These are the 10 must-know writers and creators driving the conversation around startups and venture capital.
Jason M. Lemkin | Founder, Saastr
What he talks about: Lemkin, who founded two startups with nine-figure exits and has invested in three unicorn companies, built SaaStr into the world’s largest community for business software founders. He writes about how to help the next generation of founders, executives and executives-to-be scale the revenue side of their businesses.
Favorite conversation starter: There is a lot of generic leadership advice on the internet. Lemkin prides himself on providing actionable steps to help leaders become better managers, like in this article from May.
What’s not on his LinkedIn profile: “I have imposter syndrome, still,” he says.
John-Paul Iwuoha | Founder & CEO, Smallstarter Africa
What he talks about: Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, Iwuoha writes about the “side of Africa that most of the world doesn’t know and talk about,” he says. “I focus on the amazing progress the continent is making through its ambitious and creative entrepreneurs, innovators, and business leaders,” he added. This year he highlighted issues as diverse as chocolate production in Africa and if the country should adopt a one-child policy.
Favorite conversation starter: At the start of each year, Iwuoha profiles the most exciting business opportunities and trends in Africa for entrepreneurs. The article generated more than 100 comments from entrepreneurs in Africa, including one who said it was “one of the greatest articles about Africa.”
Trend he’s watching in 2019: “The trend of artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies and how entrepreneurs within and outside Africa will apply these emerging technologies to solve the continent’s most serious challenges in healthcare, education, financial inclusion and governance,” he says.
Marcela Sapone | Founder, Hello Alfred
What she talks about: The founder of in-home concierge service Hello Alfred, Sapone writes about “the importance of building a company that applies hospitality to the way we work and makes that our competitive advantage,” she says. This includes topics like workplace productivity and the future of retail.
Favorite conversation starter: Earlier this year, Sapone wrote about Hello Alfred’s practice of making Wednesday a “tech light” day to get off Slack, let emails go unanswered until later, limit screen time and generally change things up in our work routines to catalyze new ways of thinking. “I heard from so many people who appreciated the idea and wanted to try it themselves — some of them actually apologized for emailing me on a Wednesday,” she says.
Where she does her best writing: “I do my best thinking and writing while in motion — between meetings, in cabs, on long flights and lately on the ferry,” Sapone says.
Joah Spearman | Founder & CEO, Localeur
What he talks about: An entrepreneur and community builder, Spearman writes about his experiences starting a company in Austin and raising capital outside of Silicon Valley. Some of his most engaging insights this year covered topics like angel investors and traveling for more than 75% of the year while running a company.
Favorite conversation starter: This year, Spearman’s favorite article was one he wrote was one outlining all the accomplishments he thinks are important in building a successful company that TechCrunch or other traditional media outlets would never cover. Several members in tech weighed in saying Spearman inspired them.
When he does his best writing. First thing in the morning, but guess what? He doesn’t drink coffee. “I guess writing is what fuels me throughout the morning,” he says.
Alicia Syrett | Founder & CEO, Pantegrion Capital LLC
What she talks about: Syrett likes to share inspiring stories of leaders beating the odds in the investment, corporate and entrepreneurial worlds.
Favorite conversation starter: The investor constantly uses LinkedIn to spotlight women in both venture capital and startups. Her posts light up communities of women who join her both in celebration and support of leaders across the business.
How she comes up with posts: She scans over 1,000 articles daily from some 25 news sources, including publications like BBC, Fast Company, Fortune, TechCrunch and Wired. “I narrow it down to 10 or so articles which I find most interesting to read. I then share one or two of my favorite articles every few days which I feel others might enjoy reading too,” she says.
Sunny Dhillon | Partner, Signia Venture Partners
What he talks about: As an early-stage venture capitalist, Dhillon writes about innovation in media and entertainment, A.I. in interactive media, consumer brand marketing and blockchain financial infrastructure.
Favorite conversation starter: An article he titled, “Amazon’s next conquest will be apparel.” “I continue to be fascinated by Jeff Bezos’ ability to create a modern day digital conglomerate, so I stay close to whispers and insights that may indicate what the FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) companies may be working on,” he says. Nearly 50 members across retail and tech weighed in.
What’s not on his LinkedIn profile: He goes to Comic Con in San Diego every year and used to work with the producer of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy on a startup. He says he may know “every word of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies.”
Hans Tung | Managing Partner, GGV Capital
What he talks about: A managing partner at GGV Capital, his posts focus on how local founders are inspired by global trends such as e-commerce and new retail, urban tech and micro mobility.
Favorite conversation starter: An article explaining the rise of the “SuperApp” and how the right combination of user functionality and business model creates a win-win for companies and consumers alike. “The post, like others about Pinduoduo, Bytedance and Xiaomi, embodies the entrepreneurial drive of Chinese entrepreneurs that inspires me as an investor every day,” he says. The topic of the tech rise in China continues to be one of the most engaged topics on LinkedIn, and Tung is driving the discussion.
Trend he’s watching in 2019: Facebook and how it exemplifies the gap between Silicon Valley and Washington D.C. “The use of Facebook by political parties, privacy related issues, etc. are examples of this gap. Silicon Valley needs to be more aware of societal impact of the products it creates and make adjustments to bridge this gap across red states and blue states, geographies and more,” he says.
Anu Duggal | Founding Partner, Female Founders Fund
What she talks about: Topics that relate to the state of female founders in the economy, specifically funding and growth of their businesses and how this is impacting change in the venture capital industry.
Favorite conversation starter: In the wake of several allegations of sexual harassment by prominent male partners in venture capital, Duggal wrote an article in response to the sexism in the venture capital industry and how funding a pipeline of women can help shift these norms. The article was widely shared with women in tech across the industry, including onewho said, “This makes a meaningful difference and the industry would be enriched by more diversity-driven capital.”
Most interesting news story of 2018: “The Kavanaugh confirmation because it has really created such deep rifts societally across gender and party and will have deep repercussions for years to come,” she says.
Niko Bonatsos | Managing Director, General Catalyst Partners
What he talks about: According to Bonatsos, he focuses his posts on “trying hard not to take myself and our industry (VC) too seriously,” he says. “There is so much stuff that we say and do in our industry every day… that sometimes when we take a step back, it’s like… OMG I can’t believe I or somebody else just said that.”
Favorite conversation starter: A series he created, #vclogic, as a way to create awareness for his firm and get the industry talking about seemingly everyday topics. The series uses humor to get hundreds of VCs to talk about assumptions the industry often makes, like startups need to be constantly iterating.
Trend he’s watching in 2019: “Making the unsexy sexy is becoming a core theme now that tech is truly mainstream,” he says. “All sectors and markets are now under attack.”
Sarah Guo | Partner, Greylock Capital
What she talks about: Emerging technology trends, especially those she wants to invest in, such as workplace tools for parents. “I also write to support early-stage entrepreneurs in building better businesses faster with functional advice around fundraising, leadership, product, strategy, GTM and recruiting,” she says.
Favorite conversation starter: An article she wrote about her investment in Cleo, a mobile app to help new parents. It “triggered a bunch of really interesting debates about company culture and what companies are responsible for in terms of their employees’ broader lives,” she says.
Trend she’s watching in 2019: Privacy and data abuse. “GDPR is only the beginning, and companies who are thoughtful about how to do business successfully in a new regulatory regime, under new consumer expectations, will have a competitive advantage,” she says.
Article first published at Top Voices in startups and entrepreneurship 2018