Why SXSW Matters (or The Importance of People)

Erin Griffin from Fortune wrote a funny (but true) article about SXSW 2015 this morning.

This is my 5th SXSW Interactive (and even more if you include trips to music) and Erin is totally right – every year is packed with tons of events, panels, and other tom foolery – and there is no way you can catch it all.

Fortunately, at least for me, the magic of the event is something different.  Its 3 (or 4) days where you can spend time with friends and colleagues in a safe space consuming amazing food (queso) + music without specific work in mind.

Its the 1 AM werwolf games at the Hilton, its the ad-hoc afternoon get together at Iron Cactus, and night time dancing with friends (new and old.)

In an increasingly connected world (email, text, meerkat, snapchat, etc) – its easier than ever to stay in touch and exchange information.  However, that communication still requires a real relationship and being able to spend time with those individuals at least once a year in person in a non-work environment makes the rest of those interactions even more valuable.

Working with Atoms: 5 Lessons for Building a Hardware Startup

In 2011, I attended my first Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. While there were a handful of startups scattered throughout the main expo floor, including True-backed Valencell and Makerbot, the majority of companies in attendance were the traditional consumer electronics manufacturers that have ruled the shelves of Best Buy for the past few decades.

After missing CES in 2013 and 2014, I arrived this year expecting to see a similar mix of companies. However, I was thoroughly blown away to see the entire Sands Expo Hall filled with small, emerging consumer electronics businesses—hundreds (if not thousands) of new companies across a variety of brand new categories, including smart homes, digital health and “maker” products. And this didn’t even include the drones and other new technology areas in the main expo hall.


For a market that was dead before 2008, connected devices are back in a big way and are seeing more innovation (and funding) than ever.

At True, we’ve been fortunate to invest in more than 15 new startups selling physical products, including 3D Robotics, Makerbot and Ring. We even hosted an event last year called “True Atoms,” bringing together the best Founders and executives from across the lean hardware ecosystem to share best practices and learn from one another.

And while many trends, including decreased component costs, increased access to smaller-run manufacturing and the growth of cellphones, have made it easier than ever to launch a connected-device company, the challenges of scaling remain incredibly complex.

We previously wrote a blog post talking about hardware companies as “the double black diamond” of startups. One year later, I wanted to share some more thoughts and ideas about what we look for in new opportunities in connected hardware.

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Catalog is King (or Why Jay-Z Buying Aspiro May Make Sense)

Last week, news leaked that Jay-Z’s Project Panther was in the process of purchasing streaming service Aspiro.

While I don’t believe that most users care about (or could discern the quality of) high fidelity audio, a major artist choosing a single platform to focus on could have an interesting impact to the overall market (specifically Spotify and Soundcloud)

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Debt: The First 5,000 Years

Just finished reading “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” by David Graeber.

It was recommended as a good source of historical context on financial markets particularly with respect to crypto currency and does a great job walking through the growth and evolution of financial systems. (The first half is incredibly dense, but gets easier as you get closer to modern times.)

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Company Cadence (or How to Move Quickly Without Losing Control)

Content from True University focused on company cadence and scaling operational excellence at startups.

Luke Kanies at Puppet Labs discusses the lessons learned scaling the company over the past three years.


Robin Abrams discusses “Moving Faster Than the Speeding Bullet” based on her experience as an executive across scaling startups.


Lastly, Dave Kashen discussing Startup Leadership and how culture scales over time


Building the Sales and Marketing Machine (Inside Sales 2.0)

Some of the best content from True University focused on building the marketing and sales engine for an enterprise software business.

First, Dave Ewart (VP of Marketing at Loggly) talking about lead generation and funnel management.


Second, Kenny Van Zant (Asana) discussing the Golden Motion (taking leads from marketing to sales)


Third, Lars Nilsson (VP Field Sales at Cloudera) talking about how to structure and sale an inside sales team.


Sharing Content from True University

Each year, we host an event from employees of True-backed companies called True University.

The idea is to bring together leaders from across the portfolio in sales, marketing, product, and engineering for two days to share best practices and learn from each other anchored around content from top practitioners in the market

Its content we often share within the portfolio, but recently opened up the videos for anyone to access.   Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some of my favorite videos from the last three years.

If you want to jump ahead on your own, all the content is public at TrueUniversity.com