Idea in a nutshell: 100% of unscientific survey respondents indicate that great teams are a major factor in fueling energized work.
About a month ago, I posted a variety of loose thoughts on what I've been calling Energized Working. In a nutshell, I offered that Energized Working was different from Flow, that it required an amalgamation of aligned elements, that it had the potential to operate over an elongated time horizon, that focus and optimism often seemed to be at play, and that I was just starting to scratch the surface on my exploratory work.
Last week, I pushed forward a bit and leaned on my friends for perspectives. Picking 35 folks in a very unscientific way, I asked two questions: 1) How would you rate your current work/professional energy? and 2) What factors contributed most when you last felt most energized at work?
The results were interesting -- to say the least!
First, ~2/3 of those asked actually answered the survey. This shocked me as typically surveys I've conducted have gotten less than 50% response rates. Way less. I optimistically looked at this as an indicator that people were interested. And several of the comments I've gotten since further demonstrate interest in the topic. Maybe we're on to something here. Thank you deeply to everyone who took the time to respond!
Second, my friends are feeling better than I would have imagined. While ~8% indicated their energy was relatively low, ~60% said that it was pretty good. And a full ~32% (nearly one in three) said their energy was excellent. Wow. I didn't expect such good energy (but again, since this was an unscientific survey there are likely all kinds of biases and skews at play here).
Third, the ranking and focus on energizing factors was intriguing. Per below, 100% of respondents indicated that a great team was a primary factor in contributing to the last time they felt energized at work. Amazing, right? I can't think of the last time 100% of my friends agreed on anything!
Some items that I personally expected to be higher in the survey, weren't. For example, only 40% of respondents indicated that meaningful work relationships were major energizing factors. And a great boss? Only 44% felt significantly energized via their boss (sorry to my managerial readers).
While the survey was intentionally skewed towards motivating factors, hygienic elements were included as I was curious to see how people would respond (for deeper perspectives, see Herzberg's motivator-hygiene, or two-factor, theory). And via conscious intention or not, work hygiene factors like compensation (30%) and a commute (9%) found their way to the bottom of the list.
In other words, minimal dissatisfiers don't produce energy.
Here's the full set of responses:
What do you think? Did I skew the survey too much via who we selected and/or the choices I provided? Do these results seem aligned with what you might expect? Is this whole Energized Working thing something new...or are we just backing our way into yet another test of happiness or flow, subjects well covered elsewhere?
As always, I'd love your feedback, via either a comment below or to steve at alder dot vc via email.
And until next time, I hope that your energy is high and your hygienic dissatisfiers low!
Idea in brief: when pursuing Series A rounds during the fall of 2015 in/from Austin, consider four key points.
As summer 2015 creeps to a close, several recently seeded companies are getting ready to pursue their first significant Series A institutional investment round. Things have changed dramatically in the 18 years I've lived in Austin and have been part of three Series A+ backed companies (ichat, Motive, Pluck). And the landscape for Series A raises is very different from the days when many folks pursued a bit of an "Austin Ventures and everyone else" strategy.
Yesterday (July 19, 2015), Semil Shah published an excellent post on Series A raise guidance in general. I wholeheartedly agree with his perspectives on timing initiation (September), precision (targets), vision (big), teams and more. If you haven't already read it, check it out here.
While Shah's take holds true broadly, there are also a few Austin specifics that are worth drawing attention to and considering, especially for SaaS/enterprise software firms getting ready to raise. These include:
Hit Your MRR Cliff: while not a hard and fast rule (and sometimes addressable via high growth), $100K+ in current MRR along with a clear pathway to $1M+ in MRR is often tablestakes for Series A dialogues. If you're not at least at $100K MRR yet, make sure you understand the competition you'll have for investors' deal cycles.
Consider Starting Outside of Austin: while my local institutional friends would prefer an alternative path (see below for my shout outs to them), I've seen several examples of Austin companies that bring in a lead investor from outside of town (and then often line up a local partner for a club/group deal). Examples of great non-Austin based Series A investors who have invested in town include:
* Mike Maples, Floodgate
* Anthony Lee, Altos Ventures
* Jeff Hinck, Rally Ventures
* Blair Garrou, Mercury Fund
* Seth Levine, Foundry Group
Note that the list above is non-exhaustive and is based on personal and friends' experiences. There are certainly other significant firms that are active in Austin, including Battery Ventures, Charles River, and Mohr Davidow. And doubly note that raising money in Silicon Valley is arguably harder in many ways than raising elsewhere, including Austin. But that might be a good topic for another post!
Ponder Medium-Sized Austin Funds: maybe not surprisingly, my primary list above is mainly made up of $100M - $200M funds. In my experience, many funds look to return 20% of the fund (reasonably) with each investment. So, a $100M fund that makes a $4M Series A bet can look at a 5x return without requiring a public offering (for simple math, a 20% position in a $100M acquisition can reasonably drive 5x on $4M (=$20M = 20%); of course funds would like 10x+ returns but 5x in a reasonable time period is generally viewed favorably in my experience). On the contrary, $1B+ funds sometimes struggle with the need to return $200M per investment (10x the formula above). Accordingly, three compelling Austin Series A-oriented investors (in my experience) are:
* Krishna Srinivassan, LiveOak
* Morgan Flager, Silverton
* Jason Seats, Techstars
Note that while Jason is in Austin, Techstars is technically a distributed fund with partners in Boise and Boulder. Other notable Austin funds generally tend to be seed oriented (e.g. ATX Seed) or Series B+ focused (S3, Vista, etc.). Several Austin Ventures partners have been great friends to startup teams historically and may be in a position to help as their partnership continues to morph. Don't rule them out.
Have Your Support Network Ready: as Austin SaaS/enterprise software is still a pretty small community, having influential folks in your camp really helps during due diligence (i.e. back channeling). Executives who know your business (advisors, angel investors, etc.) and who have produced hits via portfolio companies like Vignette, Tivoli, Motive, Pluck, BlackLocus, Bazaarvoice, HomeAway, Waveset, Convio, Adometry, SolarWinds, and RetailMeNot are key for startup teams.
Of course, there are lots of nuances around your pitch desk (Kip McClanahan of Silverton has a 2012 series of tips that still hold true here) , ham-and-egging your approach, pondering a single investor versus a club/group round, determining valuations, and navigating the myriad of complexities inherent in term sheets. But if you can start with a wise approach, and find your way through good execution + a little luck on the four points above, you are well on your way.
One final point: there are lots of people (myself included) who are absolutely inclined to "root local" and who love to see Austin companies raise capital from great partners. So, lean on us to help!
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Steve Semelsberger is the Founder of Alder Growth Partners.