How Deals Go Down in Silicon Valley

Over the last couple days, Semil Shah of Haystack Fund generously wrote up a series of posts describing the process behind his recent investments.

The stories generally follow a common frictionless thread, where Shah is vaguely aware of a market space, learns about a startup in that space, meets the founder, falls instantly in love, and investment babies are made.

Man, how come our deals never come so easy?

An anonymous friend who is currently raising his own round of funding helped out with some annotations to better reflect how deals go down:

The Story Behind My Investment In Refresh

by Semil Shah

About a year ago, right around the time when it seemed like every new day brought a new mobile calendar app, I wrote my weekly column on the intersection of calendars and how that data could jumpstart a third-party approach to anticipatory computing on mobile.

About a year ago around the time when all my investor friends were investing in stupid calendar apps I couldn´t understand, I finally got introduced to a great founder who was doing something in this space. I was so desperate to give him my money that I almost didn’t care whatever shit he was doing. And now I’m going to write about it in my blog, because this is the most “value” I can bring to him. 

One of my conclusions was that Apple would have to bake such a solution into they OS to offer something that’s either comparable to or orthogonal to Google Now. Since this piece, Apple purchased Cue (formerly Greplin), and it’s become evident trying to build a Google Now-like experience without the access to what Google has will produce suboptimal results.

Apple was buying companies in this space, so it was clear to me that I needed to give my money to someone. Plus if Apple was competing with Google here, other companies may bet as well. Even with a shitty product. 

Enter Refresh, which is kind of like a “Google Now, for People.” Luckily when I wrote this column, a friend of mine  told me about a stealth company he’d invested in, and that I should meet the founder. They were housed downtown, very close to me, so I met the CEO, Bhavin, for a coffee and he told me about the motivation for the product. I still didn’t realize what it was, but I liked Bhavin a lot, so we met again quickly and I saw the product in alpha. Right there and then, I blurted out, “I would love to invest.”

I told him I would love to invest. Like I tell 80% of the entrepreneurs I meet. 

That was in March 2013. It took a long time for that deal to coalesce and I just started helping out where I could.

I liked him so much and that’s why it took another 6 months to actually wire the money.  In the meanwhile I was useless… actually I may have been a source of distraction and wasted time with stupid requests. 

As a courtesy, Bhavin made me an advisor first. That was a classy move. Bhavin had a very clear vision for the product and how he wanted to get it from alpha to beta to prime time.

That was not a classy move, that was the only way to keep you involved, bastard. 

While there’s always room for perfection, I noticed early that Refresh had one of the best push notifications of any app, one that I nearly always opened given that Refresh gets you up to speed on anyone that you’re meeting. That’s still the case today. Even for someone like me that takes notes and remembers follow-ups as second nature, Refresh was a huge boost to my knowledge and EQ in meetings. I couldn’t imagine not having it on my phone.

Yes, that´s why I downloaded it 2 months ago and never used it. Not even once. 

Now, about a year later, the product is finding its groove. There’s still work to do, but some of the new power features on the Refresh profiles are amazing.

Now, after figuring out product market fit with the seed money, they have something going on. Shocking. Maybe that’s what seed money is for? 

My favorite is the “intro” email. With Refresh, an intro email is now just a few taps. It works perfectly. I’ve seen 4-5 other startups just try to productize that flow, but it was Refresh that did it. It’s that kind of precision and execution that get me excited. Refresh is a product that reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Marcus Aurelius: “The secret to all victory lies in the organization of the obvious.

I heard that in my favorite TV series, Rome. 

That, in a nutshell, is the opportunity that lies ahead of Refresh, and that is pretty darn exciting.

I’m going to get my money back!! My friend was right!! I’ve found the way to convert everything I touch into gold: I just have to follow other investors.

It's a stalker app.
It’s a stalker app.

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