Over the weekend, Silicon Valley leader Marc Andreessen broke his usual silence and gave some advice to Silicon Valley: It’s time to build. The famed investor urged CEOs, entrepreneurs and investors alike to welcome new companies into their circles.
The blog post details high-flying pieces of advice that could each land in a unique angle depending on where you sit. But as venture capitalists rush to prove they are open for business, the true test these days is a bit more grounded: cut checks and signed term sheets.
The words are eerily similar to the thesis of NextView Ventures, a Boston-based venture capital firm, and its new remote accelerator program, announced today.
“During this current COVID crisis, we have seen many VCs publicly saying that they are ‘open for business,’ but we wanted to put our money where our mouth is,” according to partner David Beisel.
Using money earmarked from its current fund, NextView will invest $200,000 for an 8% stake in fewer than 10 pre-seed and seed startups. The program will be fully virtual and is investing in founders that drive change in the “everyday lives of everyday people.”
Rob Go, the co-founder of NextView, tweeted about the launch today.
3. Startups looking to redesign the everyday lives of everyday people often look a little whacky and non-traditional. They aren’t your typical enterprise SAAS sold to IT departments. Most VC’s appetite for these kinds of companies will go down during this pandemic. But not ours.
— Rob Go (@robgo) April 20, 2020
The NextView accelerator is launching at a time when historical incubators like Y Combinator and 500 Startups are rethinking their independent strategies. Today Y Combinator announced its upcoming batch will be fully remote, and last month 500 Startups said it is scrapping its cohort model.
The firm also publicly said what it didn’t like about traditional accelerator programs, like big batch sizes and flashy demo days.
“Accelerators were at their best when they were small and intimate. YC’s initial batch was just eight companies,” Beisel said about the small number of participants. “But over time, accelerators became more of a numbers game.”
Beisel added, “traditional accelerator demo days originated as a way to showcase startups to follow-on investors, but eventually evolved into an elaborate show attempting to satisfy many constituents.”
Still, an unavoidable truth about demo days is that it connects startups to founders and ideally that first check. What happens to deal success when you don’t have a buzzy room of journalists, venture capitalists and bright lights on founder faces?
After YC and 500 Startups hosted their first-ever virtual demo days this year, we’ve heard grumblings of mixed results. Y Combinator last week changed from always investing in YC graduates to reviewing on a case by case basis, hinting at conservatism within the accelerator.
NextView also approaches post-accelerator funding conservatively. The firm says it will connect its small cohort to next-round investors, but will “intentionally not lead the next round of financing.” The firm is being upfront about its choice to not lead follow-on investing to “avoid potential signaling issues for future financings.” The company will participate with at least pro-rata for all companies in any subsequent round of financing to help the cohort.
An optimistic read of this decision is that NextView is viewing its accelerator as a separate function of its investment firm and wants to be more of a helper than a robust pipeline for deal flow. Alternatively, it could mean that the firm doesn’t want to over-promise capital in an unpredictable time for the economy. And in the chance that it does find a gem within this batch, it would be surprising for NextView to not invest in the company.
The bottom line is that NextView is launching an accelerator and investing in startups during a time when many are not. So while we’ll wait to see how successful the firm is in cultivating young startups with ripe returns, for now it’s building. And in today’s new normal, building is a welcome sign.