Tag Archives: VC

Where Did Sequoia Go Wrong on FTX?

Sequoia Capital is the greatest venture capital firm of all time. So how did it lose $214 million on FTX?


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Sequoia made two large investments in the crypto exchange, which went bankrupt earlier this month. Sequoia has since marked down those investments to zero.

The firm’s top leaders apologized to investors on a call yesterday. From Bloomberg:

Top partners at the powerful venture capital firm Sequoia Capital apologized to their investors in a conference call Tuesday for backing FTX, a pair of bankrupt cryptocurrency exchanges that had allegedly been mismanaged by Sam Bankman-Fried, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Despite the mea culpa, Sequoia defended its process:

Although partners on the call were conciliatory, they also defended the due diligence they conducted on the deal. They said staff reviewed financial statements and asked on multiple occasions about the relationship between FTX and Alameda Research, a trading firm that Bankman-Fried also founded and which reportedly borrowed and lost FTX customers’ money.

Sequoia is wrong to defend this investment.

FTX had no board. This despite being valued at over $30 billion and entrusted with hundreds of millions of investor’s money.

Seed stage companies I invest in routinely form a board when the round closes! This is in line with the best practice recommended by attorneys.

Benchmark General Partner Bill Gurley said it best:

Benchmark avoided the crypto FOMO. The partners stuck to their knitting and kept backing real startups.

Sequoia was not so lucky.

Indeed, its diligence in other crypto deals appears questionable. From The Wall Street Journal:

When FTX declared bankruptcy earlier this month, Sequoia also edited another post for a crypto investment called LayerZero. An earlier version said the Sequoia partnership approved the investment just 48 hours after an investment memo was completed. The newer version removed references to the fast decision-making.

In yesterday’s call, Sequoia said it was considering making startups use Big Four accounting firms in the future. Especially for a huge company like FTX, that’s a no-brainer.

Like most angels and VC’s, I idolize Sequoia. They’re the best of the best.

I hope to see them get back to their roots. And if other VC’s want to chase crypto dreams, let them.

In the words of Sequoia founder Don Valentine:

“What is important is to have the ability and willingness to be different.”

Don Valentine


What do you think of Sequoia’s FTX losses? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

This is the last blog for this week. See you on Monday!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

More on tech:

Hedge Funds Lose Billions as FTX Implodes

Talking FTX, Twitter and Startups at Starta VC

Getting to $10 Million ARR Without a Series A

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Photo: FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried

The First Time I Used the Internet

It was 1994. I was eight years old. And I was pretty sure this was going to change everything.


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My mother and I were in the basement of a low-slung brick building. This was the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the first place in town to get the internet.

My mom explained that you could type any question into the computer and get an answer. I hesitated, wondering, “What should I ask first?”

I typed in question after question, amazed as answers popped up like magic. Before I knew it, our hour was up and we emerged back into the light.

I was pretty sure this was going to be big.

All week, I wrote down question after question. I could hardly wait for Saturday, when we could go to the computer lab again.

About a year later, we found ourselves in a downtown office. Cables hung from the ceiling and boxes were half unpacked.

These were the offices of NorthNet, a new internet service provider. We were going to be one of their first customers.

I don’t know how we ever afforded it. But even back then, my mom must have seen that this was the future.

Soon, we were hearing the screech of the modem and interrogating Webcrawler at home.

By the late 90’s, my mom had switched to a new search engine called Copernic. Copernic aggregated results from a bunch of different search engines.

My mom began to notice that most of the best results were coming from a new search engine.

It was called Google. And it was just a few months old.

She wrote to them to tell them how great their results were. They responded with a care package full of Google swag: hats, shirts, you name it!

If only we had been accredited investors. We could’ve put a check in! 🙂

Those were great days on the early internet. The future seemed limitless and tech could only do good.

I didn’t know it then, but those hours in the computer lab would help form the rest of my life.

I worked in medical software after college. Later, I became an angel investor.

Today, I look for startups that can be as transformational as Google was.

They’re rare. But it only takes one.

Do you remember the first time you used the internet? What was it like?

Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on tech:

What I Don’t Invest In

Andreessen Crypto Fund Down 40%

Why Now Is the Best Time to Invest in Startups

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This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

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What I Don’t Invest In

Being an angel investor is never boring. I see everything from spacecraft to nude resorts.


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But I can’t invest in everything!

I focus on the areas I know best. And I want to back companies building the type of world I want to live in.

Here are some areas I don’t touch:

1) Gambling. I don’t believe in it, simple as that.

To me, gambling startups are tech at its most predatory. Many people struggled to stop gambling even when the casino was hundreds of miles away.

What happens when it’s in their pocket?

In a free society, I don’t have a problem with adults making the decision to gamble. But I don’t have to fund it.

Gambling is also a tough business. You’re offering a commodity product – the ability to take a bet.

It’s a race to the bottom and margins are razor thin.

2) Drugs. There may be incredible applications of illegal drugs like psilocybin and ketamine for conditions like depression.

But I don’t have the scientific background to evaluate these claims. What’s more, in our enthusiasm, I’m concerned we may be glossing over the risks that come along with some compounds.

3) Space. Who doesn’t love spaceships?

I look forward to a world with lightning fast satellite internet for everyone and resorts on Mars.

But I don’t have a scientific background. How would I know a good space company from a bad one?

Better leave it to Elon.

4) Biotech. I would love to invest in biotech.

I find it fascinating. And its potential to improve our lives is limitless.

But my background is in software, not medicine. How will I know if a company is good or bad, or what a fair price is?

Instead, I stick to what I know. And when I see the occasional biotech startup that gets me excited, I pass it along to investors I know who are experts in the field.

5) D2C. Selling physical goods direct to consumers online used to be a great business model.

Not anymore.

Apple stopping ad tracking has caused customer acquisition costs to triple for many companies. Supply chain issues crush margins and make filling orders difficult.

Even the biggest successes, like Peloton, have been crushed. Its stock is down 90% from the highs.

I’m better off in a pure software business without the messy “stuff”.

It’s hard to succeed if we don’t focus. And in startupland, it’s easy to lose a fortune investing in exciting things you don’t understand.

I stick to my knitting and invest in pure software companies. Most sell software to businesses (SaaS), the area I worked in before becoming an investor.

This gives me the best shot at identifying a great company, since I know what great looks like in my field. It’s also easier to add value in an industry I know well.

What areas do you invest in? What areas do you avoid?

Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

There will be no blog tomorrow. I have an acting gig.

See you on Wednesday!

More on tech:

Andreessen Crypto Fund Down 40%

Why Now Is the Best Time to Invest in Startups

How I Help Startups

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This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

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Andreessen Crypto Fund Down 40%

It’s crypto winter, and Andreessen Horowitz is shivering. Its main crypto fund is down 40% this year.

From a new report in The Wall Street Journal:


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As cryptocurrency prices soared last year, no investor bet more on the sector than Andreessen Horowitz.

The timing wasn’t good.

Andreessen’s flagship crypto fund shed around 40% of its value in the first half of this year, according to people familiar with the matter. That decline is much larger than the 10% to 20% drops recorded by other venture funds, which have largely avoided the risky practice of purchasing volatile cryptocurrencies, according to fund investors.

Many of the firm’s largest investments have been crushed. Coinbase stock is down nearly 80% since its IPO. Solana has dropped 82%.

NFT marketplace OpenSea may be the best investment Andreessen’s new crypto funds have made so far. Its valuation soared over 100-fold in ten months to $13 billion.

But now, OpenSea trading volumes are down 99% from their peak. The platform is a ghost town, and one of Andreessen’s best investments may be a total loss.

Andreessen likely scaled its crypto funds too quickly. It went from a $515 million fund in 2020 to a $4.5 billion fund this year, the largest ever.

The benchmark for a decent return is a 3x fund. Can Andreessen make $13.5 billion in crypto?

If the firm gets a 10% position in a startup, that requires a $135 billion outcome. There isn’t a crypto company in the world worth anything close to that.

Andreessen isn’t just buying shares in crypto startups. It’s also buying their tokens, a rare and extremely risky move.

These tokens confer no ownership in a company. Their prices are very volatile.

Andreessen’s one saving grace is that it distributed Coinbase shares shortly after IPO, locking in billions in gains. That should preserve good returns in the early crypto funds.

But the picture for the new funds is bleak. Andreessen has made fewer investments since the crypto crash, and no one knows when prices will bottom.

I’ve been deploying capital faster in this weak market. Andreessen may be missing great opportunities by pulling back.

Perhaps its limited partners (LP’s), the investors in the funds, are telling the firm to stand pat.

I think Andreessen is over-committed to crypto. A $4.5 billion fund is too big for this nascent industry.

Deploying sums that large will require real products with real uses beyond speculation. Any day now…

What do you think Andreessen should do? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on tech:

How I Help Startups

Big Problems at Divvy Homes

How I Source Deals

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

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Misfits Market

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The Startup Green Lights

When I meet with a startup founder, certain cues jump out. They shout, “This one’s a winner!”


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Today, I thought I’d run down a few of the things that impress me most:

1) You’re open with information.

The best founders have nothing to hide. Be open with investors about customers, revenue, etc.

The strongest founders are excited to share their progress! Adopt that attitude, whatever stage your company is at.

2) You’re humble. The best founders give all the credit to their team.

The only thing they take credit for is the mistakes!

This is a key trait of good leaders. Always put your team in the spotlight and yourself behind the scenes.

3) You’re close to your customers. Great CEOs talk about their customers constantly.

They know everything about them. They go to the same conferences and read the same magazines.

Because they know so much about them, they can give them exactly what they want!

4) You have strong product velocity. I recently invested in a company that pivoted from SaaS to a marketplace model in just a few months.

Already, the marketplace is doing $2 million a year in revenue. A year ago, this product didn’t even exist!

This is incredible product velocity. When I see that, I’m sure you can adapt to a changing business environment and succeed no matter what.

5) You’re growing fast.

Every startup is born tiny. In order for it to ever matter, it has to grow, fast.

If you’re growing revenue 20% month over month or more at seed stage, you’ve got my attention! You must be doing something right.

6) Your burn is under control.

I advocate growing at warp speed. But you have to make sure you don’t go broke in the process.

Keep you burn multiple at 3 or less for a seed stage company. This makes sure your growth is cash efficient.

7) You’re realistic about valuation.

Toto, we’re not in 2021 anymore.

Last year, some startups were worth 100 times ARR or more. That was then, this is now.

Today, a high growth seed stage company is worth about $8 million pre-money. These companies usually have $5,000 to $25,000 a month in revenue.

When a founder has realistic expectations, I know she’s focused on the right thing: building the company for the long term.

If you work hard for your customers and cooperate with investors, you’ll get noticed. And you just might get a very large check.

What gets you most excited about a startup? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

The next blog will be on Tuesday – I have an acting gig. Have a great weekend, everyone! 👋

More on tech:

The Startup Red Flags

The Burn Multiple: What Is It, and What Can It Do for You?

The Startup Metrics That Make Investors Drool

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This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get $100 in free bonus shares!

Misfits Market

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Why I Just Invested in ProsperStack

You work hard to get new customers. So why let them slip away?

ProsperStack lets you provide custom offers when a customer tries to cancel. They can even segment your customers and give the best offers to your top customers.


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You can also A/B test different offers to see what works best. And you can do all this in a beautiful, no-code interface!

Only the largest companies, like Netflix, have special programs to stop churn. But why shouldn’t your company have it, even if you’re not a giant?

ProsperStack can also help you understand why customers leave. They can tell you “you lost $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue because you don’t have a Salesforce integration.”

That gives your company amazing direction. It’s time to put that Salesforce integration at the top of the list!

But the thing I like most about ProsperStack is that you can easily see how much revenue ProsperStack stopped from churning. This makes their value proposition crystal clear.

I’m delighted to be an investor in ProsperStack’s recent seed round! Book yourself a demo and crush your churn today!

What issues do you see with subscription churn? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

There will be no blog on Monday. I have an acting gig!

See you on Tuesday. Have a great weekend, everyone! 👋

More on tech:

Q3 Venture Funding Slows to a Crawl

The Startup Red Flags

You’re Doing Investor Meetings Wrong

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get $100 in free bonus shares!

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I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

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Q3 Venture Funding Slows to a Crawl

Venture funding in the third quarter slowed to a crawl, according to a new report out this morning from Pitchbook:


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Estimated deal count in Q3 (4,074) is off by almost 20% from the quarterly record high recorded in Q1 (5,049) and is the lowest count seen in any quarter since Q4 2020 (3,364). Q3 saw $43.0 billion invested in VC deals across all stages, a nine-quarter low, cementing a tone of investor hesitancy and increased focus on business fundamentals amid the global economic downturn, even if the numbers remain high on a historical basis.

Exits were just $14B in the entire quarter. This is in line with figures from 8 years ago.

Meanwhile, venture funds continued to raise huge sums:

US-based VC funds have raised $150.9 billion, surpassing last year’s previous record and taking the 21-month fundraising total above $298.1 billion.

As an angel investor, I found July and August particularly slow. That’s usually vacation season anyhow, but this year the market was even colder than usual.

At the end of August, I spoke with the head of one of the most active VC’s in the US. He predicted a busy fall.

I was skeptical.

But sure enough, I started to see activity pick up in September. Those deals will probably take until at least Q4 to close, so they’re not reflected in Pitchbook’s numbers.

Personally, I made four investments in Q3, right around my usual pace. A down market is no time to back off — if anything, we want to be making it rain to take advantage of lower valuations!

But nonetheless, a lot of investors got spooked. I saw some great deals I was in only raise half as much as expected as investors pulled back.

Especially at seed stage, the market we’ll exit in will be totally different from today’s. So we should always be investing in great companies.

Warren Buffett said it best in his 1986 letter to shareholders:

What we do know, however, is that occasional outbreaks of those two super-contagious diseases, fear and greed, will forever occur in the investment community. The timing of these epidemics will be unpredictable. And the market aberrations produced by them will be equally unpredictable, both as to duration and degree. Therefore, we never try to anticipate the arrival or departure of either disease. Our goal is more modest: we simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.

Where do you think the venture market is headed? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on tech:

The Startup Red Flags

You’re Doing Investor Meetings Wrong

Shopify’s Tobi Lutke on Layoffs and Building for the Long Term

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get $100 in free bonus shares!

Misfits Market

I’ve used Misfits for years, and it never disappoints! Every fruit and vegetable is organic, super fresh, and packed with flavor!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

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You’re Doing Investor Meetings Wrong

You’ve sent out hundreds of cold e-mails. Now you’re finally meeting with that big shot VC. How can you make sure you don’t blow it?


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Many founders I meet with make the same mistakes over and over during meetings. Here are a few of the biggest flubs, so you can avoid them!

1) Not leaving enough time for questions. Leave at least half the meeting for questions.

If you have a 20 minute meeting, leave the last 10 for questions. If you have an hour, 20 minutes presenting and 40 minutes answering questions is a good balance.

So often, I see founders spend almost the entire time presenting, leaving maybe 2 minutes for questions. Since I usually have 5-10 questions, that’s not nearly enough time!

Investors have certain objections you need to overcome to get a check. Answering their questions helps overcome those objections and get you the money you came for!

2) Don’t take too long to answer a question. When you answer a question, take about the same amount of time to answer it as the investor took to ask it.

If the question asks for a number, don’t respond with a story. This is a big red flag to me that the founder is hiding bad news.

Here’s an example of the wrong way:

Question: What’s your customer acquisition cost?

Answer: We’ve been trying a ton of different campaigns this year, and we’re having some really good luck with them! YouTube has been a great platform for us, we’ve gotten a lot of customers from there.

Instagram was not as effective until we started doing partnerships with influencers. Molly Cooks, who has 10,000 followers, did a collab with us recently that did great!

This is long, meandering, and doesn’t answer the question. Instead, try this:

Question: What’s your customer acquisition cost?

Answer: Our CAC is $37.

3) Don’t assume the investor knows anything about your company. For many angels and VC’s, their calendar is one 30 minute meeting after another, all day long.

This doesn’t leave much time to research each company before the meeting. And of course, sometimes we’re just lazy and entitled! 😂

So never assume the investor has looked at your deck, tried your product, or knows anything about your industry.

4) Be ready to present or just talk.

Some investors like to see you go through the deck and present the company formally. Others just want to have a conversation.

Even though I always look at the deck before a meeting, I still like to see the founder present it.

Reading a document on my own is one thing. Hearing what the founder has to say about it is quite another.

So be prepared to run the meeting as a presentation or just a conversation, depending on the investor’s preference.

If you can run a tight meeting using these principles, your odds of getting a check skyrocket. The investor clearly understands what your company does and you’ve addressed all her concerns.

What questions do you have about investor meetings?

Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

There will be no blog tomorrow. I have an acting gig.

See you on Wednesday!

More on tech:

When Are You Ready to Raise a Seed Round?

USV’s Albert Wenger on Climate and the Post-Capital World

Shopify’s Tobi Lutke on Layoffs and Building for the Long Term

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get $100 in free bonus shares!

Misfits Market

I’ve used Misfits for years, and it never disappoints! Every fruit and vegetable is organic, super fresh, and packed with flavor!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

Photo: “Wrong Way” by Elaine with Grey Cats is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

When Are You Ready to Raise a Seed Round?

It’s a huge moment in a startup’s life: you shake hands with VC’s and seven figures hit your bank account. But when are you ready to raise a seed round?


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One of the biggest mistakes I see founders making is trying to raise money before they’re ready. They wind up beating their heads against the wall, simply because they’ve put the cart before the horse.

Here is how you know if you’re ready to raise a seed round:

1) Your product is launched. Believe it or not, companies try to raise seed rounds all the time without even having a product in market.

Sometimes they don’t have anything built at all!

If that’s you, your time would be much better spent finishing your product and launching it. Few people will invest pre-launch.

2) You have real customers and revenue. In addition to being launched, you want signs that you have a real, viable business.

And you can’t have a viable business without paying customers!

Most companies that successfully raise seed rounds have about $3,000 to $25,000 a month in revenue. Less than that, and you may not be ready to raise yet.

Meanwhile, when your annual revenue tops $1 million, you’re getting into Series A territory.

3) You’re growing fast. You want to be growing revenue at least 10% month over month in order to raise a seed round.

I generally look for the most explosive growers, who are scaling at 20% a month or more.

If your revenue is flat, raising capital is tough. People want to be on a rocket ship!

4) You have a strong team. You want around 4-6 people, at least half technical.

If you’re a solo founder or you don’t have anyone technical on the team, you’ll struggle to raise. You’ll also struggle to build a product and iterate on it.

Those two are not unrelated. 🙂

5) Your valuation is reasonable. Seed valuations are around $8-10 million post money these days.

Startups generally raise $1-2 million in their seed round.

6) You’re incorporated properly. I know, I know, I keep harping on this!

But make sure you’re a Delaware C Corp if you want to raise venture capital. More on why here.

I’ve had founders tell me that fundraising is the hardest thing they’ve ever done in their career. One of the biggest reasons for that is companies try to raise money before they’re ready.

You’re better off building your company up a bit first! Then, fundraising becomes way easier.

Show us a company with delighted customers and rapid growth, and we’ll be knocking each other down to get in!

What questions do you have about raising a seed round? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on tech:

Why Your Startup Shouldn’t Be an LLC

How to Avoid Scams, Find Investors, and Lead Like the Best

The Startup Metrics That Make Investors Drool

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Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get $100 in free bonus shares!

Misfits Market

I’ve used Misfits for years, and it never disappoints! Every fruit and vegetable is organic, super fresh, and packed with flavor!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

How to Avoid Scams, Find Investors, and Lead Like the Best

Happy Monday everyone! I wanted to share an interview I did recently on startups and fundraising with the Finance Videos Network.


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We cover a lot of great topics, like leadership, finding investors, and red flags founders should look out for.

Here are some interesting points:

2:40: What great leadership looks like in early stage startups.

5:02: How to find investors.

6:30: What if you didn’t go to Harvard or Stanford?

8:18: When is the right time to raise money?

9:30: How to do a first meeting with an investor.

10:26: Signs that an investor is a fraud.

11:48: Should founders move to a tech center?

What do you think of today’s funding environment? What did we miss?

Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on tech:

The Startup Metrics That Make Investors Drool

How Startup Founders Get Scammed

The Founders: The Story of PayPal

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Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get $100 in free bonus shares!

Misfits Market

I’ve used Misfits for years, and it never disappoints! Every fruit and vegetable is organic, super fresh, and packed with flavor!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order.