Tech Leaders Gather at StrictlyVC to Discuss How to Scale Startups

The tech industry is an ever-changing and competitive landscape, and the ability to innovate and scale is essential to any startup that seeks success and longevity.

Despite the contentious nature of tech, many founders, chief executives, and venture capitalists look to each other for insights and intelligence on how to grow their companies. One of the more popular ways to get those insights in Silicon Valley is to attend the StrictlyVC Insider event. 

Strictly VC — started by Connie Loizos, long-time TechCrunch contributor and VC insider — brings together entrepreneurs, founders, C-suite execs, and venture capitalists from around the Bay Area to discuss what’s new in tech and VC funding.

The first event of 2019 — co-sponsored by Forge — was held at Cloudfare’s San Francisco-based headquarters. Forge CEO Kelly Rodriques kicked off the evening with an introduction to Forge and discussed how the financial firm is well-positioned to help companies access the persistent liquidity they need to maintain control of their financial success.

Rodriques’ talk was followed by a series of Q&As featuring tech leaders and venture capitalists such as Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO of Aurora Tech; Jessica Verrilli, Fredrique Dame and Laura Melahn, who are all partners of Google Ventures; Howie Liu, co-founder and CEO of Airtable; and Mamoon Hamid and Ilya Fushman, both partners at Kleiner Perkins.

CEOs, VCs Focus on Strong Financials and Building Teams to Drive Innovation

While each speaker had diverse perspectives on what it takes to start and scale a company, they all agreed that taking time to build great teams who can then improve a product offering is paramount to success.

Chris Urmson of Aurora Tech

“We have these great people that are incredible at what they do and know how to get [the company] to the finish line,” said Chris Urmson of Aurora.

Loizos pointed out that Aurora’s investors and partners must be patient and let these teams build the product as well as innovate and expand the self-driving technology to drive long-term success. 

With that said, the strategy to focus on building world-class teams who can create a solid product has caught the attention of additional investors. Aurora raised $530 million in Series B funding as of February 7, 2019, bringing their total funding round to $620 million to date.

GV Partner Jessica Verrilli

Broadly across GV, the firm is looking to invest in companies that have solid, diverse, inclusive teams. “Creating an inclusive workplace is super important, said GV partner Jessica Verrilli. “When we fund companies we need to ask about this stuff [inclusive and equitable workplaces]. I think this is an incredibly important topic.”  

Howie Liu, the CEO of Airtable, said that he initially focused on shoring up ample investment in his company to have more runway to create an innovative and useful product.

During his interview, Liu mentioned that his team “had a huge advantage in having more capital than what was needed. In our early days, we had investor updates that said we had eight-plus years of runway.”

Airtable CEO Howie Liu

Liu added that the runway allowed his team to focus on building the vision of the company and the product since revenue growth is related to the health of the company. As a result, there are 80,000-plus companies on Airtable and the company has raised more than $170 million in total funding to date — making them one of the top private companies in the Bay Area.

What’s more, the long runway can insulate Airtable in the event of a recession. The subject of an economic downturn came up during the discussion and how startups can survive a weak economy. 

“We certainly don’t wish recession on anyone, but the reality is we’ve always had this long runway ahead of us. Recently, we’ve been able to sustain our operations without external capital. It frees up the mental capacity to build our product,” added Liu.

The Path to Success is to Stay Private Longer

Neither Ursmon nor Liu discussed an exit strategy or making a public offering. Both CEOs appeared focused on remaining private and leveraging investments to drive innovation and build their business without public-market pressure.

Many startups and late-stage companies are staying private longer — up to 11-plus years — to refine their product suite or business model. However, private companies still need access to liquidity.

Forge can help companies and their employees get access to liquidity to grow their business and obtain top talent. Additionally, Forge can facilitate global relationships and unlock institutional capital resources. Visit Forgeglobal.com to fuel your growth and innovation, without compromising control.