Jeff is a seed investor through his fund SoftTech VC. He has been a TechStars mentor since 2007.
In August 2010, my family celebrated the 10-year anniversary of our move from France to Silicon Valley as well as my joining the venture capital industry. Six of these 10 years will have been spent working with very early stage teams, ranging from the raw idea stage to the point at which the initial product worked so well that the company has two founders and tens of millions of avid users.
One of the most common questions I get several times a week is "What characteristics are you looking for in an early stage company before making an investment?" You could list 10 criteria, 20 things, or 30 checklist items and they would all be valid—things like the result of lessons learned, experience gained, and mistakes made. In the investing business, you can only learn the hard way—by losing or by wasting money on things that eventually don't work.
Seed investors—people like me who are typically putting the first chunk of cash into a new startup—have the shortest checklist. Because we invest so early in the life of a company, a lot of the data points that later-stage investors are using to evaluate an opportunity are not yet available to us. So I focus on three things: "People, Products, and Markets." Or actually:
People Products and Markets ...