Venture Investors Year in Review: Cryptocurrencies & ICOs, AI, The End of Uber and Apple and Much More…

Both professionally and personally, 2017 has been an amazing year. I set the goal of becoming a full time angel investor and startup advisor after transitioning out of my last business I sold.

After considering the best ways to learn from and invest with heavy hitters in the space, I settled on a podcast. With the podcast I could not only connect with and learn from some of the top angels and VCs in the space (who I could then send deals to later on), but I could build a platform as well. As I definitely do not have the cash to be an all-in angel and have attractive economics, I started a sidecar syndicate to allow listeners and individuals to invest alongside me in promising early stage deals. The Syndicate podcast and investment have been growing nicely, although I always push myself to grow faster.

But stepping into 2018, The Syndicate is in a good place.

For this post, I wanted to recap the year through a series of audio interviews. 2017 has been the year of many things, especially ICOs. Most people however have not seen the full picture.

This post will be a roundup of the top interviews and panel discussions and posts of the year — all designed to make you think.

Top Interview of 2017

The most listened to episode of year honors goes to Gil Penchina, one of the top super angels of all time. Gil’s hit tons of unicorns, investing in Ripple, Brave, Polychain, Paypal, Filecoin, Civic, Linkedin, Cruise, Dollar Shave Club Wealthfront, Discord and Fastly. He now he runs 20+ syndicates on Angellist with millions in backing.

Listen and Learn:

  1. How Gil invested early in Paypal
  2. What he looks for in founders and markets
  3. Why Gil is bullish on cryptocurrencies
  4. His exact asset allocation strategy
  5. How he built a massive network of Angellist syndicates
  6. What blockchain means for society as a whole
  7. How ICOs are affecting all of us
  8. What all angel investors need to know about getting started

The top themes of 2017:

  1. Cryptocurrencies and ICOs
  2. AI and Autonomous Driving
  3. The Future of Commerce
  4. The Future in General

1. Cryptocurrencies and ICOs

There is no denying the frantic excitement of ICOs. Bitcoin’s been blowing up (and crashing) and is up big this year. And according to Coin Schedule, ICOs have raised an unprecendented $3.7B this year.

In June of this year, ICO funding surpassed early stage VC investments, sending the industry industry into a fury over the future of venture.

To dig deeper, The Syndicate hosted a roundtable with Joey Krug (Augur and Pantera Capital), Andy Bromberg (CEO of CoinList), Gil Penchina and Lou Kerner. This is a must watch for anyone interested in crypto.

Blockchain interviews

But plenty of other investor interviews focused heavily on blockchain as well. To add to the narrative and help you and others make informed decisions, I’ll add the best of these below.

NOTE: Gil’s interview above was also cited as one of the top cryptocurrency episodes of 2017.

Cryptocurrencies, ICOs and the Future of Public Markets with Joey Krug of Pantera Capital

Listen and Learn:

  1. Why Ethereum is the cryptocurrency of the future
  2. What ICOs mean for investors and startups going forward
  3. Why first is the worst for startup companies
  4. How angel investors should think about Blockchain
  5. The big shift happening now in the derivatives market

Kendrick Nguyen on Angellist, ICOs and Equity Crowdfunding Eating Traditional Venture Capital

Listen and Learn:

  1. How Title 3 Crowdfunding is affecting startup fundraising
  2. Why traditional VC is being turned on its head
  3. The future of ICOs and fintech
  4. Angellist’s role in disruption
  5. Why equity crowdfunding can outperform venture capital
  6. How startups should view fundraising and taking investor money

Offered 1/4 of Facebook for $5M Lou Kerner on Israel, Social Media and Cryptocurrencies

Listen and Learn:

  1. The secret story of social media
  2. What VCs will never tell you about deal flow
  3. Why Israeli is the place to invest
  4. How Tel Aviv compares to SF
  5. Why cryptocurrencies are disrupting the world as we know it
  6. How Lou invested early in Facebook
  7. Ways to validate traction and market caps

And I did a lot of writing in 2017. Here are two of the top crypto articles to make you think

2. AI, machine learning and autonomous vehicles

The next big theme 2017 brought us was the explosion of driverless, both in terms of startup successes and buzz in the industry.

With Trump in office and fear mongering about jobs and society, AI started to become more and more of a hotbed issue.

And Universal Basic Income and superintelligence started to become real topics on the public’s mind as more and more, technically forced itself into society.

To dig deeper, The Syndicate hosted a roundtable with Zach Coelius (investor in Cruise Automation), Dennis R. Mortensen (founder of x.ai), Clara Brenner (founder of Urban Innovation Fund) and Prateek Joshi (founder of Pluto AI) to discuss the ramifications and future of artificial intelligence. This was a ton of fun and is a must watch for anyone interested in AI

Zach Coelius on 1st Billion Dollar AngelList Exit and Building a Top Tier Syndicate

Listen and Learn:

  1. Why it is better to be good and lucky
  2. The value of social proof with co-investors
  3. How to build a top 10 AngelList syndicate
  4. The massive opportunity in South East Asia
  5. Why competitive markets kill startups
  6. Poker and meeting startup founders
  7. The way to add value to entrepreneurs
  8. How to invest unicorns

Unfortunately most of our AI related episodes have not been released to date, so they won’t make it on our 2017 year in review.

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3. The future in general

Perhaps it is just the venture industry, or perhaps it is the confluence of industries that are rapidly accelerating towards interdisciplinary progress, either way 2017 had a futurist feel to it.

Between voice and IoT devices coming to market, AR and VR adding to the excitement and decentralization and AI technology transforming everything, it was an interesting year.

To dig deeper, The Syndicate hosted a roundtable with Tim O'Reilly (O’Reilly Media, Author, Futurist), James Allworth (Exponent podcast), Jeff Morris Jr. and Ben Gilbert (Acquired podcast). This was a top notch panel of futurist experts and we attempted to see the future and how it unfolds. Absolute must watch!

BONUS:

Ben Gilbert of Acquired on The End of Government, The Death of Apple and The Amazon Apocalypse

Listen and Learn:

  1. Why most acquisitions and IPOs fail
  2. An unconventional and effective approach to venture
  3. How to spin out a startup
  4. What driverless cars mean for the future
  5. Why Apple is in trouble and Google’s business model is over
  6. The future of IPOs and the stock market
  7. How Amazon will own everything
  8. Why Facebook is the king of acquisitions

And on the subject of the future, I did a lot of writing in 2017 and put out a few posts that at least according to the numbers and comments, made the world think.

I figured I would share these here to hopefully add some food for thought to your new year.

4. The future of commerce

Last but certainly not least was the dominance of Amazon and the detail of retail as a topic that dominated 2017. It was hard to hear about anything else?

Where will Amazon’s 2nd HQ go? What happens to all the jobs they automate away?

Even ToysRUs went bankrupt. That was every kids favorite store. What is the world coming to…

Semil Shah on Instacart, Amazon and the Future of Retail and Groceries

Listen and Learn:

  1. How to raise your first venture fund
  2. What product geniuses know about UX/UI
  3. How Semil invested early in DoorDash and Instacart
  4. The best way to connect with top investors and influencers
  5. What happens when VCs have kids
  6. The future of groceries
  7. How Amazon and Facebook are affecting exits and IPOs
  8. Which field will dominate startup returns

The best of the rest

Themes don’t tell the whole picture. There is a lot happening in the world of venture and throughout the podcast series, we’ve talked to some of the smartest investors around.

Here are my favorite theme agnostic interviews of 2017.

Christopher Mirabile of LaunchPad on Valuations, Exits, Startup Trends and the Future of IPOs

Listen and Learn:

  1. Why Boston is one of the best US startup scenes
  2. How a top angel network operates and consistently wins
  3. What investors don’t know about vetting opportunities
  4. Why active investors outperform passive ones
  5. The perfect startup team composition and how to improvise
  6. What AI and machine learning mean for venture
  7. Why syndicates and angel networks are disrupting VC
  8. How to help angel investors succeed

How Pascal Levy-Garboua Runs a $1.4M Angellist Syndicate and an AL Venture Fund All At Once

Listen and Learn:

  1. How to run a top syndicate while working a day job
  2. Why local commerce is the future
  3. The way Angellist funds work
  4. What most angel investors do wrong initially
  5. How Angellist has evolved in the past three years
  6. Why liquidity is hard to come by
  7. How the on demand economy is changing commerce as we know it
  8. Why cryptocurrency is overrated in the short term and underrated in the long term

Teaming up with Gil Penchina to Found the Flight.vc SaaS Syndicate with Nathan Creswell

Listen and Learn:

  1. How Gil Penchina built a top Angellist network and syndicate model
  2. What investors need to know about enterprise and B2B SaaS
  3. Why cryptocurrency will change almost everything
  4. The importance of connections, especially in enterprise investing
  5. What trumps traction
  6. The power of teaming up in investing
  7. How to uplevel your networking

Nick Moran on Why IoT is the #1 Startup Sector and the Midwest is the Best Place for Companies

Listen and Learn:

  1. Why the Midwest is the place to be for startups and investors
  2. The future of IoT and why it is the #1 industry to watch
  3. How to build consistent, vetted deal flow
  4. Why podcasting has transformed venture capital
  5. The differences and dynamics between syndicates and VC funds
  6. Why startups are leaving SF to go to Midwest
  7. How corporates and entrepreneurs clash and thrive

Women in Tech, Syndicates vs VCs and The Future of Enterprise Investing with By Shruti Gandhi

Listen and Learn:

  1. The big difference between enterprise and all other industries
  2. How the venture world works from a woman’s perspective
  3. Why enterprise companies take longer to exit
  4. The importance of connections, especially in enterprise investing
  5. Why sourcing deals is still critical
  6. How podcasts put VCs on the map
  7. Why women founders have a harder time fundraising

Jeff Morris Jr.on Starting a AngelList Syndicate While Turning Tinder into #1 Revenue App in World

Listen and Learn:

  1. How to angel invest while holding a full time job
  2. The biggest mistake angel investors make
  3. Why you should always follow your expertise
  4. The importance of product
  5. Why sourcing deals is still critical
  6. How AngelList works when syndicating investments
  7. Why mobile is still a big deal

Why VCs Should be Industry Agnostic and Avoid Silicon Valley with Phil Nadel of Forefront Venture Partners

Listen and Learn:

  1. Why Forefront Ventures is industry agnostic
  2. The reason YC companies and SF in general are overhyped and overpriced
  3. How to prevent conflict of interest in syndicate venture
  4. How to vet startup founders for funding
  5. The way to get great deals on early stage deals
  6. When to be valuation sensitive
  7. What to do when deals go south
  8. How to build a top angel list syndicate

Sheel Mohnot with 500 Startups and The Fund Size, Syndicates and Exiting a Startup

Listen and Learn:

  1. How founders feel about early exits
  2. Why fund size isn’t about bigger is better
  3. What to look for in Fintech traction
  4. Which accelerator should entrepreneurs attend
  5. How to handle fintech specific regulations and hurdles
  6. Why YCs brand is best but overpriced
  7. What is the future of blockchain
  8. How to avoid being “dumb money capital”

Closing thoughts

What were your themes of 2017? Which interviews or posts most stuck out to you?

What trends are you looking forward to in 2018?

As always love to debate and hear other smart people’s perspectives.

Learned something? Click the 👏 to say “thanks!” and help others find this article.

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Startup Advisor & Business Consultant for Strategy & Growth helping impact startups change world faster! mattward.io | Serial Entrepreneur: 3 Exits @mattwardio

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Matt Ward

Matt Ward

Startup Advisor & Business Consultant for Strategy & Growth helping impact startups change world faster! mattward.io | Serial Entrepreneur: 3 Exits @mattwardio

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