Office Hours: I am an investor at Precursor and founded Be About It Podcast and the Interrupters List. I'm Sydney Thomas.Featured
Hi Everyone! I’m Sydney Thomas, investor at Precursor Ventures. I am the founder of the Be About It Podcast & The Interrupters List. I am also on the advisory board of INVANTI - a startup accelerator in the midwest. Prior, I was the business development and customer relations lead at Naya Health and worked in marketing at Soma Water and Plum Organics. Before entering the private sector, I spent my career in the public sector working for Mayor Bloomberg and before that, for Congresswoman Barbara Lee. I have an undergraduate degree in public policy from Duke University and an MBA from UC Berkeley-Haas. Ask me about me about early stage VC, fundraising, building startups, accelerators, angel investing, marketing, policy work, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @SydneyT!Elphas – please ask @SydneyT your questions before Friday, August 14th. @SydneyT may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi @SydneyT thanks for doing this. I love the investment thesis at Precursor and have been following it for a few years. I heard Charles mention that you have a specific onboarding process for new investee companies - I would love to hear more about this if it's ok to share. Thank you
Thanks for reaching out! We do have a pretty specific onboarding process where we ask founders a lot of questions around how they self-identify. The purpose is to ensure that we build a community that reflects the rest of the US (ie if there are 50% women in the US, there should be 50% women in the portfolio).
Oh interesting - I love that. Are there other firms out there that you think are doing a good job with building a diverse portfolio in terms of founders/community?
I created a list of investors who are doing well here: https://medium.com/@PrecursorVC/the-interrupters-8487cbe3a3ea
Hi @SydneyT! Would love to learn more about your podcast experience. What would be some top tips you would advise a novice podcast host? What are the best ways to market your podcast or make it go viral? What are some good metrics (ie, should I be trying to hit 1,000 plays per episode in a week?)? How do you think about the funding side - such as how much to spend on production, or how much to spend on marketing?ps - I just launched a podcast called Techsetters by Kode With Klossy!
Hey Jenny - Thanks for the question! I love love loved making my podcast and it was more created out of an act of love than anything else because it takes a lot of work. Here are my tips for how to create a podcast: 1) Use Audacity as your recording software - it’s free! 2) When recording, do not let the levels go above 12 or else you will fry the tape.3) Use Samson Meteor Mike to record - only $50.4) Check out this Airtable base to help you manage your recording schedule and episode history: https://airtable.com/templates/content-production/expsI33kQMTB2vASp/podcast-editorial-calendar5) You need artwork to get featured on Apple Podcasts! Happy to refer you to mine - Kenneth Lim - if interested.6) You need an RSS feed to get featured on all of the podcast channels. I created separate ones with Blubrry and Soundcloud, but if I would do think again, I would have just created one with Blubrry. 7) Pay for access to all the listener stats! I have both Blubrry and Soundcloud Premium which has helped me with sponsorship conversations. 8) Plan your podcasts 4weeks in advance if possible! 9) Get a producer! Mine is my cousin - Rachel Jones - who is amazing. Let me know if you'd like an intro. 10) You can find some awesome free tunes for your podcast - you don't need to pay an arm and a leg for this.
Thank you @SydneyT! As a follow up how many listens/downloads should we aim for? Here's the link to our podcast if you are curious! https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/techsetters/id1515330905Do getting ratings/reviews help boost discoverability?
Hello!Thank you for doing this. I am curious about what sort of revenue is expected for a company to be considered investible by early stage investors, and how impactful it is to be profitable.For reference, I've created PuppetMaster, an app that lets anyone animate anything - www.puppetmaster.comIt's popular with kids, schools and parents. It has organic growth, nearly a million downloads, educational awards, and a non provisional utility patent.Recently, my revenue growth has sharply accelerated - during the month of July I had over $10,000 in revenue, far more than previous months. This year is actually going to be profitable for me. I'm excited!However, some VCs have talked to me about not wanting to invest until there's something like a million dollars in revenue. (My expenses are so low, if I had $1 million in revenue I'd just use that to grow the company and not take an investment.)I would love to know your thoughts on this, what sort of revenue you expect, and what importance you place on profitability, or any other factors, compared with revenue.Thank you!
Thanks for reaching out! If you talked to a million different investors, you'd get a million different answers here. Each firm's decision depends on their fund size. The larger the fund, the larger the checks they deploy, so they are focused on later stage companies with more revenue. As a Pre-Seed firm, we almost always invest in companies without revenue. So my advice would be first: how much do you want to raise? Focus on firms that will invest those size checks. A great place to find out this information is: https://signal.nfx.com/
Hi Sydney, thanks for sharing, Signal NFX is a great resource. However it doesn't seem to enable publishing the company brief or contacting VCs directly. I just signed up and the only way for me to contact VCs is through their email which I don't have, or through their social media account which is ineffective.Is there a way to get past this without introductions?
Hi Sydney, it's great to have you here! I have a few ?'s about how the fund is allocating money right now. Are you mostly investing in your current portfolio companies to keep them afloat during COVID? For new investments, have criteria become more rigorous around revenue traction? The reason I ask is that IFundWomen, the go-to funding marketplace for women-owned businesses and the people who want to support them, is raising a small $2M bridge round to fund a Head of Product and an eng team, we've hockey-sticked in both organic customer growth and revenue, and have a strong recurring rev model. We are FinTech. You would think this round would be easy to raise and a no brainer for investors since we have 3 years of proven product-market fit under our belts and plenty of runway (we don't run out of money at current course). So, I guess this is a long-winded question around if COVID is making it especially hard for companies to raise, or if it's the same as it was pre-pandemic with female founded companies getting 2.8% of VC dollars and that's just how it's gonna be. Help? Advice? Thank you so much for being here!!! -Karen Cahn
Thanks for checking in! We are actively investing in new companies. The first couple of months after COVID hit, we definitely hunkered down to support the current portfolio, but have since branched out. I do think the venture ecosystem with regards to dollars deployed has returned to pre-COVID levels. I am hopeful that investors are seeing how their diligence systems need to adjust to become more inclusive. I also think that getting outside capital for bridge Seed rounds at the beginning of COVID was actually really interesting to a number of investors who typically did Series A investments. I don't know if that is still the case, but that is the angle I would use to target investors as you continue your fundraising journey.
Hi Sydney,I would be interested to learn your view on the most promising innovations and opportunities in the podcast industry? Are you seeing any major trends and needs from the market that are not addressed yet?ThanksMaria
What This American Life built on their own platform should be more public - they have the ability to share snippets of the audio of their podcast (https://shortcut.thisamericanlife.org/) which is just soo cool! Breaker (https://www.breaker.audio/) has started to build more shareability among their podcast platform, but I think there is a lot more whitespace here.
@SydneyT Hello! I would love to hear more about business development tips for professionals entering healthcare. As a relationship facilitator, clients hire me to develop and implement visibility tours ( guest speaking via podcasts, virtual summits, jv webinars). I would love to hear from you, what has worked for you when it comes to 1) finding and then 2) getting on the radar of healthcare decision-makers?
My main feedback when infiltrating any community is to figure out where there is a critical mass. Once you find the critical mass, you can learn from the folks in the community what they think success looks like. Once you figure out what they think success looks like you can choose your next steps more carefully.
@SydneyT I heard a LOT of Reid Hoffman when I read this, reminds me of the Dream100 concept as well, thank you!
Hi Sidney! I am new to Elpha and I am thinking to start developing an app I have been working on at my UX Design Course. How can I get started? What is the best way to create a pitch presentation to get investment? I am really new to this and I don’t know how to start!
We share this with founders as a really good overview of what investors look for in a pitch deck: https://news.greylock.com/what-do-i-look-for-in-a-pitch-866355bddb3. Also, the best way to start is just to start! If you're looking for a community of support, I think really highly of OnDeck: https://www.beondeck.com/
Thanks for offering to answer questions Sydney!I'd love to know: What kind of metrics/proof points do angel and pre-seed investors like to see out of MVPs?I'm the founder of a data science platform called Klara that matches users to amazing skin and haircare products, without the guest work. We're rolling out our beta soon and want to make sure we're asking our early users all the right follow up questions to properly set ourselves up for a fundraising round.
Thanks for asking! In this answer, I'm assuming you are also owning the check-out experience so disregard is that's not the case and we can continue the convo via e-mail. The main things I'd be looking out for are: how many people who try your platform purchase the products your platform recommends to them? How likely are they to return to your platform to purchase additional products and within what timeframe? Who is your target market and why do they need this particularly matching platform compared to the (albeit less useful) ones like Sephora? These are a few questions I'd start with.
@SydneyT No question per se more of an acknowledgement - It is so wonderful to see you here, I remember you were one of the first people I spoke with as I embarked in my VC career!So proud of all you've been doing since then!