easier


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4 ) S TA R T U P S D O N ’ T H AV E T R A C T I O N , A N D N O I D E A H O W T O G E T I T. • Growth Hackers -> DISTRO • STOP building product features; START growing customers (via online platforms) • unit economics: CAC vs. CLV, timing of revenue & expense, conversion metrics • find profitable, high-volume customer acquisition channels that convert to KPIs, learn how to grow them


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5) THERE AREN’T MANY EXITS. MOST OF THEM ARE SMALL. • where are the unicorns? • acquirers crossing borders to find talent (US, EU, China, Japan, etc) • non-tech companies acquiring startups for innovation • global companies looking for emerging market footprint • local -> regional -> global growth


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6 ) I N V E S T I N G I N R E A L E S TAT E I S B E T T E R B E T T H A N I N V E S T I N G I N S TA R T U P S • startups aren’t real estate! • real estate doesn’t go up forever • most startups fail completely • but a few startups grow up to be unicorns • use real estate to lower risk, drive liquidity


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7 ) M O S T A C C E L E R AT O R S S U C K . AND THEY’RE GOING TO DIE. SOON. • Accelerator economics are tough. • Most startups fail. Most wins are small. Big wins take time (5-10 years). • Most accelerators are under-staffed, under-capitalized, short time horizons. • Accelerators should verticalize, focus on industry-specific expertise, get corporate / academic / govt sponsors • Create operational capital via investment; use real estate to hedge risk, be creative


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8 ) E M P L O Y E E S D O N ’ T U N D E R S TA N D E Q U I T Y. FOUNDERS DON’T GIVE IT TO THEM. • equity should be distributed widely among team (not just founders and management) • when exits happen, a thousand angels are born • US: PayPal, Google, Facebook • CHINA: Alibaba, TenCent, Baidu • MENA: Souq + ? • create equity culture, angel investor culture


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9 ) M O S T S TA R T U P S N E V E R G O G L O B A L . M O S T T H AT T R Y W I L L F A I L . • startups have to start SOMEwhere • some local & regional markets are BIG India, Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, MENA • 50-100M customers good place to start • hard to jump to global markets without local market MVP, product/market fit • you don’t need to go to Silicon Valley, get Silicon Valley to come to YOU.


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10) MOST FOUNDERS & INVESTORS DON’T T H I N K T H E Y ’ R E A S G O O D A S S I L I C O N V A L L E Y. • Silicon Valley isn’t a place, it’s a State of Mind. • Most startups in Silicon Valley came from somewhere else (PayPal, WhatsApp, FreshBooks) • The biggest problem isn’t lack of experience, it’s lack of confidence (for both investors & founders) • You’re Good enough. You’re Smart enough. Get Going!


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