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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 consultancies and graduate students.

Sector Thesis Development

Write an investment thesis and competitive analysis around sectors of interest.  Typical deliverable from these studies is a market map and evaluation of competitors, with a SWOT evaluation and analysis of potential investments and entrepreneurial opportunities.  Here is a template investment thesis and the sectors I am currently most interested in:

The Business of Investing

  • Alternative models for VC investing.  See A better way to fund SaaS companies; Six Paths to Financing a SaaS Business; Should Private Startups Be Issuing More Bonds?
  • Research the organizational structure of portfolio-operations focused VCs and their 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, PrivCoStartupCompass, etc.
  • Study characteristics of the most successful Entrepreneurs in Residence, and the attributes of successful EIR programs.
  • 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.
  • Identify white space on market maps: Target sectors that are not yet transformed by the internet: finance, healthcare, energy, education, etc.
  • 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.

Process Improvement in Investing

  • 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.
  • 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 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.

Entrepreneurship Processes

  • Identify the metrics that are appropriate for measuring the value of a firm’s corporate network, using the network measurement paradigm developed in the book, The Virtual Handshake.
  • 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.

How I Work with Consultancies and Academics on Research

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.).

For more, see How I work with universities and with students.