Wednesday, December 19, 2012

First Quantified Self Meeting

Last night I had the opportunity to attend my first Quantified Self meeting in 1871. The group has existed in Chicago for over a year, but has recently started up again by two new members and will hopefully have more regular meetings every two months in the coming year. I learned about the Quantified Self movement late last year and I've now been tracking a few different aspects of my sleep, mood and health through gadgets like the FitBit and Zeo. I also recently ordered the Basis and I'm hoping it will be shipped out early next year since it's supposed to be one of the best self-tracking devices on the market today. 

Overall, it was great to meet a few other quantified self enthusiasts here in Chicago who have been tracking their daily tasks, exercises and happiness throughout the past couple months. There were five speakers at the meeting who talked about everything from logging their activities (and analyzing it similar to to see how they spent their day) to tracking emotions and time through the Pomodoro technique.

One of the speakers was very interested in tracking his happiness and since I’ve read a lot of books about positive psychology in the past year, I referred the group to a website that I’ve used to help track happiness as well called Over the course of the past year, the speaker had been sending himself a text message at 2pm everyday (using ) to rate himself on a scale of 1-10 about how happy he was. He quickly realized that there was a bias to this self-experiment not only because it was at the same time each day, but also because after a while he started to get bored with the experiment and would just flat-line at a level 5. 

I’ve found that actually helps solve both of these issues because it sends you random emails throughout the day asking you to rate your happiness on a sliding scale on your phone and it follows up with other questions to find out where you are, how well you slept the previous night and if you’re interacting with other people. After collecting 50 samples over the course of two weeks, it will produce a Happiness Report to analyze your responses. This way you’ll be able to collect samples both during the day as well as during the night time and you don’t actually get bored with the experiment because it doesn't last longer than a month. Six months later, the experiment will begin again and collect another 50 samples from you so that you can track your happiness over a longer period of time as well. I've already gone through two iterations of the experiment and after the second time, I received a Happiness Report with a few charts displaying how happy I was throughout the week and the correlation of my happiness with how focused I was, how well I slept and who I was interacting with.

Overall, I found that I tend to be in the 80-90% happiness range very consistently and I'm generally happier when I’m more focused on a task which makes sense given all the research around how people are happiest when they are in a state of “flow.” The week this experiment took place, I was traveling a lot for work so I happened to be in a hotel/plane very frequently but did not mind it at all since I often enjoy traveling for work since it occurs less often.

The other great takeaway from the meeting for me was how to use the Pomodoro Technique. I had briefly heard of this before, but I had never really tried it before, so I was convinced to read through the free e-book online and give it a try. The Pomodoro technique is a way to keep track of time and enhance productivity during the day by focusing on one task only for 25 minutes (called a “pomodoro”) and then taking a 3-5 minute break when you’re done. I’m on my second pomodoro of the day but, unfortunately, I’ve already been disrupted during this one by two unexpected phone calls. I’m sure with more practice the Pomodoro can become a time management technique that I’m able to incorporate at least partially into my schedule at work.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Female Executives at Startups

Dow Jones recently published a paper called “Women at the Wheel: Do Female Executives Drive Start-up Success?” which has some great statistics about the success rates for VC-backed companies with and without female executives, board members and founders. 

The study analyzed over 20,000 companies that received equity financing between 1997 and 2011 and the sample size consisted of 167,556 executives (11,193 were female). Key facts that summarize the paper are listed below:
·         1.3% of the private companies have a female founder, 6.5% have a female CEO and 20%+ have a female executive (C-level)
·         Median percentage of female executives at successful companies (defined as completing an exit in the form of M&A or IPO or consistently profitable) is 7.1% vs. 3.1% at unsuccessful companies (went bankrupt, no longer exist, or currently stalled)
o   One point to note here is that it seems startups tend to hire more females as they advance further along, so I believe this is part of the reason you see that more successful companies have more than double the proportion of women than unsuccessful startups (i.e. 83% of startups have no females but 60% of companies have females on the team by the time they reach product development stage)

·         The most common positions for female executives were in Sales & Marketing and Finance and the industries with the most female executives are consumer and healthcare


I found this study very relevant with all the press about women in startups and tech. Just last week Bloomberg TV also aired a new segment called “Women to Watchwhere they interviewed four women (a startup founder, a venture capitalist, a VP of Engineering, and CMO of Facebook) who were all helping change the culture of tech and startups in Silicon Valley. Many of the points they mentioned to help increase the number of women at VC-backed companies included getting younger women interested in tech and programming at a younger age, but also creating a strong support and mentorship network that help open up new opportunities for young women looking to enter these industries. I also think that as female executives are getting more attention in the media (i.e. Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg), it will help inspire other women to take more risks and have the courage to step up to more senior positions within startups and the tech industry. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Investing in Women

Here is a great infographic that summarizes a few of my previous posts. There seems to be a clear circular problem with the lack of female founders and female investors. The biggest takeaway is that with more female angel investors and VC partners in the industry, I believe we'll see more female startup founders become successful and get funded.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Recruiting College Entrepreneurs

While VC firms like Kleiner Perkins initiated the trend of recruiting college students to join startups through the KPCB Engineering Fellows program last year, it seems like more and more firms have recently created similar programs. A big reason for the increase in these programs is the shortage of talented developers for all the new startups that are emerging. One of the areas where VC firms look to add value is by helping recruit more talent and developers for startups. These new programs seem to be a great way to formalize the recruitment process and encourage smart and talented college students to find summer internships and full-time offers at startups.

Bain Capital Ventures recently initiated its StartUp Academy to recruit students for its portfolio companies as well. Similarly, Chicago’s own Lightbank announced earlier in the week its Lightbank Start program, which seems to combine attributes of both a startup accelerator and these other VC fellow programs.

Another program I really wish existed when I was in college is Venture for America. This is a non-profit with a similar model as Teach for America. VFA has an application process to recruit students to work at startups for two years after graduation in lower-cost cities such as Detroit and New Orleans to help create value and jobs in these cities. I really considered the TFA program my senior year, but in the end decided I wanted to accept a full-time job where I would have the opportunity to combine my interest in business and healthcare. If it would have been possible to go work for a healthcare startup through VFA for two years after graduation, I would have more than likely jumped at this opportunity.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Analyzing Backgrounds of Top Female Investors

Forbes recently published a list of the "Top Women Angels and VCs," which was compiled from TechCocktail’s Femanomics. The list of women in alphabetical order can be found here.

I was curious about the typical background for the top female investors, so I went through their public bios to see if there were any trends or similarities between all of them. Here’s a snapshot of what I discovered:

Investing in Healthcare vs. Tech
Like the majority of VC’s, most of the women invest in technology, specifically focused on digital media, mobile, internet and SaaS. Most of the women investing in healthcare are focused on digital health apps and consumer health & wellness with only a few focused on life sciences and medical technology. The "Other" category includes mostly energy/greentech investing as well as consumer/retail.
Undergraduate Major & School
Not surprisingly, almost half of the top female investors had engineering or computer science majors and ~40% attended either Stanford or an Ivy League university.
Approximately 55% of the women on the list had an MBA degree with the majority of MBA's from Harvard or Stanford. Several of the other graduate degrees included either masters in engineering or law degrees.
Work Experience Prior to VC/Angel Investing
Close to 40% of the top female investors had some sort of finance background ranging from investment banking to prior investing roles. Operational experience such as product managers and business development positions at large Fortune 500 companies were also very common prior experience. Several of the women also had a combination of either finance/consulting early in their careers followed by startup/operational experience after getting their MBAs.
All of these women have very impressive backgrounds with degrees from top tier universities, grad schools and experience with successful startups and companies. It’s great to see that the next generation of female investors has very strong role models to look up to.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Shift Away from Traditional Physician Payment Structures

For a lot of healthcare startups, a major issue is convincing doctors to pay for and use new healthcare technologies that can improve the quality of care for patients. While the most common way physicians are paid today is fee-for-service, there is starting to be a shift towards more value-based payment structures. 

Based on physician surveys, a majority of doctors seem to prefer the fee-for-service payment structure, since they get paid for “what they actually do.” However, since doctors get paid more when they provide more services, this method is costly and inefficient and doesn’t take into account how well the doctor improves the outcome for their patients. Below is a summary of the current payment models for physicians and some of the problems with them:

Pros/Cons of Standard Physician Payment Models
Salaried Model: Based on preset income levels
  • Doctors are not encouraged to manage costs
  • Simple and easy to administer
Equal Shares Model: Revenue less the expenses is distributed equally across all physicians in the group
  • Discourages overutilization of healthcare, since extra expenses reduce the overall revenue and how much the doctors get paid
  • More productive physicians often dissatisfied with the equally sharing allocations
  • Does not encourage high productivity, since there may be doctors that product less revenue within the group
Capitation: Prepayments to physicians based on pre-defined services for the number of enrolled patients
  • Physician takes on the role as a budgeter making decisions on how services and costs are allocated
  • Encourages under-utilization of services, since doctors pay for additional services provided to patients
  • Increased financial risk for treating sicker patients, so it discourages providers from accepting sicker patients
  • Cost-efficient
Fee-for-service: Payer negotiates charge for each type of service with the provider based on a listed fee schedule and then physicians are reimbursed for each procedure they perform
  • Fee schedule determined by payers so per service fees are often lower than what physicians feel is the appropriate cost
  • Incentive for over-utilization of healthcare
  • Low payments for basic primary care has discouraged many physicians from choosing primary care
New Models based on “Value”
None of the standard models effectively address how to reimburse physicians based on the value of the services they provide, where value is defined by higher quality with lower costs. And at the same time the newer models need to be both fair for physicians, while providing the best outcomes for patients. The ideal new model of physician payment would not encourage over/under-utilization of services, but ensure standardization of care while maintaining patient-centered care and utilizing the latest healthcare technologies without increasing costs.

These new value-based contracting models are starting to become much more common. These contract models align incentives across providers, members, employers, and payers to improve clinical outcomes and the patient experience along with improving cost efficiency.

Value-based contracts are determined using the following payment methodologies:
1. A portion of the provider’s total potential payment is tied to a provider’s performance on cost-efficiency and quality performance measures. While providers may still be paid fee-for-service for a portion of their payments, they may also be paid a bonus or have payments withheld. For value-based contracts, this bonus is not paid unless the provider meets cost efficiency and/or quality targets
2. Clinical integration fees paid to providers that are contingent on the provider engaging in practice transformation to adopt technology and processes that alter the manner in which they deliver care
3. Cost-efficiency performance measures such as risk-adjusted total cost of care, a percentage of inpatient readmissions, inpatient admissions, inpatient days, emergency room visits, and preventative care measures

The most common value-based new model is pay-for-performance.

Pay-for-Performance: Financial incentives for pre-defined performance goals often determined by patient outcomes
  • Often involves upfront additional administrative costs to track and document performance metrics
  • Performance incentives tend not to be very meaningful (i.e. offering a bonus of 1.5% when the right target needs to be closer to 10% in order to be an adequate incentive)
  • Payers are experimenting with several different performance metrics that it becomes difficult for providers to manage all the different programs (i.e. over 60 different indicators, with no single metric used by all programs)
  • Somewhat successful in achieving the goals of improving quality
Big healthcare plans like UnitedHealthcare are now participating in pilots based on the pay-for-performance model. They are implementing a significant ramp in their alternative payment models over the next three years, such that 50-70% of contracts will be value-based by 2015.

I do believe that the future of our healthcare services and reimbursements will be value-based, but the shift from one payment model to another will take years, not months. And while there are more and more systems that provide incentives for quality and patient satisfaction, the incentives need to be a larger portion of the total compensation doctors receive because otherwise they will be focused on increasing the number of patients to increase their compensation. The other difficulties of transitioning to new payment models include frustration that different payers use different metrics in pay-for-performance, high administrative overhead and complexity in adopting new models and concern that implementing new programs may take attention away from patient care and other activities. However, I am hopeful that the newer models will provide more cost-effective reimbursement for the quality of care we all know is needed in order to improve our healthcare system.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rock Health’s Healthcare Boot Camp

Rock Health and Chicago Health/Tech 2.0 organized a fantastic event this past weekend with several informative speakers and healthcare industry experts.  Here were a few of my favorite highlights from the speakers:

Keynote speaker, Simmi Singh (Senior Advisor, Health Innovation): My favorite comment was the reference that the trait most associated with Millennials is connectivity. We value being connected 24/7 with our friends, families, co-workers, and even our health. Our generation creates change and momentum at an unfathomable pace and by focusing on healthcare, we can help change the healthcare industry at that same accelerated rate.

Orlando Saez (Director at IL Office of Entrepreneurship): The problem that the state of IL struggles with is that we are affected with “middleness” syndrome. Not only are we physically in the middle of the country, but in terms of healthcare, we are neither at the top or the bottom of the rankings when it comes to issues such as public health, obesity (67% of people in Chicago are obese), and smoking (20% of adults smoke in Chicago vs. 12% in CA and 15% in NY).
  • Some good IL health resources he also mentioned to check out included:, Illinois Hospital Report Card, and Biosense 2.0.
  • It was also exciting to hear that Chicago was selected for the International Biotechnology Conference coming up in June 2013
  • And if you weren’t already aware of this additional source of funding, the state of IL has $20mm set aside as a VC fund and the application can be found on their website here. They have already received 80+ applications and have 40 industry experts who have helped them complete 14 deals. 
VC/Angel Investor Panel: The most exciting part of investing in healthcare is focusing on quality of care to manage costs effectively, which is currently the largest problem the industry faces today
  • Investors typically look for entrepreneurs who understand regulatory factors very early on and the company hopefully already has the software, some customers (who may or may not be paying yet), and more than just a minimum viable product (MVP).  Also, they like to see the company selling into very big pain points, so that way you will know that people will want to adopt quickly or regulation will force them to adopt.
  • Investors are looking to invest in trends or lines, not dots (which I hear from every VC panel that I attend), so start relationships with angel and VC investors early on. The best way to go about this is to mention to them the accomplishments you hope to achieve in the next three months and tell them you would like to follow up with them then. When you go back to them, they would love to see that you accomplished everything you mentioned and more, which gives them that much more confidence in you and your product. It also never hurts to get a warm introduction, so aim to get close to advisors who can give your company more credibility and help make introductions for you.
  • And of course, you can’t have a VC panel event without the question that everyone is always curious about: “What is more important to investors, the team or the idea (i.e. the jockey or the horse)?” Not surprisingly, all four of the investors on the panel mentioned that for early-stage companies, the team is much more important, but the space/industry trends are still a major component.
  • There was also a great question about how the JOBS Act would affect the investors on the panel. The main answer was more of a warning to entrepreneurs who are considering crowdsourcing. The JOBS act and crowdsourcing actually makes it more difficult to attract institutional investors, since the process becomes much more complicated and messy if you have to deal with 100 other investors who came in before they do
  • Also, some trends to be focused on right now in early-stage healthcare include:
    • Primary care physician shortage
    • With all the data now available to consumers (through devices such as FitBit, Zeo, Withings Scale, etc.), there needs to be a way to process all this info for consumers
    • Consumers need to take more ownership of their data. We need to focus more on consumer-led health and wellness applications as preventative measures, since the rising cost of healthcare is becoming more and more unaffordable in the U.S. 
    • Products should aim to enable consumers to take the behavior they want to take vs. forcing them to change their behavior (which is often too challenging)
    • Investors like to see regulation that quickly forces adoption and has significant long-term benefits such as cost reduction, quality of care, improved staffing on provider side
Lyle Berkowitz (Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group, Director of IT & Innovation):
  • Entrepreneurs should focus on how your product/service affects:
    • Time (physician, staff, patient)
    • Quality of Care
    • Cost of Care
  • Questions investors should ask new healthcare startups include:
    • Does it require behavior change?  (it’s better and easier to require process change instead)
    • How are incentives aligned? (for providers, physicians, payors, patients)
    • What has been your physician involvement with development of your product? (make sure to involve the customer in the development phase)
Amy Schwartz (IDEO Healthcare Lead):
  • Design thinking should consist of all three of these components: technical (feasibility), business (visibility), human (desirability)
  • She also provided great advice on ways to help with the design-thinking process:
    • Learn about real people in their real world for insight and inspiration. In order to figure out how to innovate, you cannot just ask people what they want and need because half the time they won’t know and the other half the time they’ve already created a make-shift way to deal with the issue.
    • Find inspiration from analogous examples
    • Learn from “extreme” users
    • Consider the context at a conceptual level
    • Think across all of these segments: physical, cognitive, psycho-social, cultural
    • Prototyping is the best way to think through things and be sure to pilot test to learn from the launch, develop proof of concept and create a formal assessment
    • “In the end it’s not about what we make, it’s about what we make possible”
At the end of the event, I was very excited to hear that the first annual Chicago Health 2.0/Tech Conference is taking place September 28-30th. I’m sure there will be just as many great speakers, so if you’re interested in attending more healthcare startup events, be sure to get on their mailing list:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Adventures in India

For the past 5 years, I’ve made it a goal to travel to at least one new country every year. Not only is traveling to new countries a great opportunity to learn about new cultures, see amazing sites, taste unique foods, appreciate beautiful art and history, but it also provides a great way to get very close to the people you are traveling with, since often times you are put in difficult situations which help you learn a great deal about each other’s personalities and values.

This year my trip to India was one of those experiences I will never forget. We visited five cities over 10 days, saw over 40 different tourist sites, and tried over 60 delicious Indian specialties. My good friend, who I traveled with, summarized our trip best:  "When I think back on the last 10 days in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Goa, & Mumbai, I can't help but smile.  A big smile. We saw the breathtaking Taj Mahal and many other beautiful structures, rode elephants to the Amber Fort, experienced the wonderful juxtaposition of tradition and modernity that is India, hiked to pristine beaches, watched snake charmers, took a boat to explore cave carvings from the 5th century, visited bustling temples, were chased by wild pigs, tried many delicious new foods (and some not so great ones!), and learned so many new things about a close friend.”

I’m also grateful that this trip gave me a chance to re-connect with my passion for photography. I’ve always said that if I were to drop everything, then the one thing I would want to do would be to travel around the world taking beautiful photos. Here are some of my favorite pictures in India that will remind me of all our great adventures:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Duke and Wall Street

There’s been a lot of press recently about how students from Duke and other elite colleges are still flocking to Wall Street: “How Elite CollegesStill Feed Wall St.’s Recruiting Machine” and At Duke,Wall Street May Still Hold Allure.”

Similar to the author of the first article, I first came to Duke not knowing much about finance or investment banking and had never heard of Goldman Sachs before setting foot on campus. Early on in my freshman year, I distinctly remember an article in Duke’s Towerview magazine called “I-bank, Therefore I Am,”  which initially brought my attention to Wall Street as a potential career interest. I had known one of the students interviewed in the article through my involvement in Duke Student Government and a lot of what he said in the article resonated with me. It’s actually pretty surprising that I can still trace my initial interest to finance back to the upperclassman I had met at Duke and all the articles about Wall Street in our college newspaper.

And based on this documentary by a current Duke student, it looks like many students still feel very strongly about pursuing a career in finance. They seem to be going through a very similar thought process that I went through while I attended Duke. 

However, with all these articles and the documentary, the one thing that I have to disagree with is that it is more prevalent on elite college campuses for students to want to pursue careers in finance. This is because you’ll find just as many students at state schools who want to be investment bankers or traders, but the only difference is that it is that it is much more difficult to receive an internship or full-time offer to one of the top tier banks from a non-target school.

And having participated in the other side of recruiting from the banks’ perspective, I’ve had the opportunity to come back to Duke’s campus for information sessions and with each recruiting trip, I’ve always been honest to the students I’ve talked to and admit to them that i-banking and Sales & Trading is not for everyone. After talking to several students at these sessions, I also started to be able to tell which students may have been pursuing a finance career more for the money and prestige vs. the experience and responsibility they would gain. I made sure to make it clear that investment banking was a lot of hard work and some of my colleagues found it to be mostly grunt work, so it was very important to realize one’s true motivations for accepting a position in finance because the money isn’t worth it if you didn’t enjoy the work.  At the end of the day, I learned a lot from my banking experience and met a lot of smart and motivated people, but it was really up to me to make the most of my experience and use the opportunity to learn more about what I wanted to do long-term. I knew that the long hours, financial models, focus on attention to detail, meetings with senior management teams, all positioned me and my colleagues well for whatever we wanted to do afterwards.

When I was graduating from college, both the money and prestige of finance didn’t exist to the same extent as it did before, so looking back it was a much smaller group of classmates that chose to pursue a career in finance (it also happened to be two months after Lehman went bankrupt that the banks were recruiting for full-time positions my senior year). From my experience on Wall Street, I’m grateful that I discovered that the area of finance that interests me the most is investing and the industries that I want to specialize in are healthcare and technology. I may not have needed to go through those long hours of working on financial models and presentation mark-ups after midnight, but I truly believe in having no regrets and if I could go back to my senior year, I would make the same decision all over again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Startup Accelerators

In addition to its annual Midas List ranking of Venture Capitalists, Forbes recently came out with rankings for startup accelerators. Not surprisingly, Y Combinator topped the list with a total value of all the companies that have gone through Y Combinator estimated at $7.8 billion (or an average of $45.2 million per company, which is, of course, skewed by the big successes). The good news was that two of the other startup accelerators in the top 10 are based in Chicago: Excelerate Labs and TechNexus.

The other startup accelerator in Chicago that I’ve mentioned before is Healthbox, which is focused on the digital health space, similar to Rock Health in San Francisco, but it is still fairly small and in its first year (although they have announced that they are expanding to Boston as well), so it was not listed in the Forbes rankings. However, it was recently announced that NY is starting a digital health program as well called New York Digital Health Accelerator (NTDHA), which will be accepting 12 startups. This new accelerator is different from both Healthbox and Rock Health because they will be much more focused on care coordination and ways to help healthcare providers. They have also lined up 18 healthcare providers as partners and each startup chosen will receive up to $300,000, which is significantly more than what the other two accelerators are offering.  However, the initial press release didn’t mention how much equity the accelerator will take in the startups, so it will be interesting to see what rules and conditions are attached with the $300,000 initial seed funding.

This new healthcare accelerator in NY and the Forbes ranking of startup accelerators just proves how important these new accelerator models are in the early-stage investing landscape and startup community. Tech Crunch came out with an article last week about the Seven Forces Disrupting Venture Capital, and one of the forces mentioned was Y Combinator. The article claims that these accelerators give companies more flexibility and leverage when negotiating with VCs and also leads to higher valuations. It also acts as an important filtering mechanism for the VCs because these accelerators have become very competitive programs that sift through over 500 applications/interviews for each startup class. Through this selective process, once a company is accepted to an accelerator, VCs know that they’ve received a stamp of approval and are often more comfortable and confident investing in the management team and the company.  However, I do think that having too many accelerators (some can argue we might be seeing a startup accelerator bubble) can lead to a similar problem as having too many VC funds. Only a small percentage of VC funds make good returns because there are a limited number of good companies and talented management teams.  When there are so many startup accelerators and only a select number of good ideas, more and more companies that go through these smaller accelerators will fail if they are unable to receive additional funding after the accelerator program ends. Of course, just like top-tier VC funds, we’ll start to see a similar distribution between top-tier startup accelerators, such as Y Combinator versus other less well-known accelerators.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

First Achilles Chicago Workout

Thanks to everyone who came out last night for our first Achilles International Chicago Chapter workout. It was a successful first get together and I'm looking forward to the workouts for the rest of the season. I also wanted to thank our partner organizations: GLASA, RIC, and Dare2Tri who had representatives come out yesterday as well.

Here's the current schedule of our races, so if anyone is interested in participating as a running guide, feel free to let me know:

April 7th: Bunny Rock 5K on the lake path in Chicago
June 2nd: Volkswagen 5K in Libertyville, IL
June 17th: Track meet (100-1500 meter events) at the Great Lakes Regional Games in Deerfield, IL
August 2nd: Terrapin 5K at Soilder Field in Chicago
September 8th: GLASA Twilight 5K in Lake Forest, IL
September 30th: Bucktown 5K in Bucktown/Chicago
October 7th: Chicago Marathon

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Self-tracking, Personal Analytics & Quantified Self

For the past few weeks, I’ve been using the Fitbit device to track my activity and sleep and now I’m hooked on the idea of personal analytics. I've now added a few other products to my “wish list” which include Basis, Zeo Sleep Manager, and the Withings Scale. After I try out those devices, I think I’ll have a pretty good measure on most aspects of my health!
The larger appeal of self-tracking and self knowledge through analytics (“Quantified Self”) is the fact that in order to improve aspects of your life, you need to first be able to analyze your body’s trends and activities. I’ve been really interested in this idea since I started using Fitbit because not only can an app or device like this help me track my health, but it also motivates me to become a happier, healthier person. Since I got started using this device, I’ve come across several great articles about the “Quantified Self” movement:
VC, Tim Chang, who invests in several personal analytics and quantified self devices, sums up the reason why I enjoy tracking aspects of my life, “Numbers, presented with useful context, provide an immediate path to better control over my own life.”

If you're interested in experimenting with this idea, here are two very useful resources for anyone who wants to discover additional tools for self-tracking:

Also, here is a list of some other ideas that I came across that I’ve been using to help with self-tracking:

-books I read/want to read: GoodReads
-movies I watch/want to watch: IMDb Watchlist
-restaurants I go to/want to go to: Foursquare and Restaurant Bucket List
-my happiness: Track Your Happiness
-my trips: TripIt
-my memories: MemoLane
-music I listen to:
-my finances, investments and spending: Mint and Pageonce and Piggie (iPhone app)
-energy usage: WattzOn
-my mood: MoodScope
-my productivity and tasks: RescueTime, Producteev, and Google Tasks
-my contacts and relationships: Gist, FellowUp and Wisdom
-number of alcoholic beverages: Tipple (iPhone app)
-my runs: RunKeeper
-my goals:
-Daily journaling: Daileez
-my favorite links: Evernote and Google Bookmarks
-blogs/news I read: Google Reader
-and for just about everything else: Daytum

I think the most fascinating website I came across while trying to learn more about personal analytics was the Feltron Report. Nicholas Feltron started creating personal annual reports back in 2005, which track just about all aspects of his life, a bit like a scrapbook, but replacing pictures with numbers, charts and graphs. It’s a really cool idea and something I would love to do if I ever found the time!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Healthbox Demo Day

I had a chance to attend my first startup Demo Day for Healthbox on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I had to miss the first five presentations, but I really enjoyed the second portion of the event and I hope this is the first of many Demo Days that I will be able to attend.
I'd have to say the most memorable part of the event was "The Healthbox Song," which you can check out below:

It was a great way to remind all the investors of each of the startups near the end of the event and it happend to be a pretty catchy tune. It was pretty amusing to see a few VCs humming along to the song in their suits as they were playing with their iPads.

Healthbox also announced that they will be moving to Boston for their next 3-month program and are currently accepting applications now. The good news is that they will be back here in Chicago around the same time next year to have another class of Healthbox after the Boston class. Good luck to all the Healthbox startups with raising the funding they need in the next few weeks.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

JOBS Act and the Impact on VC

Here's a great blog post (Getting Venture Capital Back on Track) explaining why the returns in VC have been lagging most other asset classes over the past decade. One of the major reasons traces back to the more onerous regulations surrounding IPOs after passing Sarbanes-Oxley, which increased the financial disclosure rules that public companies had to follow. Dealing with private companies and IPOs in both banking and PE, I've come to discover that just complying with Sarbanes-Oxley can cost companies over $1mm each year. That's why the new JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) should hopefully help reduce this burden, since it will give startups five years to completely comply with Sarbanes-Oxley. With all the news about Groupon and the accounting mistakes they are making after just going public recently, I think this will be very helpful for other startups looking to go public since they will have a bit more leeway in their financial disclosures.

I also found it pretty surprising that the VC industry as a whole only returned 2.6% to their investors in 2011. However, it's also important to realize that there are ~25-30 VC firms that represent 80% of the industry's profit and the rest of the firms tend to be much smaller and either break even or lose money. So entrepreneurs it's important to try and make sure that the investors you decide to partner with are hopefully one of the more respectable VCs that are generating the strong returns for investors. Not all VC capital should be treated the same, since the value, reputation and connections they bring to the table are just as essential.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Entrepreneurs Unpluggd – The Founding Team Edition

This week I attended the Entrepreneurs Unpluggd event in person and found it to be a really great experience with a good crowd. If you haven’t heard of Entrepreneurs Unpluggd, check them out here.

They post all the videos of the entrepreneurs that speak at their events on the website so if you ever miss an event you still have the opportunity to hear the advice and stories from the speakers afterwards. Each of the speakers at this month’s event brought a different perspective on whether to start your company as a single founder or co-founder. The key takeaways that I learned from the event were:

1)      If you’re going to start your business as a single founder, you almost have to be very personable because you should realize that people will really only buy from you if they like you. You also have to do just about everything yourself from selling, hiring, firing, operations, etc. until you build out the rest of your team, which can take a while if you’re looking for high-quality employees. So overall, going at it alone takes the most discipline, but, of course, the upside is that you don’t have to worry about giving up any of your equity to another co-founder.

2)      The benefits of having a co-founder include increased chance of upside through an exit (you both can brainstorm and find different/creative ways to grow and expand the business), decreased risk (you can both spot each other’s blind spots), and differentiated responsibilities (you each can focus on specific aspects of the business).

3)      Why take venture funding vs. creating a lifestyle business? Take a look at your unit model and if you think you can take outside funding and see explosive growth by scaling that unit model very quickly then it just might make sense to take a smaller piece of a larger pie vs. bootstrapping all the way which can slow down the growth potential.

4)      Good entrepreneurs make mistakes and learn from them quickly. They’re able to figure out how to have more of a growth mindset vs. fixed mindset (check out book “Mindset” for more on this concept).

5)      The last speaker was a VC and he was asked what makes a good investment for him during the Q&A. His answer was hands down it’s always going to be the team. They have to be humble enough to listen and learn, have determination/desire, and strong relationships that can help them persevere through tough times. This seems to be a reoccurring theme, since Y Combinator also recently announced that they are accepting applications from teams even if they don’t have an idea. Investing in people/the team is usually the smarter investment strategy. I’ve only been on the PE investing side for less than a year now, but it’s very clear how important management and leadership is for a successful investment.

Keep a look out for the next Entrepreneurs Unpluggd event - The Startup Law Summit on April 14th at the new 1871 working space.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Where are all the Female Angel Investors?

According to this article on peHub that was published this week, only about 5% of all the angel investors listed on AngelList are women. That’s pretty surprising considering about 9% of senior employees at VC firms are women, 7% of senior employees at PE firms are women, and about 20% of today's engineering degrees go to women. Based on other sources, females make up closer to 12% of all angel investors, which seems to be more in-line with what you would expect, but still much lower than is ideal for the investing community.

There was a good quote in the article by Sukhinder Singh Cassidy where she mentions, “Women underestimate themselves, while men overestimate themselves. You have to sort of lean into risk and have a higher confidence bias, rather than a confidence gap. And I don’t think that gene is bred into women.”

I do agree that this is one of the major problem that female investors have to face. The issues that female investors face have more to do with self-confidence in picking good investments and their risk tolerance. You’ll also find that this is probably why there are so few female traders on Wall Street.

In the November 2011 “Women in Alternative Investments” survey by Rothstein Kass and 85 Broads, one of the key findings was that the factors most critical to female investors’ success were strong professional networks, strong mentoring relationships, willingness to take risks, strategic career planning and strong support networks.  Clearly each of these factors can help address the confidence gap and risk-averseness that may hinder many female investors.

The author of the peHub article also went on to list seven female angel investors that are worth knowing. Check out the link here to see all the bios for each of these female investors: Esther Dyson, Cyan Banister, Andrea Zurek, Brit Morin, Ruchi Sanghvi, Joanne Wilson, and Julia Popowitz. Although I had only heard of two of these angel investors previously, I’ll be sure to keep a look out for some of their future investments.

Friday, March 16, 2012

WSJ Article on Chicago's Startup Scene

The WSJ article published the other day about Chicago’s startup scene is a great sign that the movement here is started to get noticed by investors across the country. According to the article, last year startups in Chicago raised $654mm in VC funding, which represented a 40% increase compared to 2010. While this is still a relatively small amount compared to NY and Silicon Valley, the growth in the startup scene in Chicago is still pretty astonishing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Study Finds Women Account for Increasing Senior Roles at PE Firms

A study conducted by Prequin last month discovered that in North America females account for 9.2% of senior employees at private equity firms. The percentage of senior roles held by women at VC firms vs. PE firms is actually surprisingly pretty different. The study found that 9.7% of senior members of VC firms are women vs. only 6.9% at buyout PE firms. Overall, Prequin did find that the proportion of senior roles held by women has been increasing compared to last year (9.2% in 2012 vs. 8.9% in 2011). While this is a good trend in the right direction, it's clear that there is still plenty of room for more female investors to join the top ranks at private equity firms.