Tit-For-Tat Office Hours with a Seed-Stage VC

For a while now, I've wanted to try holding office hours. I've been a big beneficiary of Silicon Valley's pay-it-forward culture, and I'd love to play a part in maintaining that culture. Winter holidays are a forced vacation for VCs*, so this seems as good a time as any to give office hours a try. The experiment that I want to conduct is "tit-for-tat office hours": each person I meet with can ask me whatever they want for 20 minutes, and then I can ask them to teach me something related to their professional experience for 5 minutes. I've never tried this before, but hopefully it'll be useful and fun for everyone involved.

What? 25-minute time slots for office hours with a software engineer turned VC.

When and Where? 10am-4pm on Dec 28 (Redwood City), Jan 4 (Redwood City), and Jan 11 (SF).

Who is this for? Current and aspiring founders in the SF Bay Area. (If this experiment is successful, I'm open to online office hours in the future.)

How to Apply? If you're interested, please email me with 1-3 topics that you'd like to discuss and a link to your LinkedIn profile (so that I have a sense of whom I'm talking to).

(Anticipated) FAQ

What can we cover during office hours?

Some things I can offer during a session: feedback on your business/idea/pitch, general business advice, my impressions of where your company's biggest risks are, opinions on what the market valuation for your next round might be, etc. I'll honestly answer any question that you have, or I'll tell you that I don't know the answer.

What's your background?

I studied computer science at Caltech, then spent ten years working as a software engineer. During that period, I was one of the first engineers at LinkedIn, and then spent three years at Google and four years at Factual. For the last four years, I've been a cofounder/partner at a seed-stage venture fund called Susa Ventures. We've invested in about 50 companies so far, including Andela, Flexport, LendUp, and Robinhood. Most of my investing experience is with seed-stage B2B companies.

My LinkedIn profile.

Why should I care about your opinion?

You probably shouldn't. But hey, it's free!

How will you pick who gets a time slot during office hours?

More likely: there are fewer people that want time slots than there are time slots. Everyone gets a slot.

Less likely: if there are more people than time slots, there will be a preference for discussion topics where I think I can be more helpful, and for people who come from groups that are underrepresented in the founder community (when emailing me, you can optionally let me know if you fall into such a group).

Can I use my office hours slot to pitch you for an investment?

No. If you want to practice your pitch and get feedback then I'm happy to help. If you want to do a formal pitch because you think my fund may be a good fit for your seed round** then office hours are not the right venue. Just email me about doing a formal pitch instead.

Can you refer me to other investors after we talk?

Sorry, no. Most VCs only want intros that are warm/vouched for, and I can't offer intros like that if we've spent <30 minutes together.

What kind of things would you like to learn?

Almost anything: what it's like to work in a field I'm unfamiliar with, your thoughts on the industry you work in, your favorite management advice, etc.

Will you reply to every email?

I'll try! I have no idea how much interest there will be. In the likely scenario that I get 1 or 10 or 50 emails, I'll reply to all of them. In the very unlikely scenario that I get 500 or 1,000 emails, I might not be able to reply to everyone, but I'll do my best.

Will you make office hours a regular thing?

If the experiment works out well, then yes.



Footnotes

* Founders assume VCs don't work during the holidays, so they don't try setting up pitch meetings. As a result, VCs don't have any work to do and end up going on vacation. =\

** Roughly speaking, Susa Ventures invests $500k-$750k into seed-stage companies. We mostly invest in B2B companies, like to see a little bit of traction/market validation (e.g. $10k+ in monthly revenue), and we limit our focus to companies that have the potential to build strong long-term competitive advantages (network effects, proprietary data, economies of scale, and so on).



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