Byron Ling (Canaan) – Analyzing Teams, Why It Might Be Harder to Raise a Series A vs. Seed during COVID, and Why Distribution is as Important as Product

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Thank you again Courtney Nelson for introducing me to our guest today, Byron Ling.

Byron is a partner at Canaan. Canaan is an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in visionaries with transformative ideas. Byron invests in consumer companies that are reinventing the way we shop, entertain and educate ourselves. Some of his investments include Roman, Papa, and Bravo Sierra. He was previously an investor at Primary Venture Partners and, prior to the venture world, was an early operator at Gilt Groupe. It was great chatting with Bryon about his diligence process and the effects COVID has on the early stage investing ecosystem, so without further ado, here’s Byron.

One book that inspired Byron personally is The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. One book that inspired him professionally is Who: The A Method to Hiring by Geoff Smart.

You can follow Byron on both Twitter and Medium @byronling1. You can also follow your host, Mike, on Twitter @mikegelb. You can also follow for episode announcements @consumervc.

In this episode we discuss –

  1. What attracted him to early stage startups and consumer? After Gilt Groupe, what compelled him to head into venture capital? What’s his due diligence process at the seed and Series A? What are the milestones that an entrepreneur has to accomplish at each of those stages? What does he focus on the most at each stage – market size, traction, founding team, product-market fit, founder market fit?
  2. What are a few qualities in a founder that he looks for? **How does he think about early traction? How can a founder de-risk product market fit? Difference between opportunistic vs thematic investors, where does he sit on the spectrum?
  3. How is he thinking about coronavirus as it relates to consumer investing? Is he shifting strategy away/towards companies/verticals? Are you pausing investments in a particular space? Is he concerned about some current portfolio companies’ ability to raise? How is he adjusting to new work protocols (remote working, etc) and if so, is that having an impact?
  4. What macro consumer trends is he focused on? What is one thing that he would change about venture capital? What’s one piece of advice for founders of consumer startups?

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