Meet Nicki Boyd of VersaMe, a Silicon Valley-based startup. We sat down to speak with her about her entrepreneurial journey and how she and her two co-founders founded VersaMe, a wearable tech company. VersaMe means talk to me and we talk to Boyd about their first product -Starling.  This is the first time Boyd is working in a tech startup and that too a hardware one, which has its own set of challenges. She shares how they started developing their Starling product out of a Sharpie pen cap before graduating to a 3D printed one and then brought in an industrail designer to finish their product.

Starling targets new-born babies and helps develop their brain. “Think of it like a Fitbit for words,” is how Boyd describes their product. 80% of a new-born baby’s brain development takes place in the first 4 years of its life points out Boyd. The way Starling works is the baby wears it and Starling counts the number of words they hear and gives feedback to the parents. Starling is the first wearable tech that tracks your word and targets the brain development of kids in their first 1,000 days is how Boyd put it.

Boyd studied phycology at Oxford University and worked in the world of private equity in London for a few years. And then she relocated to Silicon Valley to pursue her MBA at Stanford University, which is where she met her co-founders Jon and Chris Boggiano. The Boggianos studied at West Point and served in the army before they began their entrepreneurial journey.




Raising Money and Valuations in Silicon Valley

April is certainly been a busy month for startups and investors. As you know investments are no longer in the $10-15 million category, they appear to be in the $70-100 million category with valuations pegged in billions of dollars. Here is a sample of companies that raised fund in the last few days.

Docker, an open source platform company announced it raised $95 million. Illumio, a security company raised $100 million, while Sprig, a delivery company raised $45 million. LendingHome, a mortgage lending startup raised $70 million. It is not just hardware and software companies raising money, but also companies like Eaze, an online medical  marijuana delivery startup. Eaze raised $10 million in its series A. What is interesting is that SnoopDog, the rap singer was part of this investment fund through his company Casa Verde Capital

It is not just startups and companies raising money, but also venture capital firms. NEA is raising the largest VC fund $2.4 billion  and $350 million side fund for investing in later-stage  portfolio companies according to Dan Primack, who broke the news. Menlo Ventures raised $400 million to invest in tech startups.

Naturally when you read about the amount of money raised and the valuation of these companies, especially those in the Unicorn category you begin to wonder if we are in the middle of a bubble and if that bubble is about to burst?  The murmur about when this bubble will burst appears to have grown louder. Many of these companies may turn out to be dead unicorns says Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital. Here is how he described it in his blog post in February 2015.

We are in a risk bubble. Companies are taking on huge burn rates to justify spending the capital they are raising in these enormous financings, putting their long-term viability in jeopardy.

Setback is the term Sir Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital used to describe the current state of affairs in an interview with the The Times (subscription link). ““Several years ago the atmosphere wasn’t as euphoric as it is today. Even the zaniest ideas can attract money,” Moritz says.

Not everybody is on this tech bubble boat. Take Dave McClure of 500 Startups, a seed fund and an accelerator based in Mountain View. In his recent article with an irreverent and saucy title “Bubble, My Ass: Some Unicorns Might Be Overvalued, But All Dinosaurs Gonna Die,” McClure points out public companies are over valued and fail to innovate and writes:

 almost every Dinosaur Company is extremely vulnerable to a Startup Unicorn eating their lunch (stated so eloquently this past week by none other than JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon).

So, who is to blame for the current state of valuations? Is Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz to blame ? That was the question Primack of Fortune asked Andressen last week in San Francisco. Here is what Andreessen responded:

I can only quote the great thinkers, James Franco and Seth Rogen in The Interview: I believe they were simply peanut butter and jealous. So — in all seriousness, I actually think we weren’t overpaying. 

You can read rest of the interview with Andreessen here.

Did HBO’s Silicon Valley nail the current mood and trend in Silicon Valley in Episode One from season two that aired this past Sunday? It certainly looked like it. Mike Judge and his team brilliantly capture all those unanswered questions in your mind about how does this whole thing work? Yes, I know it is a TV show, but you do get an idea of this whole cycle of raising money and valuations.



Video: CollegeFeed’s Aman Khanna

Mountain View-based startup CollegeFeed matches recent graduates with prospective employers. Think of it as social networking site is how Aman Khanna, co-founder of the startup puts it. Founded in 2013 by Sanjeev Agarwal and  Khanna, the startup raised $1.8 million in funding led by Accel Partners.

We sat down to talk to Khanna about Collegefeed and what propelled him to take the plunge right after he completed his MBA from Stanford Business School. How is CollegeFeed different from other companies in this space? Prior to this Khanna worked in a series of companies as an engineer in India and the US. This is Khanna’s first shot at entrepreneurship.