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VC Corner: Ann Miura-Ko, Floodgate

Introduction:

Ann Miura-Ko has been called “the most powerful woman in startups” by Forbes and is a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Stanford. The child of a rocket scientist at NASA, Ann is a Palo Alto native and has been steeped in technology startups from when she was a teenager. Prior to co-founding Floodgate, she worked at Charles River Ventures and McKinsey and Company.

Some of Ann’s investments include Lyft, Ayasdi, Xamarin, Refinery29, JoyRun, TaskRabbit, and Modcloth. Given the success of her investments she was on the 2017 Midas List of top 100 venture capitalists.

Ann is known for her debate skills (she placed first in the National Tournament of Champions and second in the State of California in high school) and was part of a five-person team at Yale that competed in the Robocup Competition in Paris, France. She has a BSEE from Yale and a PhD from Stanford in math modeling of computer security. She lives with her husband, 3 kids ages 10, 8 and 6 and one spoiled dog.

Pitch your startup for an opportunity to meet with Floodgate.

Q&A:

What is your / your fund’s mission?

 

Floodgate exists to invest in prime movers – entrepreneurs who build movements that become category defining companies – before the rest of the world believes in them.

What is one thing you are excited about right now?

I believe great companies emerge when gigantic themes collide. One such collision occurring today is the incentive to centralize data in order to train machine learning algorithms and the simultaneous societal push to decentralize data driven by privacy concerns and lack of trust in institutions. How, then, can we protect our data while having systems understand who we are and what we want to do? I think the answer is decentralized intelligence, new technology that decentralizes how intelligent algorithms are created while offering us intelligent control of our own data. While I have yet to find a company that truly addresses this theme, you can imagine a world in which each individual is able to control all of their personal data and only reveal what they want to who they want.

Who is one of your founders you think we should watch?

Nancy Lublin, CEO of Loris.ai, is definitely a founder to watch. Nancy is a natural creator of movements. She previously founded Dress for Success, a network that empowers women to thrive both professionally and personally, and Crisis Textline, a non-profit that provides crisis intervention support via text. Both organizations are incredibly successful at leveraging thousands of volunteers to address human problems that profoundly impact the daily lives women and teenagers across the nation. Nancy brings this vast experience into the world of enterprise software. She is leveraging the knowledge she has accumulated in developing technology to intelligently prioritize Crisis Text Line messages and train volunteers to most effectively communicate with people in crisis. She will translate this to enterprise corporations who seek to empower their organizations to have hard conversations with customers, between employees and with partners.

What and when was your very first investment? What struck you about them?

Taskrabbit; Nov 2009

What is one question you ask yourself before investing in a company?

Is this a founder I want to work with for ten years? And do I think they’re going to want to work with me for ten years?

What is one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?

Does this investor’s expectations match what I want for this company, and for my life?

Who is one leader you admire?

I really admire David Swensen, Chief Investment Officer at Yale. He’s changed the way that universities manage their endowments and nurtured incredible, diverse talent within his organization. Alumni from his office are now leaders in endowment offices all over the country, and part of why he’s able to develop great talent is because he’s working on a mission he loves.

What are the top 3 qualities of every great leader?  

1. They have strong beliefs, loosely held. Great leaders can listen to people who disagree with them, learn from the experience and even experiment with tactics, but they maintain their conviction.

2. They hire up. Great leaders create spectacular teams by hiring people who are better at what they do than the leaders themselves.

3.They take non-consensus bets, strategically. When evaluating opportunities, great leaders can articulate the risks of a given bet and the reasons why they can be overcome.

Favorite business book, blog, podcast?

Play Bigger by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney. It’s different, because rather than focusing on building a product or a business, they’re thinking about building a category. And they have the data to show how important that really is.

What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

I love teaching. Whether teaching my kids at home or teaching my class on entrepreneurship at Stanford, it’s something I really love to do. And I love eating.

What is one piece of advice you’d give every founder?

You have to be all in — this is your life’s work. It will take everything you have, and that takes sacrifices, but it’s worth it in the end.

What do you think should be in a CEO’s top 3 company priorities?

1. Build every part of your company (product, business model, organization, category) like it’s your product. It deserves your focus, experimentation and attention to detail

2. Eliminate distractions. Eliminate distractions. Eliminate distractions.

3. The strategy to minimize loss is not the strategy to win. Execute on the strategy to win.

Anything else?

Although we spend lots of time talking about numbers, metrics and frameworks, there’s an artistic component to entrepreneurship that’s really important. You have to imagine a world that doesn’t exist and find a way to bring it to life. That gives you license to think differently. And it’s fun!

Pitch your startup for an opportunity to meet with Floodgate.

Want to hear more? Ann spoke at our Global Conference earlier this year, check out her talk here.

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Jeremy Webb

Chief technologi.st & Adventurer about.me/jeremy.webb

Jeremy WebbVC Corner: Ann Miura-Ko, Floodgate

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