Publons angel exit

Daniel Johnston and Andrew Preston at Startup Weekend Wellington 2012

Publons, a company that came out of Wellington’s Lightning Lab accelerator in 2013, and of which I was the first investor and (until 31 May) Chairman of the Board, has been acquired by Clarivate Analytics. Publons provides a platform that gives academics credit for the peer review work they do, and whose mission is to “speed up science through the power of peer review”. Clarivate’s mission is to “accelerate innovation”, and are the main authoritative industry source of, inter alia, academic bibliometrics. Clarivate was formerly known as Thomson Reuters IP and Science, and changed its name when it was bought by private equity interests last year.

It is New Zealand’s first significant exit from an accelerator programme.

I’ll write more about this in the coming weeks, as it bodes well for the New Zealand startup ecosystem. Founders, employees, and investors all did well out of the exit, and much of the proceeds of the sale will be ploughed back into local startups.

The Publons story is a textbook case of how to build strategic value: “‘Publons now find themselves at the heart of the rebuilding programme to support Clarivate’s reinvention, and a vital part of the system of reference and authority needed to maintain scholarly communication in a digital, networked age,’ says David Worlock, a UK-based publishing consultant with knowledge of the deal.” [Nature]

“It’s a huge win for startups, their founders, and investors…” [NZ Herald]

More coverage:
Peer review is thankless. One firm wants to change that. [The Economist]

Funders and publishers will likely be glad to see a visible expansion of the pool of peer reviewers with validated track records. And more researchers may see the benefit of easily creating a record of their peer review work. Expansion and independence of publishers may well give Clarivate Analytics sufficient advantage to establish Publons as the de facto standard for crediting peer review. [The Guardian]

Formal recognition for peer review will propel research forward. [London School of Economics Impact Blog]

The companies describe themselves as the world’s preeminent citation database and the world’s largest researcher-facing peer-review data and recognition platform. [Research Information]

Peer review is at the heart of our ability to trust research but is often accused of being slow, inefficient, biased and open to abuse. By recognising reviewers and bringing transparency to the review process, Publons has built a platform to conform these issues head on. And now, with the worldwide reach, citation network and research tools offered by Clarivate Analytics, we can tackle these global issues on a global scale. [Victoria University News]

Peer review is the last, great, closed part of the research lifecycle. Data on peer review needs to become a core component of the research record. Bringing transparency, recognition, and training to peer review will result in better reviewers and a faster, more trusted research process. [Publons blog]

The Publons deal will give a much-needed confidence boost to the local [NZ startup] ecosystem which is very positive. [Ben Kepes’ Diversity blog]

It takes a village to raise a startup, and I’d like to thank the following people and organisations for their hard work and support:

  • The founders, Andrew Preston and Daniel Johnston – visionary, hard working, resilient, crazy smart, coachable, humble, trustworthy, team players, and rigorously scientific in their approach. That’s really the investable founder checklist.
  • The Publons team, who continue to pull out all stops to speed up science
  • Investor and board advisor Simon Swallow, a steady hand with laser focus who backs up his excellent advice with the hard yakka to bring it to fruition
  • Our local Wellington angel investment club, AngelHQ, and particularly the legendary Serge van Dam and Trevor Dickinson
  • Strategic investor SAGE Publishing Group, and their fearless leader David McCune
  • Institutional investors K One W One and NZVIF’s Seed Co-Investment Fund
  • CreativeHQ, Lightning Lab, and Dan Khan for running New Zealand’s first accelerator programme from which Publons was launched
  • My own family whose trust and support are the pillar of my strength
  • All of the reviewers on the Publons platform

Pre-seed advisory board agenda template

I recently took on the role of Entrepreneur in Residence at the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator, powered by Lightning Lab.  Consider me the “Mentor-in-Chief” – as well as advising the ventures and helping them make great connections and destroy roadblocks, my main job is curating the relationships between the ventures and their mentors, and later in the programme, between the ventures and their [potential] investors.

We have a super strong group of mentors contributing to the programme, and we’ve organised them into advisory boards for the teams. I am totally humbled by the calibre of the mentors, and their generosity in contributing to the growth of these nascent startups.

If you’re a mentor in this programme, or in any other programme, please accept my deepest heartfelt thanks for your contribution. People like you make the startup world go round.

Here is my suggested agenda for a one-hour pre-seed Advisory Board meeting.  NOTE: this is only a template, and should be adjusted (likely cut down) to your specific requirements at the time.

1. Welcome and into (5 minutes)
Roll call
Conflicts of Interest
Approval of previous minutes
Matters arising from the previous minutes

2. Context (10 minutes)
Current pitch and feedback
Changes to Lean Canvas
Learnings from last week
Key things we need to learn
Product update1
Runway2
Roadblocks we need to destroy3

3. Metrics (5 min)
Site analytics (acquisition)
Users: total, active, growth rate week-on-week (activation)
Revenue
Retention
Referrals

4. Sales (5 min)
What’s working
What needs improving
Action plan

5. Investor wrangling (5 min)
Who have you talked to?
Who should you be talking to?

6. Strategic Topic (changes every meeting, be sure to set this in advance) (15 min)

7. Other business (5 min)

8. Actions and deliverables (who is going to do what by when) (5 min)

9. Next meeting time and farewell (5 min)

If I had more than an hour, I’d throw a little bit more time at context, and most of the time toward strategic. I’d like to stress that the above is only a template – what you actually use will vary from startup to startup, and from meeting to meeting. Do not stick to the template slavishly, but use it as a mnemonic or a guide.  The timings are so quick, but it is designed for an accelerator, where things happen quickly.  If you want to make a longer meeting, I’d throw the extra time at strategic topics, where you’re going to get the most value.

You can (and should) also make time to meet individual advisors or mentors outside of your advisory board meeting. Also, encourage them to talk to each other (we have a Slack for that) in between meetings.

I’m interested in community feedback for the above agenda. Am I missing anything (like the boat)? Please comment below, and I’ll modify the list as required, with appropriate attribution.

Thanks to the following people for their contributions for improvements to this list:
1 Ryan Baker
2 Andrew Wallace
3 Sunit Prakash

Access Granted

The great folks at the Access Granted podcast published a wide-ranging interview with me today on “the mosaic of my life”, which you can listed to below:

I cover a quite a lot of ground, including:

Enjoy, and thanks to Mike and Raj!

Convince me to invest in your startup

What do angel investors like me look for in investable early-stage companies?

It’s all about:

  • You and your team
  • Your market
  • Your startup
  • Your progress
  • Your financial plan
  • Your investment terms
  • Your other investors
  • (and a few other things too).

Watch the video of a talk I gave on the subject at CreativeHQ‘s Startup Garage last week, as part of an introductory series for Lightning Lab XX.

You’ll also find my slides below.

The New Christchurch – You Beauty!

There’s only one thing I want to say today: Christchurch, you beauty!

When people ask me what I’m about, I tell them I’m building the future I want to live in. We’re all doing that today, here at Lightning Lab Christchurch Demo Day.

Look around you. The New Christchurch is filled with diversity and entrepreneurial spirit. We are transforming the brain drain from the quakes into a brain gain.

The New Christchurch was not prototyped with number eight wire and built in brick, it was laid out in a CAD system and is being fabricated in high-tech materials.

In The New Christchurch, the first question people ask you isn’t “what school did you go to”, it’s “what startups are you involved with” or “what countries are you doing business in”.

We’re building the future we want to live in, right here, right now. It’s a job too important to be left to government – they’re an important partner, but it must be led by people willing to take risks. Investors, that’s us!

While we mourn the losses from the quakes, we’re excited about that future.

Cantabs, you’re the most resilient people I’ve ever met. I want you to know that today, the rest of the country is here backing you.

So investors, don’t hold back. These Lightning Lab companies are The New Christchurch, and the future of New Zealand.

Let’s build that future together.

Address to the investors at Lightning Lab Christchurch Demo Day, 5 November 2015

 

#LLCHCH
The cohort at Lightning Lab Christchurch 2015

 

 

Getting the most from your mentor in an accelerator

I’m planning on being very involved in the Lightning Lab Christchurch accelerator programme that starts next week, mainly as a mentor.  As I look back on both Lightning Lab Wellington accelerators where I mentored in 2013 and 2014, I felt that most of the teams could have used their mentors more effectively.

With that in mind, here’s a brief guide to how to get the most out of your mentors in an accelerator.

  1. Choosing a mentor is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during the accelerator.  Choose wisely.
  2. Be clear about what you want from a mentor up front, even though expectations may change during the course of the accelerator, as you and your mentor learn more about unknown unknowns. What are the gaps you’re looking to fill?
    1. Industry experience
    2. Specific skills, eg sales
    3. Contacts (NZ / Overseas)
    4. Potential investment, especially someone you can turn into a lead
  3. Be clear about what your mentor wants up front.  Why are they doing this?
  4. Make sure your mentors have read and understand David Cohen’s Mentor Manifesto.
  5. Don’t accept any mentor that comes along – even if you’re desperate.  A bad fit is a lot worse than rejecting them.
  6. Do “due diligence” on potential mentors.  Check their LinkedIn profiles.  Ask for references.
  7. Don’t take on too many mentors. Ideally, have one “lead” (or maybe two) that you spend at least an hour a week with, and possibly some others that you use for specific advice
  8. It’s like dating.  Do what you can to attract The Right One (or three).  And like dating, you could end up being “stuck” (or thoroughly enjoying) a long-term relationship with them.
  9. Look after them, and hopefully they’ll look after you.
  10. Be honest at all times.  One porkie can really wreck trust, even if it’s only a minor one.
  11. Keep track of action points for each side from mentor meetings.  Ideally, send out an email after each mentor meeting identifying who is going to be doing what between now and the next meeting.
  12. Hold your mentor to account, and expect them to hold you to account.  If one or both sides is blowing the other off, it’s not working and you should terminate the relationship and invest your time more productively.
  13. Your mentors are probably extremely busy people.  Try to plan meetings and activities well in advance, and establish a regular rhythm if possible.  Here’s a typical week in my calendar:
    dave-calendar
  14. REMEMBER – IT’S YOUR COMPANY, NOT YOUR MENTOR’S.  Don’t hold back on pushing back. Be reasonable, and listen to reason, but your mentor is generally all-care-no-responsibility, and you’re the Founder left holding the baby company.
  15. Timing is everything.  Use your founder spidey-sense to know when to cut your losses and fire your mentor, and when to double-down on their advice.

Is there anything I missed?  Please let me know in the comments.

NZ politicians on their parties’ startup policies

I organised a Lean Startup Meetup today exploring New Zealand political parties’ policies related to startups.

Jonathan Young (National), Gareth Hughes (Greens), Vikram Kumar (Internet Mana), and Clare Curran (Labour) all presented their parties’ positions.

I made an audio recording of the session, which you can either download (mp3, 21MB) or play right here:

pols

Photo credit: @Builtinwgtn

Main points –

Jonathan Young:

  • Innovation is the catalyst for economic development
  • Important for government to be as nimble and sharp as the startup sector
  • The formation of MBIE was important, as it brought many disparate agencies together for the benefits of companies
  • The main people leading government – John Key and Steven Joyce – are both experienced private sector businessmen [sic]
  • Recent announcements are beneficial to startups, eg entrepreneur work visas, cashout policy, black hole expenditure, crowdfunding.

Gareth Hughes:

  • ICT is a priority for the Greens – it’s the future for NZ
  • The development of the ICT sector must be supported by government leadership, including
  • Having a government CTO
  • A Digital Rights Commissioner in the Human Rights Commission
  • Repealing the GCSB ammendments and TICS acts, as well as closing Wahopai
  • Extension of NZVIF
  • Support for organisations light Lightning Lab and The ICEHOUSE
  • Free wifi and public transport

Clare Curran:

  • Startups are part of something much bigger than anyone realises – they’re a critical part of the economy, and the fastest growing part of the economy
  • The ICT sector is at the heart of Labour’s economic development plans
  • We’re facing long-term skill shortages which can only be filled with immigration
  • We have infrastructure issues that need fixing
  • Government procurement must give local companies a decent chance
  • The soon-to-be-announced policy is comprehensive and joined up

Vikram Kumar:

  • The difference between the Internet Party and the rest is similar to the difference between Xero and MYOB – the Internet party was born in the cloud
  • All Internet party policies are ICT policies
  • There are “table stakes” which the government needs to get right as a basis for everything else: provisioning a second cable into NZ and a policy of no government backdoors
  • How do we get, grow, and sustain startups?
    • Free tertiary education
    • Scaling things we know work well, eg the Kiwi Landing Pad
    • Attracting more VC funding into NZ
    • Allowing startup funds to be efficiently recycled by exiting founders
    • More hubs and people working together

The Startup Ecosystem in New Zealand (video)

An introduction to the startup ecosystem in New Zealand and particularly Wellington.

I was invited recently to attend a workshop organised by Brian Monahan, Matthew Monahan, and Yoseph Ayele who have recently decided to come to New Zealand and help turbo-charge our local startup scene. The purpose of the workshop was to help strengthen ties between California and New Zealand, with a number of people from the tech and investment scenes present from both regions.

Linc Gasking and I ran a session introducing people to the local startup scene, mainly by way of an informal conversation. Here is the result:

Some of the topics we cover:

  • Strengths and weaknesses of the local scene
  • Why the “number 8 wire mentality” is holding us back
  • How we need to learn how to distribute and scale better
  • Kiwis care a lot, and why that’s important
  • The “brain drain” is really a brain gain
  • And lots more.  Enjoy.