As one of the last “formal” activities of the Edinburgh-Stanford Link — make that the Edinburgh-Stanford Link I – besides the hosting of the Accel Stanford Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education (REE) Europe in September of 2010, we were blessed to have Heidi Roizen as our Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR). She was based in the Edinburgh Entrepreneurship Club (E-Club) in the Business School of the University of Edinburgh for five months from August to December 2010. I had co-founded the E-Club with the brilliant Dr. Geoff Gregson and the ever charming and hardworking Aidan Hetherington of the Business School in January of 2005. It has since grown beyond our original imaginations, currently led by the innovative, dynamic and wonderful Dr. Jo Young, who is also a GirlGeek and an entrepreneur herself. We had a few EIRs over the years including Gavin Don.
Heidi came to us through the Edinburgh-Stanford Link. If you do not know her, I will tell you that she is a super wonderful person, a serial networker (who has a Harvard Case Study written after her on this topic), an entrepreneur and one of the most famous women venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, or the world for that matter. She was mentored by Ann Winblad of Hummer-Winblad partners. Heidi knew Bill Gates from the early days as she was a software entrepreneur herself, and is friends with folks such as Warren Buffet as well. Let’s just say she keeps good company. During her EIR visit to Scotland she rented my 5 bedroom Edinburgh flat from me, and had a steady stream of visitors — about 25 I’d say in total — from Silicon Valley. Some of these we “took on tour” such as Ann Winblad who kindly volunteered her time to speak to the GirlGeeks in Glasgow one evening. Heidi continues to give back to Edinburgh, and just last summer brought along a cadre of women entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from the Valley to fill a panel at the GirlGeeks event at the TechCube. Heidi is back doing venture capital now with Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) in Silicon Valley. So I was especially keen to get her perspectives on Scotland, and entrepreneurship and its potential as an imagination economy player.
Heidi Roizen kindly wrote a report for me in December of 2010 at the end of her 5 month EIR tenure. I had distributed this to the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, and others at the University of Edinburgh at the time. However, I thought this would be a good time to re-publish it for it contains a couple of relevant policy points which I am going to refer to in some upcoming posts on innovation policy possibilities and the imagination economy. Below you will find Heidi’s report it its entirety.
Date: December 9, 2010
To: Michael Clouser, PhD Candidate, Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Cluster, School of Business, University of Edinburgh
From: Heidi Roizen, EIR for Autumn 2010, Entrepreneurship Club, School of
Business, University of Edinburgh
Subject: After-action Report
I thought it would be useful to end my stay in Edinburgh by providing you a summary of my activities, my findings, and my recommendations regarding how to improve the chances for entrepreneurial success here as well as how you might think about continuing a Silicon Valley EIR program.
First of all, I want to thank you. This has been a life-changing event for my children and myself. Without your efforts to find me a role in the University, a place to live, a place for my children to attend school, and all your other navigational advice and help, I never would have been able to pull this off. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you!
Summary of Role
I was invited by you to become an Entrepreneur in Residence of the Entrepreneurship Club (which, of course, you co-founded) in the School of Business at the University of Edinburgh. This would be an unpaid and loosely-defined post, allowing me to work with you to create an agenda as we went along. I was here from the beginning of August through the middle of December 2010. I was accessible to anyone who could find me through various public outreach activities (website, email blast, speeches) and pretty much met with anyone who asked, though I prioritized current and graduated students of the University, and then local entrepreneurs.
Activities While Here
I’ve attached a spreadsheet which lists all the people with whom I met during my stay here, entrepreneurs and those in support of their activities, as well as members of the press. I’ve also provided a list of the speeches I’ve given. Let me provide a bit of color for each category:
Speeches: I gave speeches at the Stanford REE Conference, the Scotland Connect Investor Conference, the Glasgow GirlGeeks Club, the Launch Lab Meetup Club, the E- Club, and your Informatics Entrepreneurship (masters-level) class. In addition, I attended the Winning Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award gala dinner, and was able to meet local Edinburgh entrepreneurs, such as Emily Walters, as well as the organization’s director, Belinda Roberts. The combined audience of all my speeches was approximately 350 people. A summary of my Connect speech was written up in Holyrood Magazine; a summary of my Launch Lab speech was presented as a short video on the Caledonian Mercury site. These allowed me to bring some Silicon Valley experience to the audiences here, share some of my impressions about the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and how it might be further improved, and was also the chief ‘promotional’ tool – after each speech I would find my inbox filled with meeting requests.
My activities here were covered by Holyrood Magazine, The Caledonian Mercury, and Startup Café, all of which I think came out well and raised awareness of the entrepreneurial activities here in Edinburgh. Further, I provided a background interview to the Sunday Herald, which resulted in an offer for a guest-written column that you will be writing for them on “What Entrepreneurs can Learn from the Darien Project”. Finally, I was interviewed by the Third Eye about women and entrepreneurship, that article posted a few days ago and the url is on the attached spreadsheet as are all the press references noted above.
Officials and Business Leaders:
I met with approximately twenty-five businessleaders, investors, university officials and program directors involved in the support of entrepreneurs. I did this to both learn about the systems here as well as to offer my reflections, collaboration, and network.
During my stay here I met with approximately 30 start-ups – everything from the classic one guy and a drawing on a napkin, to companies already in revenue- generation stage, some of whom had already secured angel investment, and in a few cases, VC investment. The attached spreadsheet shows the diversity of the areas covered, and provides a quick comment for each company about what we discussed. I am sure I will be hearing from many of them in the future and will try to be helpful to them from afar. This was of course the raison d’etre of my post and I will discuss my findings further later in this document. For now, suffice it to say there is plenty of raw talent, great ideas, and entrepreneurial spirit in Edinburgh!
One more activity that was something of an unintended consequence of my visit but bears a mention: Visitors/Economic Development/Tourism Promotion: Because of my extended stay here, I invited a number of people to come visit – and ended up with 25 people who came from the US to spend time with me, none of whom were planning to come to Scotland otherwise. Some of these were just pure guests whom I’ll at least credit with boosting the local economy by eating and drinking and buying souvenirs. However, a few of them were high-profile entrepreneurs, VCs, or executives, and some of them even participated in some of my activities.
For example, top venture capitalist Ann Winblad visited me and agreed to be the E-Club speaker one night, drawing a record crowd of 150. Former investment banker and VC Ruthann Quindlen, author of the book “Secrets of a Venture Capitalist”, came to visit and December spoke with me at Glasgow GirlGeeks. MetricStream CEO Shellye Archambeau attended some of the Stanford REE social events. And entrepreneur Mark Johnson participated in a company pitch/advice meeting with me. There were others who visited including leading VC Ryan McIntyre, Springboard Founder and Liz Claiborne Chairwoman Kay Koplovitz, entrepreneur Sandy Kurtzig (first woman to found and take a tech company public, ASK Systems), and former VC and Oracle VP Karen White. Unfortunately, due to tight time schedules and my lack of prior planning, I didn’t have them participate in any entrepreneur-related activities. However they were all exposed to the wonderful place that is Edinburgh. It is just a thought for consideration in having others take on a similar EIR role in the future, that I suspect they too will attract visitors from the Valley and this could be further exploited to do more good here.
One more side point — I also wrote a humorous, invite-only, opt-in email called Scottish Tales: By the time I finished up here I had 110 subscribers and some of them were likewise high profile executives and entrepreneurs. I hope I’ve piqued their interest in visiting here someday, and I know a few of the visitors I had while here made thedecision to come after receiving a few of my missives.
Let me preface all of this by saying it would be ridiculous to consider me an expert on the Edinburgh entrepreneurial ecosystem after only a few months here! So please take all these observations and the recommendations that follow them in that light. That said, I found it a fascinating lens to be able to view this environment with the experience of 30+ years working in Silicon Valley, from my 12+ years as an entrepreneur, 14+ years as a corporate director, 1 year as an Apple VP and 8 years as a venture capitalist. So while my views might be colored, I hope at least it is with an interesting and useful hue.
There is a tremendous amount of talent here. The fantastic education offered by the University of Edinburgh – particularly Informatics – has attracted world-class brain power. The caliber of technological ability here is on par with Silicon Valley, as best as I could tell.
Similarly, there are many people here bitten with the entrepreneurial bug, particularly the young people either in graduate programs or just out of school. Granted this is a much smaller population than I am used to, but it sure felt like, on a per capita basis, there are plenty of budding entrepreneurs here.
In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time getting to know the various educators of entrepreneurship at the university and of course the courses that they offer, and I’d recommend that any future EIR be proactively introduced to the professors and the programs. My understanding now, at the end of my stay, is that there are many programs in the University at the undergraduate and the graduate level. I would recommend that there be some form of online roadmap so that students, alumni entrepreneurs, those who support entrepreneurs, government officials and people like myself could find it easier to make connections with the educators and their courses. I would also recommend that the University keep the relationship with the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and continue to learn from it. I may be biased, but I believe Stanford University and particularly STVP has a world-class offering for entrepreneurs and has a very open policy for the sharing of their best practices, for example see http://ecorner.stanford.edu/ . I think collaboration could be beneficial to both institutions. Incidentally, I have just joined their faculty as a lecturer and will be teaching The Spirit of Entrepreneurship starting in January, which is an introductory undergraduate class.
I am leaving here with a positive view of what I found in the way of support for the entrepreneur, particularly from the University with programs like the E-Club, Prospekt, Informatics Ventures, Launch.ed.ac.uk, Winning Entrepreneurs, and ERI. That said, it took me a while to figure out who does what, and many of the students I met with did not know what resources existed to help them. I also think much more can and probably needs to be done, in both the areas of funding and mentorship, and while it will likely grow organically over time, the impact would be far greater and faster if it were done through one or more support organizations. Unfortunately, the Edinburgh-Stanford Link program has not been re-funded, but its re-invention and revitalization would be of great benefit to the local entrepreneurial community and the University as well, especially in terms of re-establishing the relationships you have built in Silicon Valley, many of which appear to have been dormant for a couple of years now.
The community of mentors who know how to start and run technology startups, and who are actively engaged in supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs, are fantastic people – there just aren’t enough of them and the young entrepreneurs don’t know how to find them. This is probably the biggest deficit relative to what a Silicon Valley entrepreneur experiences – help (often with some money) from someone who has been down the path before. Later I will discuss some ideas for improving this.
It will probably come as no surprise to you that this is the area where I see the most need for improvement. The life-cycle funding for a startup is definitely spotty here. At the earliest stages, there seems to be some very positive work done by Informatics Ventures and also some government grant programs such as EPIS, which I understand is now ending, unfortunately. The Edinburgh-Stanford Link’s EIR program seems to have also been a good one, but I understand that has ended as well.
However, then there seems to be a gap between this stage and the 50k-100k seed round stage, which in the Silicon Valley is usually done by angels. Interestingly, once a company gets into the 500k to 1 million stage, there are some angel groups and of course Scottish Enterprise’s co-investment fund, though I don’t have a good grasp of supply and demand there, nor of performance/track record.
Finally, at the 1 million and up stage, there seems to be not only a gap but a structural fault that I am not fully up-to-speed on, but I know enough of the basics to raise it here. It seems that there is a tax incentive to invest in an entrepreneurial company here, but in order for the incentive to be realized, the stock in the company needs to remain all of a single class – which of course means no preferences or differing series with differing rights. This of course is a non-starter for traditional VCs. A result, it seems, is that either the companies are in essence forced to sell out early, since they can’t raise more funds, or, if they can raise more funds, they either have to wash their prior investors out somehow, or buy them out. None of these are good things.
In fact, I think there is a real issue here that is foundational for the Scottish economy. If, in order to get funding at this stage, a company has to in essence promise investors that they will get a return soon (and in the investor conference I went to every single pitch included this – something you would NEVER see in Silicon Valley) then all your winners will be sold before they are able to run their full course – a course that would create foundational companies, employment, mentors, wealth and in essence everything you need to fuel an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
What should be of interest to anyone looking at the big picture, is that virtually all of
the serious entrepreneurs with significant traction told me they were looking for capital
in London and/or Silicon Valley and would move their companies to those locations if
that were a condition of investment. Clearly, this is not a good pattern for the Scottish
Liquidity Events: of course what all investors want is liquidity events. Frankly, I don’t
see this as a problem even though I can’t find a lot of examples right now. This problem
tends to solve itself – when you create companies that generate revenue, profit, growth,
and market position, someone will buy them or there will be a public market for them.
I don’t see any reason to work on this area and wouldn’t know what to recommend
anyway. Best to focus on building great companies and the liquidity will take care of
December 10, 2010 Roizen Edinburgh EIR Report, page
I truly believe there are some simple things that you can do to vastly improve the chances
for the best entrepreneurs to be successful here. I’d also like to recommend some things
that are more difficult to accomplish in the hopes that at least the ideas are raised to
people who may be in a position to influence such things down the line.
First, the easy (or at least easier) stuff:
Silicon Valley EIR role
Of course, I leave it to you and the rest of the entrepreneurial community here to decide
if what I did over the last five months has brought value to the community, but I’d like to
think that relative to what it cost, the return was quite good.
What did I bring to the picture?
Enthusiasm: when you have someone like me running around taking meetings and
giving speeches, it creates a sense of enthusiasm about entrepreneurship. It also offers up
a role model, which is so critically valuable, particularly to female entrepreneurs. (My
favorite back-handed compliment is when an entrepreneur says “I never thought I could
be an entrepreneur, but then I heard you speak, and I figured, if you could be successful,
so could I!”)
Experience: When I take an hour to bounce ideas around with an entrepreneur, I bring
to that meeting 30+ years of living and breathing Silicon Valley entrepreneurship from
all angles. While this probably still leaves some blind spots or distorted perspectives, it
also brings a vast knowledge base for that entrepreneur to tap into. If I can come up with
ten suggestions, even if eight are bad or not relevant, two might be great, and the smart
entrepreneur will know which is which. My data is anecdotal at best, but many of the
folks I met with told me I had opened up new and valuable perspectives for them on how
to grow their businesses.
Network: As I said in the Connect speech, if you are a technology entrepreneur you need
contacts in Silicon Valley. Like the place or not, it is the world headquarters of Google,
Cisco, Apple, Facebook, Intel, and scores of other companies central to technology today.
It is also the headquarters of probably 25% of the world’s venture capital. Having a
person like me who has those contacts and is willing to share them with your community
is a huge positive. And, as you continue to ‘mint’ EIRs you will expand that network,
creating honorary GlobalScots, if you will, who will continue to help the entrepreneurs
they met while here, once they return to the Valley.
The experiment with me was at virtually no cost to the University, other than your
(Michael’s) time and energy. I would however recommend that for a small investment
you could make the program easier and more effective. What I’d suggest:
December 10, 2010 Roizen Edinburgh EIR Report, page
Housing: it was daunting to try to figure out from afar where to live and how to
provision the house, particularly for a rental of less than five months. Michael, I don’t
know what I would have done had you not let me your place, which was perfect. I think
it is important that it be a nice place and easy proximity to the university, to downtown,
to the parks, and to public transport. I might recommend that if the program were
ongoing, you could have a permanent place for this role, and that the cost should be
covered by the university instead of the individual. You know the costs of this far better
than I for this area, but I don’t think we’re talking about a lot of money. As a side point,
if the EIR is going to bring school-aged children, some help getting them situated with
schooling would also be very helpful.
Office space: I would give the person an office and have them keep some sort of regular
office hours, albeit brief (maybe 4 hours once a week) but also allow them to use the
office for other meetings. I’d put the office somewhere central to your entrepreneurial
activities, like 6th
meet with people (although I got to know all the local coffeehouses quite well) and also I
think would benefit the entrepreneurs in that building to have someone like me around.
On-boarding: it would have been good to have someone walk me through all the
organizations and how they all work before I started randomly meeting with whoever
found me, also made introductions to the key players early in my stay here. While you
and I did this effectively over time, I found my time was back-loaded, in that I was not
that busy in my first two months, then extremely busy in the last few.
Outreach: Have the EIR give an e-club presentation early in their stay. Send an email
blast to all entrepreneurial communities. I found my speeches generated the most ‘deal
flow’ and had I done it earlier, I would have had more time to have follow-up meetings
with the most promising entrepreneurs, also to have had the time to do more homework
before/after my meetings, which would have been helpful.
Screening: I have mixed feelings about this, because I really enjoyed meeting with
anyone who contacted me, and some of them were true diamonds in the rough. However,
if you are trying to impact the chances of success of the best entrepreneurs, and if you
have a good idea who some of them are, you should make sure I get connected with them
In summary, I think the EIR role is a fantastic, low-cost way to bring expertise and
enthusiasm here and to continue to build your ties with Silicon Valley. I would be happy
to help you recruit successive EIRs and model the program.
As mentioned above, I know you have a few classes, but I believe you could do much
more for your students in this regard, particularly Informatics students as I met far
more entrepreneurs in that department than in the business school. I’m not an expert
floor Appleton. It would have been helpful for me to have a place to
December 10, 2010 Roizen Edinburgh EIR Report, page
on entrepreneurship education but certainly your contacts at Stanford STVP are. I
know other universities are working with them to make use of their curriculum and best
Further, I think it would be highly valuable to create more opportunities for your students
to spend time in Silicon Valley, either on some form of exchange with Stanford or
Cal, at industry conferences, or even through work/study arrangements with leading
Silicon Valley companies. I think you could take some baby steps here with some
simple, introductory efforts with a few students and see where it goes from there. I’d
recommend, again, starting with your friends at STVP, but I’d also suggest asking some
of your Valley-connected GlobalScots such as Mike Ramsay, Ian Ritchie and Crawford
Beveridge to help make connections.
Re-establishment and re-funding of the Edinburgh-Stanford Link
My #1 reason for choosing Edinburgh was my awareness of the Edinburgh-Stanford
Link. While I was not directly familiar with the program, the fact that people I know
and respect from Stanford were involved brought it instant credibility to me. They also,
when I asked, made the connections that made this possible for me. Given the above
recommendations about learning from their best practices and also strengthening the
network between Edinburgh and Silicon Valley, it would seem to me it would be a good
thing to continue. As I understand it, the program was well known in Scotland and in
Silicon Valley, it resulted in good education, network building, and funding for start-ups.
I think it is essential to foster programs that bring your young entrepreneurs to the Valley
for short periods of time, and it would help to have a formal organization tasked with
doing so. Again, would this not be another great role for the Edinburgh-Stanford Link?
Michael, you are the expert here, not me, but it sure seems like a no-brainer to me, and
again, I’d be happy to help think through the specifics with you.
As I mentioned, you have some great experience here, and some great potential mentors.
There are certainly some folks who are already hard at work helping that next generation.
There are angel groups as well, I know. However, I heard from both the angels and
the students that they don’t always know how to find each other. Personally, I’m not a
huge fan of poster sessions or pitch shows, but rather of doing some individual outreach,
building some ties, and then having someone on campus who helps direct the right people
to the right mentors. I think you can create a bit of excitement around the EIR role to
perhaps create a more formal mentor support group/clearing house. I admit I’m fuzzy on
specific recommendations here, other than to say something should be done to facilitate
entrepreneurs and mentors in finding each other.
December 10, 2010 Roizen Edinburgh EIR Report, page
The hard stuff:
No surprise, the hard stuff is all about the money! Edinburgh’s entrepreneurial
community – and I’d boldly argue that Scotland’s whole economy – would greatly
benefit from figuring out how to fully life-cycle-fund those promising companies that can
be your foundational sources of wealth, jobs, and future investors/mentors.
As I mentioned there seem to be gaps at various stages of the funding cycle and a
structural tax situation that encourages selling out over growing these companies. There
is a dire consequence – the companies either do not raise funding, or do raise it but in
order to consummate the funding move their companies away from here. Not good.
I have no idea how to fix the tax issue or even how to articulate it, but I’d strongly
recommend someone who understands venture capital, company formation, and liquidity
events, takes a hard look at this and comes up with a proposal of how to eradicate the
issue. Once it is understood and a straw man proposal is created, you need to rally all the
officials as well as some of the leading private investors to push for change.
As a short-term fix, someone likewise ought to look at (and establish a best practice in)
the practice of establishing a Delaware C corporation in Silicon Valley, and maintaining
an R & D branch entity here in Scotland. This will position Scottish companies to
raise Silicon Valley venture capital and have access to public equity markets such as
NASDAQ while enabling the growth of an R & D base here in Scotland. Many folks
call this the “Israeli” model as it has been done so successfully by companies there. If
you can’t keep the whole company here, at least keep a part of it here!
Establishment of an early stage fund
Yes, easy to say, hard to do, and I have no idea where the money could come from
though I would argue this could have huge impact and therefore perhaps merit
government funding. Many of the entrepreneurs I met with are very resourceful – they
might need only 50K – 100K to grow their businesses from the early stage, but are
finding these amounts impossible to come by. I believe a 5 million pound fund could
have a huge influence on the entrepreneurial ecosystem here, and create the opportunity
to find and fund at least one company with a meaningful outcome.
Attract Professional Funding to Edinburgh
I sure wish I had a great idea about this. To be honest, most Silicon Valley VCs are
unwilling to consider investing in early stage companies here because they simply cannot
be as engaged (both before and after the investment is made) as with companies closer.
I do believe the hybrid model (with a presence in the US) will solve part of that. I also
believe there are some more progressive VC funds (Accel being the prime example) that
have made a commitment to the UK. I think this is an issue you work on over a long
period of time, first resolving the structural/tax issues that prevent professional VC from
functioning normally, then using perhaps the EIRs plus yourself to maintain contact with
December 10, 2010 Roizen Edinburgh EIR Report, page
the partners at Accel and other such firms, introducing them to the best that Scotland has
Michael, Edinburgh benefits from great talent and passion when it comes to
entrepreneurs. Work needs to be done on various components of the support needed for
them to prosper here. I believe the simplest and most effective place to begin is with the
EIR program and the Edinburgh-Stanford link. I also believe that working on some of
the longer term issues – tax structure, available capital – are critical to making Edinburgh
(and Scotland) a place where not only entrepreneurs are ‘born’ but also a place where
they can grow and prosper without leaving this beautiful city.
Thank you again and, you have a friend in me in Silicon Valley!