Eric Paley (Founder Collective) – Why Most Successful Companies Struggle To Convince VCs of Their Market Size, The Biggest Risk After Finding Product-Market Fit, and Why Pro-rata Only Benefits Investors, Not Founders

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I would like to thank Adelle Archer for introducing me to today’s guest, Eric Paley, who is one of the Managing Partners at Founder Collective. Founder Collective’s mission is to be the most aligned VC for founders at seed. Eric is a pretty legendary seed stage investor, some of his investments include Uber, CoverWallet, Seat Geek, Whoop, Thred Up and so many other incredible companies.

One book that inspired Eric is Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

You can follow Eric on Twitter @epaley. You can also follow your host, Mike, on Twitter @mikegelb. You can also follow for episode announcements @consumervc. If you’re enjoying the show, if you could leave a review on the apple podcast app as that helps other folks find it, that would be really helpful. For all episodes, please visit theconsumervc.com.

Here are some of the questions that I ask Eric –

  1. Now you have pre-seed and other emerging stages at the early stages, what’s your definition of seed?
    1. Why did you choose to create a seed fund originally?
  2. Why are platforms so popular with VCs and how do you think about different types of businesses (platform, product)?
    1. What’s some advice for a startup that is building a vertical product, since VCs typically want to see platforms that have large TAMs?
  3. You mention in a piece you wrote for Techcrunch – “products and platforms are mutually exclusive at early-stage startups. It is nearly impossible to offer a high-quality use case while also being a platform”. What do you actually mean by that?
  4. It seems like the size of a market is often quite different amongst founders and investors (i.e. founder might think the market size is $30 billion, investor believes it’s $1 billion).
    1. What are some of the mistakes when thinking about how big a market is?
    2. How should founders think about TAM and market size if they are building a new market? If it’s a blue ocean opportunity?
  5. I wanted to talk about COVID, which I’m sure is very top of mind. A couple of other investors I had on say that they are more worried about companies that are trying to raise their series A rather than seed round during these times.
    1. What has been some of the changes in seed over these past few months in relation to
      1. Valuation
      2. Traction/milestones achieved for investment
      3. Shift in attractive vs. mediocre markets
    2. Is it harder to find conviction in a ounder when you meet with the person remotely rather than in person?
    3. How has your team adjusted to remote work as well as your portfolio companies?
  6. What makes a market attractive to invest in?
  7. When you were a founder, you’ve mentioned how there were VCs that didn’t think your technology would work (so they didn’t invest) and they were right. This ended up in a pivot. However, for those that did invest, they were extremely happy with their returns from the 3M acquisition and ultimately were successful in providing value by pivoting. It seems as though what made you successful was your obsession with the problem rather than your initial solution.
    1. When analyzing founding teams, how do you know that they are fixated on the problem?
    2. Have you ever invested in companies where you were unconvinced with what they were building (their solution), but had such conviction in the team and how they thought about the problem they were addressing?
    3. Great market
  8. How do you analyze founding teams?
    1. (I remember Joe said you invest in founders that are All Over It, but what does that mean to you?)
  9. I know you’ve talked alot about the pitfalls of over-fundraising. When you are at the seed stage, is this a conversation that you have with founders when you are thinking about investing?
  10. When pitching, what are some of the most common mistakes that founders might make?
  11. I wanted to talk about Go-to Market strategy and distribution, which is as important as product. How should founders think about a unique distribution strategy?
  12. Is there a difference when evaluating a B2C company vs. a B2B business at seed?
  13. I know you’ve spoken a bunch on the topic of pro-rata and how pro-rata doesn’t help entrepreneurs. How real is signaling? I know lots of investors have said on this show founders need to do their own diligence on investors, should that diligence start with how investors approach executing pro-rata rights?
  14. What are consumer trends are areas that you are currently focused on?
  15. One piece of advice for B2C founders?

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