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Research Agenda

I’ve listed below some of the research questions about which I’d like to learn more. At the bottom I provide more information on how I work with graduate students.

The Business of Investing

  • Research best practices of VCs in executing investments.  This is effectively the investor-side equivalent of the book Venture Deals.
  • Research the organizational structure of a portfolio-operations focused VC (such as ffVC) and its portfolio, vs. conglomerates, studios/foundries, and other organizational structures for large businesses promoting innovation.
  • Research and publicize best practices in running venture studios/startup foundries, which are models in between an entrepreneur and a VC (e.g., Betaworks, Idealab).
  • Identify most pertinent metrics for investors to evaluate early-stage companies, and collect data on the normal range of such metrics.  Use to analyze their future needs, e.g., whom they should hire.  Leverage work of Bright*Sun, CB Insights, DataFox, Disruption Corporation, Mattermark, PrivCoStartupCompass, etc.
  • Study characteristics of the most successful Entrepreneurs in Residence, and the attributes of successful EIR programs.

Market Analysis

  • Write an investment thesis and competitive analysis around the sectors that interest us.  Typically, the CEO of one of our portfolio companies would lead this, working closely with us.   Typical deliverable from these studies is a map and evaluation of competitors, with a SWOT evaluation and analysis of potential investments and entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • Write a generic guide to market mapping a new industry sector.  See this article for background.  We have not found a good book or even article on how to go about doing this.  I worked with a Cornell Technion team to build MarketMap.me, a related tool.
  • Create a systematic approach for identifying industries ripe for disruption, and disruptive companies, using the ideas in Clayton Christenson’s “Innovator’s Dilemma” and its followup books.  E.g., look for hated companies (AT&T, cable companies); look for the largest private companies in a sector (which may be seeking to hide their profitability).
  • Analyze the most rapidly growing open-source tools/ecosystems in order to identify entrepreneurial opportunities in those spheres. Analyze opportunities that emerged from the growth of earlier ecosystems, e.g, Ruby –> Heroku.  Identify opportunities that emerge from the growth of HTML5.
  • Analyze the fastest-growing companies in every significant country, and then identify if we can create a comparable company in the US market.  This is the reverse of the ‘geographic arbitrage’ strategy used by many emerging market entrepreneurs copying US models that are successful.
  • Identify white space on market maps: Target sectors that are not yet transformed by the internet: finance, healthcare, energy, education, etc.
  • Identify the metrics that are appropriate for measuring the value of a firm’s audience, using the network measurement paradigm developed in the book, The Virtual Handshake.

New York Venture Capital Industry

  • Compare returns of NY vs. California vs. Boston venture capitalists.
  • Analyze contribution of the New York VC community to local job creation.

Entrepreneurship

  • “Sales 2.0” – the best technology tools to accelerate B2B senior executive sales
  • Research characteristics of successful angel-backed companies run by older entrepreneurs (50+).
  • A study of the value that acquiring access to someone else’s patent can add to a startup in a range of sectors.
  • Research in what situations a company should raise capital using online selective investor platforms (Gust.com, Angel.co, CapLinked, SecondMarket, etc.), vs. equity-based crowdfunding (when made legal), vs. traditional direct outreach
  • Research and publicize best practices in managing a virtual file server (e.g., Dropbox, Box) for a diverse international team.
  • Research which functions are most logically outsourced in a startup, and which are best done in-house.  Identify best service providers.

Social Trends

  • Identify how, when, and why senior executives/time-pressed professionals are using social media, and business opportunities that emerge from the use of social media by this most influential demographic.

How I Work with Consultancies and Academics

    If you are a consultancy, academic, or graduate student seriously interested in investing and/or entrepreneurship, I welcome serious proposals to partner with me.  I can help provide you with research materials, guidance, introductions to interviewees and other experts, and access to unique data sets. I have worked with many of the leading finance media which have published my past research. Please do not consider this list above exhaustive; I welcome your creative suggestions.

    For example, in 2011-13, I worked with a team of three Columbia MBAs (McKinsey and BCG consultants) on a research study on “Best Practices of Venture Capitalists in Increasing the Value of Portfolio Companies”.  They earned an A, and the article was the most-viewed study in the Journal of Private Equity for the year following its publication.  I provided a lot of the content, research materials, guidance, and introductions to interviewees. We have since published this research in many leading publications.

    If you are a student: I prefer to work with graduate students (MBA/PhD/MS/etc.), but am open to truly exceptional ambitious undergraduates also.  I require that you’re part of a team and are executing this research for a class or independent (for-credit) research.  To learn more, contact me with: your proposed research topic(s); the full resumes of your team members; the course for which you are writing the paper; your professor’s name and website; timeline; and your targeted deliverable (length, format, detailed table of contents, etc.).