'I Just Really Liked Their Vibe:' Serial Entrepreneur Brian Lee on How He Landed L.A.'s Biggest Exit and What Drives Him Crazy About Other VC's
As one of the founding fathers of the L.A. tech scene, Brian Lee is used to having entrepreneurs pitch him on ideas. What does he look for? It's not so much a business plan or even an idea. He says he goes off a vibe.
That's how he ended up being the first investor in the deal-finding browser add-on Honey, which was bought late last year by PayPal for $4 billion in what ranks as the biggest acquisition L.A. has seen to date.
- After WeWork, VC's noticed a major shift in how founders were pitching their companies. Growth and costly customer acquisition strategies are out while profitability is in.
- Some VC's, scared off by high valuations, are holding back their dry powder waiting for the market to cool. For instance, PLUS Capital's team compiled a list last year of companies it wanted to invest in if only the price was cheaper.
- VC's are excited about employees leaving SpaceX and starting new companies. "That talent is going to be game changing."
As the new decade begins, Southern California's tech scene continues to sizzle. More than 7,000 investors have poured money into 4,768 startups, ranging from a unicorn that aspires to have scooters whizzing through every city on earth to one that has ambitions to colonize Mars to the thousands of smaller companies just trying to get to their Series A, according to data analyzed by dot.LA.
"No one is doubting L.A.'s place in the tech ecosystem anymore," said Arteen Arabshahi, vice-president at WndrCo. "People realize L.A. is meaningful."
Last year ended with what is arguably the most consequential local acquisition to date when Paypal bought Honey for $4 billion. According to Pitchbook, L.A. VC exit deal flow hit $8.4 billion last year, the second highest amount ever after 2017, when Snap went public.
"I don't think Los Angeles will ever be Silicon Valley," said Brian Lee, co-founder and managing director of BAM Ventures. "We don't have grandparents named Fairchild Semiconductor and we don't have aunts and uncles named Google and Yahoo. But we are growing and we do have some great businesses being started here."