Biverbal Bytes by Anna Khan

Apr 24

[video]

Apr 20

Pace, Innovation, and Changing the (Elevator Pitch) Ratio

Last week I was invited to participate in The 10th Annual Pace Pitch Contest presented by the Entrepreneurship Lab at Pace University. The pitch contest is the brain child of Professor Bruce Bachenheimer, a teaching visionary who believes entrepreneurship must be bred in college classrooms. 

The Pace Pitch Contest is based on the elevator pitch concept and gives Pace students an early opportunity to pitch fellow entrepreneurs and investors. Today, there is a proliferation of accelerators post-college or alternate university programs that give students the option of pursuing a startup without a university degree. There are merits to each, but few universities take the initiative to incorporate entrepreneurship within the university curriculum. Pace is a great example of this very initiative, having run their tenth consecutive pitch competition. 

My very favorite part of the competition was the ratio of women to men. 75% of the judges (3 out of 4) and more than half of the entrepreneurs were women. In fact, first and second place went to two female founders, which made me especially proud. I think we are on our way to not just #changetheratio (as coined by Rachel Sklar), but also change the #elevatorpitchratio by bringing more women to the forefront of the pitching/fundraising process. 

I was so impressed with the poise, clarity, and creativity of all seven finalists. If they are any indicator of the next wave of entrepreneurship in NYC, we are in for quite a ride. 

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Lubin School of Business Dean, Neil Braun, giving the welcoming remarks. I loved his definition of entrepreneurship: “Getting things done.” 

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Kane Sarhan gave a stellar keynote speech around his mantra for life: “do a little more, want a little less.” Kane is the incredible co-founder of Enstitute and a 2013 Echoing Green Fellow. 

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I was lucky to share the judging panel with Bal Agrawal, CEO of LifeWorx, Ellen Carey, Manager of Global Impact Investing Network, and Mary Howard, a Principal at Design Technologies. 

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Kumesh Aroomoogan, a senior at Pace University, and Anshul Pandey, a PhD student at NYU, won third place for Accern, a quantitative content detection platform tailored for institutional investors. 

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Camille Hugh, an MBA graduate from Pace University, won second place for Interview Master, an online marketplace that brings interviewees and interviewers together for practice and mentorship. 

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Paige Cecchi, a junior at Pace University, won first place for SheerStock, a monthly subscription hosiery service. I was blow away by Paige’s passion for and familiarity with the subscription e-commerce space. Paige correctly capitalized on a product that is consumed in a repetitive nature and needs to be supplanted by convenience and price savings. 

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This is my very favorite picture. Here is Paige with all her friends after winning first prize. Support from loved ones (and other women) is so important. Paige was on cloud nine. 

Apr 15

Tuesday

Tuesday

Apr 01

This gender ratio needs to change.

This gender ratio needs to change.

Mar 19

Growing the Bessemer Family

Everyone knows a VC job is a hard one to come by. I, myself, heard about Bessemer through a friend of a friend of a friend (seriously). That is why I want to take this incredible opportunity and share it with the larger ecosystem, one that is full of talented and passionate tech enthusiasts looking to try their hand at this crazy art/science/relationship game we call venture capital. 

Bessemer is a very special place (trust me, no one in PR forced me to say that!) where meritocracy is the currency. As a junior professional, you are given a truly empowering set of keys to unlock road maps, theses, and hunt down entrepreneurs who will change the world.

I often think of entrepreneurs as explorers on a journey, ones that have finally lost sight of the shore and see no other path but to discover new land and new paradigms of thought. VCs must foreshadow where these entrepreneurs are heading, whose ship we should hop on to, and whose paradigm of thought is crazy enough. We’ve missed some great ones but we’ve also hit a few home runs. Its a job that became more than just a dream job for me - it became a lifestyle. 

The current market is an exciting one and we are looking for a full-time Associate to join our investment team on the West Coast. 

The Role

The Associate position is a two-year role for someone early in his or her career. The role is designed to provide insight into the inner-workings of a venture capital firm while providing opportunities to find and analyze new investment opportunities. The ideal candidate will be someone who is intellectually curious, loves startups, and has a few years of experience in the technology industry. This role is designed for someone without an MBA and no more than five years of work experience (and preferably 2-3 years).

How to Apply

Please submit your resume to fulltimeassociate@bvp.com with links to any relevant online presence (twitter, blog, etc.). In your email (no cover letter please), answer the following questions:

  1. What is the most interesting startup you have heard about in the last year? Why do you like it and what are the risks? Please use a startup in which BVP has not invested.
  2. What do you think is BVP’s most successful current investment, and why?
  3. It is your first day on the job. What are the first three things you will do to familiarize yourself with the role?

 Responsibilities

You will be fully-integrated into all aspects of our firm. You’ll attend weekly partnership meetings and be counted on to provide feedback and conduct analysis as we meet new companies and help our existing investments be successful. However, your primary responsibilities will be to:

Skills and Experience

*Update: We will not be sending application status emails to candidates. If we are interested in a first or second round interview, we will reach out and keep you up to date. Unfortunately, no e-mail means you did not make it through to the next round. 

Mar 18

A True Disruptor

I am so excited to share an amazing project that I was invited to be a part of: The “Disruptors” Book - “Entrepreneurs and the Escape from Corporate America.” 

The author, Kunal Mehta, reached out to me almost a year ago to discuss a Kickstarter project he had launched. This tiny project ultimately beat its goal of $3,000 by ~52%. 

Disruptors follows the trials and tribulations of thirteen first-time entrepreneurs (four women, woohoo!); most of these entrepreneurs walked away from the comfort and status of corporate America to build something more fulfilling. 

Kunal asked me to write the foreword for this incredible text given my experience meeting and funding the very entrepreneurs his text navigates. 

My favorite part of this project was the opportunity to work with Kunal himself - a true entrepreneur with the rare ability to look inward, a trait that often underlies success in the startup ecosystem.

I hope you enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed being a part of it. Feel free to order here. 

BONUS: {A percentage of profits from each book sold will go towards funding clean water projects in developing countries in partnership with charity:water.}

Mar 10

“Percentage wise, it is 100% easier not to do things than to do them, and so much fun not to do them — especially when you were supposed to do them. In terms of instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin.” —

John Mulaney (via maxistentialist

Hah, so true. 

(via parislemon)

Mar 07

Whatsup with Whatsapp? The Social Messaging Sphere Today and in the Future

We all heard the $19B news, and there are a lot of articles out there trying to justify why, how, if, Facebook should have made the acquisition. I am more interested in figuring out why messaging apps have proliferated in a world where we have more than enough channels to communicate: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and iMessage just to name a few. Unfortunately, there is little data to prove why exactly messaging in all its forms is important to us. All we have is a number of qualitative assessments that can lead us closer to the answer. 

I will frame these assessments through a number of sub-categories/talking points:

An Insecure Facebook: Facebook has always championed the cause of a more open and connected world. However, this larger-than-life cause has a blatant caveat; Facebook wants to control this open and connected social sphere. Facebook has long been the fundamental social mantel: it contains the story of our lives from the date we were born, to the high school and college we attended, all the way to those we choose to love. That is some serious data that leads to significant inertia. But it wasn’t enough. Younger generations cared less about content and more about pictures. [CUT TO INSTAGRAM ACQUISITION.] 

The Leaky Social Funnel: Over the years, Whatsapp quietly amassed 450 million people on all major platforms and it continues to do so with more than 1 million sign ups every day. The numbers don’t come close to the total number of Facebook MAUs (reportedly 1.3 Billion), but Facebook was struggling with messaging, or what I like to call, the leaky social funnel. One-off posts and links dominated Facebook messaging while the core back-and-forth of a text message persisted on applications like Whatsapp and in hybrid forms like Snapchat.

Whatsapp has never been fancy but they have a utilitarian approach to crisp design, minimal latency and reduced cost. Zuckerberg wanted to control bring this functionality to Facebook, despite the existence of Facebook messenger. I do not know Facebook messenger’s internal numbers but I do know Whatsapp will plug the leaky funnel of core messaging data leaking out of Facebook Messenger. Perhaps the two applications will continue to exist side by side, and perhaps they will not. 

Snappy Snapchat: To this day I struggle with why Snapchat became as widely used as it did. I was first introduced to the app by my teenage sister, who liked it but didn’t really know why. Not only has she grown accustomed to this new social era, she expects nothing different; Privacy was and will never be essential to her. So while Snapchat has attracted the media for privacy reasons, I don’t think its core demographic really cares if friends see each other’s pictures for more than 10 seconds. The Snapchat value proposition comes down to simple, habitual design. Snapchat made it really easy to send pictures with a click of a button and a simple caption. When there are so many other apps competing for attention, speed and usability is crucial. Snapchat was also the newer and cooler kid on the block, as Facebook became inundated with aunts, uncles, and cousins. With Snapchat’s lead, there are other forms of ‘disappearing content’ emerging with a focus on text rather than content. These include: Confide, Leo, and TigerText. 

But isn’t it all a secret anyway? There is a new breed of messaging that has entered the social sphere today: anonymous content. I was first exposed to this through PostSecret: what is today a very successful nonprofit. PostSecret began by posting postcards that came in from around the US every Sunday. These cards revealed a dark secret from a stranger. I remember refreshing my browser at 11:59 pm every Saturday night to catch the newly updated content before all my friends; There was an indefinable pleasure in peering through this little window into the lives of strangers. Whisper, an app based out of Santa Monica, formalized this window peering pleasure and amassed a large group of addicted users with 2.5 billion page views/month and 40% of users creating content on the app. Secret, a new anonymous app, has taken a different approach. Secret believes we shouldn’t care about what strangers think. Likes and comments on our deepest secrets may seem comforting, but what we really seek is anonymous advice from our friends - i.e. people like us who might just have the same secrets. Secret has patented the concept ‘anonymity within context’ and they’ve done with it with a great design foundation.   

So where does this leave social innovation? 

I don’t envy entrepreneurs that are innovating in the social messaging space today. On one hand, you have apps like Secret proving that we want an anonymous vertical where we can ‘speak freely.’ On the other hand, you have large companies like Twitter and Instagram that prove we need labeled validation from others with our true selves in the center. We thrive on likes and retweets and want the world to know about our successes; but concurrently, we also enjoy anonymous social therapy. It comes down to the human being as a multi-dimensional user, sometimes sporadic, sometimes habitual, with no clear pain point or need like an enterprise customer. Will applications adapt to fit our changing needs or will the bigger, better social sphere prevail and tell us how to behave in the future? 

It isn’t clear, but it is oh so exciting. 

Feb 28

Good morning coldest day of the year.

Good morning coldest day of the year.

Feb 23

Coffee & bagels in the sun. A respite from an otherwise brutal winter.

Coffee & bagels in the sun. A respite from an otherwise brutal winter.