Announcing the Seed-DB Investor Graph, and responding to the ‘VC Zombie’ s**tstorm

  • Seed-DB Investor Graph: EXCLUSIVE first look
  • “Zombie VC” s**tstorm & Crunchbase data
  • TechStars expands by merging with existing programs

Seed-DB Investor Graph — EXCLUSIVE first look

I’m pleased to announce the launch of the Seed-DB Investor Graph! The Investor Graph shows the web of VC and angel funding, by detailing who has funded which accelerators/companies as well as which round (seed, a, b, etc.) and when the funding occurred.

Diving into the data of individual investors, you can see that Google Ventures has funded companies from a number of different accelerators. In contrast, Andreessen Horowitz generally only funds companies from Y Combinator, though with some exceptions.

From a different viewpoint, entrepreneurs might be interested in which investors actually fund companies from different accelerators. (Not just who shows up to the Demo Days, for instance.) In the Investor Graph you can see that Angelpad has a fairly diverse group of investors that have funded their companies. Though I’m not going to name names, this tends to be a very different story for newer/smaller accelerators.

Finally, the individual company pages have now been upgraded to show information on funding rounds. For example, Songkick shows their progression from a Y Combinator investment in 2007 through to further investment by Index Ventures in 2008 and a large investment by Sequoia Capital in 2012. Alexa traffic rank charts and Compete unique visitor charts have been included.

The Investor Graph is still in its earliest stages. There are still some intermittent bugs I’m trying to quash, and there is a lot of functionality and visualization that I could potentially build. But in the spirit of a minimum viable product, please let me know what would be useful to you. (Or if you experience any bugs! Though typically re-loading the page resolves the error.)

“Zombie VC” s**tstorm & Crunchbase data

Danielle Morrill of Referly has recently been on a blogging tear, and in the meantime been kicking up a bit of a s**tstorm in some VC/Angel circles. It all started with her excellent post about zombie startups. (A future project for Seed-DB is to better identify potential dead/zombie startups._

But last week Danielle posted about zombie VC’s which seem to have touched a nerve for two reasons. One — she programatically went through Crunchbase to identify active vs. inactive VC’s. This didn’t work because of Crunchbase’s data, which I’ll discuss further below. Two — she called out the zombie VC’s instead of focusing on the active VC’s. Focusing on the negative just opened her up to further sensationalism, though I’m guessing it certainly drove pageviews!

Through Seed-DB I’ve been deeply enmeshed in Crunchbase data for the past year, so I think I have some unique insights. The fundamental thing about Crunchbase is that:

Crunchbase data is largely accurate, but often incomplete.

Where people have taken the time to contribute information/data, the entries are pretty good. But so, so many companies (even companies with good funding) simply don’t have data in Crunchbase. The biggest sin I’ve seen in Crunchbase data is duplication, of funding rounds, of investors, even companies. For example, Danielle’s company has two entries in Crunchbase, and the active/maintained entry has duplicated funding information which makes it appear that has raised two $1million rounds instead of just one $1million round. For Danielle, when it came time to determine algorithmically which VC’s were “zombie” VCs, the incompleteness of Crunchbase meant that active VC’s were mistakenly identified as “zombies”. But in a brilliant marketing strategy, the sensationalism of the headline and initial results meant that a lot of these VCs were very… motivated… to get in touch with her to correct the results!

Like Danielle, I think Crunchbase is an absolute treasure for the startup community, but data from it needs to be understood in context of “largely accurate, but often incomplete”.

TechStars Expansion

TechStars has been growing since it established itself in Boulder in 2007. However, creating a new program from scratch in a new city certainly requires significant investment, both in cash, facilities and most importantly people. Over the last 3 months, TechStars has expanded in a big way by merging with existing successful seed accelerators; Excelerate Labs is now TechStars Chicago while Springboard is now TechStars London. Expanding this way has interesting benefits for both parties.

Excelerate Labs and Springboard were both running very well-regarded accelerators in Chicago and London/Cambridge, respectively. But with over 150 different accelerators around the world, it’s difficult to rise above the fray. Merging with TechStars linked Excelerate & Springboard to a large and growing brand that can help drive even higher quality dealflow to and through their programs. Additionally, TechStars has developed expertise and an organization that’s engineered to support startups regardless of location or program.

By merging with existing programs, TechStars has removed the risk and limited the investment necessary to expand. Since TechStars runs/fosters the Global Accelerator Network, popular amongst accelerator program administrators, they naturally have developed relationships that will allow them to do this more easily in the future. It is quickly making TechStars a well-known institution around the world, and I’m sure having positive benefits for TechStars dealflow.

I suspect what TechStars is doing now would benefit other accelerator brands as well and we could see a new trend of brand consolidation emerging in the next 1–3 years.

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