Cohort analysis for startups 101

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Most of the times a VC fund is considering an investment in a startup it will ask for a cohort analysis. Such an analysis is comparing different groups of users throughout time. As a company is building its product, it is constantly testing new strategies. Customers that start using an application in the first week after its launch will have a completely different experience from users that start using an application later in time. Cohort analysis aims to help entrepreneurs (and potential investors) to understand whether a company really improves throughout time. Lets look at a specific example and assume that we are analysing an e-commerce site. This website has 500 new buyers every month. In the majority of the pitch decks that are shared with VCs you would find a figure like the one below. engpost1 The first impression from the figure above is that this specific e-commerce business is developing very well. The reality is though that these numbers don’t necessarily say a lot. Even looking at the average money spent per customer doesn’t give a clear picture. engpost2 The reason that these figures don’t give a clear understanding of the development of the business is that it is mixing revenues from clients that shopped for the first time in January, with revenues from clients that shopped for the first time in May. Lets look at two different scenarios regarding how the revenues per customer cohort could be in reality. Both scenarios would result in a figure like the one above. But as will be made clear, these represent two totally different scenarios regarding the development of the company.

Scenario 1 engpost3 When rearranging the data, we would end up with a figure like the one below, which is a typical figure used in a cohort analysis. engpost4 From the table above we can observe the following:

  • Clients that bought for the first time in January, spent on average $10 in January, $8 in their second month (February), $3 in their third month etc. Clients that bought for the first time in February, spent $11 in their first month, $8 in their second month, $7 in the third etc.
  • We can observe a trend that clients spend on average more money during their first month throughout time. This would probably mean that either the quality of the products or user experience is improving.
  • Clients that bought for the first time in January are spending only a small amount 5 months later.

Scenario 2 engpost5 When rearranging the data in a similar way as before we end up with the following table. engpost6 This table is showing a different story.

  • Clients who started buying in January are still spending a lot of money.
  • Clients who started buying in February are spending less money than in Scenario 1.
  • Clients of March and February are almost at the same spending levels.
  • There is a trend of clients spending less money on average during their first month throughout time. Revenues remain at high levels because January clients are loyal customers. Still, there is no clear improvement for new clients.

Cohort analysis would give entrepreneurs and potential investors a clear overview of a company’s progress. One could create this type of analysis for revenues, users, average revenue per user, expenses or any other metric. Since it is an analysis that VCs like a lot, entrepreneurs that are fundraising should be aware of it. You can find more information on cohort analyses, the correct way to read and interpret the and some templates in the following links.

Cohort analysis για startups με απλα λογια

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Ένα απο τα πιο σημαντικά εργαλεία ανάλυσης ενός startup, το οποίο έχω την εντύπωση πως δεν χρησιμοποιείται αρκετά είναι το Cohort Analysis.Μια τέτοια ανάλυση συγκρίνει διαφορετικές ομάδες χρηστών στο χρόνο. Τις περισσότερες φορές που ένας VC σκέφτεται να επενδύσει σε μια εταιρία θα ζητήσει να δεί κάποιο cohort analysis. Όμως μια τέτοια ανάλυση μπορεί να δώσει πολύ σημαντικές πληροφορίες και στους founders μιας εταιρίας.

Καθώς μια εταιρία φτιάχνει το προϊόν της, δοκιμάζει συνεχώς νέες στρατηγικές. Οι χρήστες που ξεκινούν να χρησιμοποιούν την εφαρμογή την πρώτη εβδομάδα έχουν μια τελείως διαφορετική εμπειρία απο τους χρήστες που ξεκινούν να χρησιμοποιούν την εφαρμογή αργότερα. Ο σκοπός του cohort analysis είναι να βοηθήσει τον επιχειρηματία (ή τον πιθανό επενδυτή) να κατανοήσει αν βελτιώνεται πραγματικά η εταιρία στο χρόνο.

Ας δούμε ένα παράδειγμα. Ας υποθέσουμε πως αναλύουμε ένα e-commerce site. Αυτή η ιστοσελίδα έχει κάθε μήνα 500 νέους χρήστες, οι οποίοι ξοδεύουν κάποια χρήματα.

Συνήθως στις εταιρικές παρουσιάσεις βρίσκεται μια εικόνα σαν την παρακάτω.

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Απο την παραπάνω εικόνα η πρώτη εντύπωση που σχηματίζει κάποιος είναι πως η συγκεκριμένη επιχείρηση έχει μια πολύ καλή πρόοδο. Η πραγματικότητα όμως είναι πως δεν μπορούμε να μάθουμε πολλά απο τα συγκεκριμένα νούμερα. Δεν μπορούμε να έχουμε μια ξεκάθαρη εικόνα ακόμα και αν δούμε το μέσο όρο που ξοδεύει ο κάθε πελάτης.

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Ο λόγος που οι συγκεκριμένες εικόνες δεν μας δείχνουν μια ξεκάθαρη εικόνα είναι πως μπλέκουμε τα έσοδα απο πελάτες που ήρθαν πρώτη φορά στο site τον Ιανουάριο με τα έσοδα απο πελάτες που ήρθαν πρώτη φορά το Μάιο.

Ας δούμε τώρα δύο διαφορετικά σενάρια σχετικά με το πως θα μπορούσαν τα έσοδα ανα customer cohort να είναι στην πραγματικότητα. Και τα δύο σενάρια θα μας έδιναν μια εικόνα σαν την παραπάνω. Αλλά όπως θα γίνει ξεκάθαρο, πρόκειται για δύο τελείως διαφορετικά σενάρια. Είναι προφανές πως τα νούμερα που παρουσιάζονται παρακάτω είναι υποθετικά και δεν ανταποκρίνονται σε κάποια πραγματική εταιρία.

 

Σενάριο 1

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Ανακατανέμοντας λίγο τα δεδομένα καταλήγουμε στο παρακάτω γράφημα, που σηνήθως χρησιμοποιείται στο cohort analysis.

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Απο αυτόν τον πίνακα μπορούμε να παρατηρήσουμε τα εξής:

  • Οι πελάτες που αγόρασαν πρώτη φορά τον Ιανουάριο, ξόδεψαν κατα μέσο όρο 10 ευρώ τον Ιανουάριο, 8 ευρώ το δεύτερο τους μήνα (Φεβρουάριο), 3 ευρώ τον τρίτο τους μήνα κ.ο.κ. Οι πελάτες που αγόρασαν πρώτη φορά το Φεβρουάριο ξόδεωαν 11 ευρώ τον πρώτο τους μήνα, 8 ευρώ το δεύτερο, 7 τον τρίτο κ.ο.κ.
  • Υπάρχει μια τάση οι πελάτες να ξοδεύουν κατα μέσο όρο περισσότερα χρήματα τον πρώτο τους μήνα όσο περνάει ο χρόνος. Αυτό σημαίνει πως κατα πάσα πιθανότητα η ποιότητα των προϊόντων, ή το User Experience βελτιώνονται.
  • Οι πελάτες που αγόρασαν πρώτη φορά τον Ιανουάριο, 5 μήνες μετά ξοδεύουν ελάχιστα χρήματα κατα μέσο όρο.

 

Σενάριο 2

post5

Κάνοντας την ίδια ανακατανομή καταλήγουμε στον αντίστοιχο πίνακα.

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Στο συγκεκριμένο πίνακα βλέπουμε μια διαφορετική ιστορία.

  • Οι πελάτες που ξεκίνησαν να αγοράζουν τον Ιανουάριο ξοδεύουν ακόμα αρκετά χρήματα.
  • Οι πελάτες που ξεκίνησαν να αγοράζουν το Φεβρουάριο ξοδεύουν λιγότερα χρήματα απο το σενάριο 1.
  • Οι πελάτες του Μαρτίου και του Φεβρουαρίου βρίσκονται πλεον σχεδόν στα ίδια επίπεδα.
  • Υπάρχει μια τάση οι πελάτες να ξοδεύουν κατα μέσο όρο λιγότερα χρήματα τον πρώτο τους μήνα όσο περνάει ο χρόνος. Τα έσοδα παραμένουν υψηλά επειδή οι πελάτες που ξεκίνησαν να αγοράζουν τον Ιανουάριο είναι πιστοί πελάτες της εταιρίας, αλλά δεν υπάρχει κάποια εμφανής βελτίωση στους νέους πελάτες.

Το Cohort analysis δίνει στους επιχειρηματίες και στους πιθανούς επενδυτές μια πολύ καλή εικόνα της προόδου μιας εταιρίας. Cohort analysis μπορεί να γίνει για τα έσοδα, τον αριθμό των χρηστών, το μέσο όρο των εσόδων, τα έξοδα ή για οποιαδήποτε άλλο metric. Είναι μια ανάλυση που οι περισσότεροι VC αγαπάνε, οπότε είναι καλό να είναι προετοιμασμένοι όσοι επιχειρηματίες αναζητούν VC funding.

Μπορείτε να βρείτε περισσότερες πληροφορίες για τα cohort analyses, πως να τα διαβάζετε αλλά και κάποια templates στα παρακάτω links.

 

200 milliseconds – The lifetime of a programmatic ad

Lately I have been looking into the AdTech space. One of the biggest innovations of the latest years in the space is Programmatic Advertising and Real Time Bidding (RTB). Real Time Bidding in essence means that advertisers have the opportunity to bid for an ad impression (to show one of their ads in an internet user) in real time.

A whole fairly complex ecosystem exists with numerous players. I plan to write about this ecosystem in a future post. But anyone interested could find more info here.

My point for this post is what happens behind the scenes in the 200 milliseconds that it takes to load a page in your browsers. In this extremely short time period a website that you are visiting sends a signal, multiple advertisers place a bid in an ad exchange (like a virtual stock exchange but for ads), the highest bidder is chosen and places their ad in your browser by the time the webpage has loaded. It is fairly impressing.

You can see a very nice video of this process below.

 

Joining Prime Ventures

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I realized that I wanted to become a VC during my first year in The Netherlands. I wanted it even before that. I wanted it since I was in engineering school. But I just hadn’t heard the term “Venture Capital” back then.

The moment I realized that I wanted to become a VC, I realized that there was one single company that I wanted to join. Prime Ventures. The leading Dutch Venture Capital firm, that has backed companies like ebuddy, takeaway.com, layar, liquavista etc. Over the past years I have been visiting very often the Prime website. Reading about updates in the portfolio, looking for new openings.

Since the beginning of May, I took the next step in my career and joined the Prime Ventures team, as an Associate. Prime is currently investing its 4th fund, which closed recently at €170 million. With almost €500 million under management, Prime is one of the largest Pan European Growth and Venture Capital investors. We invest in high growth, promising European technology companies.

The first days have been very exciting! I love the team, the company and the job. We have an amazing office in the centre of Amsterdam, next to Museumplein. From there we are looking to back the best entrepreneurs across Europe.

Please feel free to send over your ideas. I’d be more than keen to receive your suggestions on interesting companies we should look at.

Freelancer marketplaces are here to stay

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Online marketplaces are redefining the business models of the web. There is a big discussion in the tech ecosystem on the unbundling of Craigslist, after a 2010 post from Andrew Parker, a Boston based VC with Spark Capital. The post featured a chart highlighting the different startups attacking various parts of Craigslist. The chart was updated in 2012 by former Spark analyst David Haber expanding the list of companies to more than 80. Furthermore, CBInsights updated again the chart in January 2015, coming up with some very interesting insights that you can find here.

The main conclusions were: “Flash forward to 2015 and the verticalization of web marketplaces has accelerated substantially. Funding activity to Haber’s original list of companies has skyrocketed. Collectively, the 82 companies on Haber’s list have raised $8.87B in funding and have notched 13 exits to date as well as the merger of Elance and ODesk. Four of the companies have gone public including Lending Club, Care.com, Chegg and Castlight Health for aggregate exit value of $8.4B.  “

Freelancer marketplaces compose a significant part of these companies. The joint company Elance-oDesk is arguably the leader in the space with approx. $750M in gross revenues. Its highly anticipated IPO is expected to make it the next unicorn.

But Elance-oDesk is not the only participant in the space. Here is why I believe that Freelancer marketplaces are a very interesting market that is here to stay.

  • This is a big market that is experiencing rapid growth. A study estimates that approximately 25% of the US workforce today is freelancers and this number is expected to reach 50% of the workforce by 2020. That would be more than 80 million people by 2020. In terms of value, online  freelancer marketplaces are forecasted to reach $20 – 40B.
  • The global economy in general is moving to a contractor or freelancer workforce.
  • Both employees and employers are looking for the flexibility that such a platform is bringing. The ability to find exactly the talent you need for exactly the job you need them, being completely specialized without having to pay a premium long term for a full time employee.
  • Underlying drivers behind this expected growth are: demand by smaller enterprises, demand outside the US, demand by larger enterprises, cost savings by cross border labor arbitrage.
  • The biggest driver in the following years, I expect to be the demand of larger enterprises. We know that large enterprises are shifting their budget.
  • On the other side there are also conditions that could slow this growth, like regulation and compliance requirements. But the traditional staffing industry has proven that there are multiple ways to address and co-exist with these requirements.

Some companies operating in the space are:

Disclaimer: I am currently working at Randstad Innovation Fund, which has invested in twago, the leading European Freelancer marketplace.

Setting The Deal – Athens 2015

A few days ago I traveled to Athens to moderate the Setting The Deal event during Panorama Epixeirimatikotitas, one of the  biggest events on entrepreneurship in Athens. It was a great event with a very interesting discussion and interaction.

Below you can see a description as well as some pictures from the event.

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With over 250 attendees the first Setting the Deal Athens took place on March 21, 2015 during Panorama of Entrepreneurship and Career Development, the city’s biggest annual event that brings together the world of Students, Universities, Entrepreneurship, Corporates and Startups.

Setting the Deal is a unique format created by Startupbootcamp HighTechXL, that educates entrepreneurs on Venture Capital and term sheets.

The first Setting the Deal Athens was organised by Startupper.gr, the leading source of original information about tech entrepreneurship in Greece, Startupbootcamp HighTechXL and Panorama and featured Spyros Trachanis, partner at Odyssey JEREMIE Partners, John Papadakis, co-founder and CEO at Pollfish, Nayia Antoniou, founder and managing partner at Nayia Antoniou & Associates, Nick Kalliagkopoulos, Analyst at Randstad Innovation Fund and Demetrios Pogkas, Startups & Entrepreneurship Editor at Startupper.gr.

First Nick Kalliagkopoulos explained how a Venture Capital term sheet is structured and explained 4 different terms on which our guests negotiated: valuation, liquidation preferences, managers’ stock vesting and protective provision.

Investor Spyros Trachanis, entrepreneur John Papadakis and legal advisor Nayia Antoniou were given a virtual company scenario and a virtual term sheet based on NVCA standards and for an hour negotiated on the 4 terms, some times reaching a mutual agreement and other times leaving the agreement for a follow-up talk.

Eventually the audience after learning how a Venture Capital deal works had the chance to ask questions and get more insights from our invited guests.

You can find the first Setting the Deal Athens document (Term Sheet Booklet, the Imaginary Company Presentation and the Basic Terms Explanation Presentation) on our SlideShare page (http://www.slideshare.net/SettingtheDealAthens) and follow us on our social media pages:https://www.facebook.com/SettingTheDealAthens, https://twitter.com/hashtag/SetTheDealAth.

 

 

5 trends on VC activity in 2014

CB Insights recently published its free 2014 US VC year in review. I suggest that everybody subscribes and gets the report, as it contains some very interesting insights. Furthermore, at the same time various organizations are publishing some interesting reports. One that caught my attention is EY’s Adapting and evolving, Global venture capital insights and trends 2014.

Below you can see 5 trends on VC activity that were of particular interest.

  • 2014 saw the highest funding since the internet bubble in 2001. $47.3 billion were invested across 3.617 deals. This is up 62% compared to 2013 where $29.2 billion were invested across 3.354 deals.

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  • 2014 saw the highest number of seed VC deals since 2009, totaling 976. In terms of dollars invested, these reached $1.33 billion. The average seed round size reached the highest levels in the past four years, at $1.9 million.
  •  Overall VC funding to the mobile sector was up 109% vs. 2013, reaching $7.8 billion. This number was mainly driven by the mega deals of Uber, Snapchat, Instacart and square.
  • Most VCs prefer to make investments at the second/later stage, when companies are partially de-risked.
  • Investments in US present a 50% – 90% higher median round size compared to Europe. The median amount raised prior to IPO by US businesses in 2013 was $100.9 M, while the same number for European companies was $26.4 M. The median time to IPO by US businesses has been 5 years, while the time to IPO for European businesses reached 6.3 years. Therefore we see that US companies receive higher investments, at higher valuations but exit earlier than their European counterparts.

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Eindhoven continues to be the dream location for high tech companies.. HighTechXL 2014 was just amazing..

I might have left from HighTechXL, but I am still closely following the developments, since I truly believe in the team, the program and the ecosystem.

As I wrote last year in a post that got featured in VentureBeat, there are many reasons that Eindhoven is THE place for a High Tech company. You can find the original post named ‘8+1 reasons Eindhoven is a dream location for a High Tech company’ here. But if I wrote this post again I would put much more emphasis on HighTechXL and the success of the companies that have participated there.

This year already 4 companies received funding; the most impressive is that 2 of them received investments on stage during demo day. In front of more than 1.000 people, these 2 companies signed an agreement with a Chinese investor on stage during the demo day. More on the investments, as well as on demo day here. Unfortunately I was not able to be there, since I was travelling at the same time as the demo day. Still, I can’t but feel extremely proud that I was part of this fantastic team!  

Thoughts on the way back from NY

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I wrote a post when I was going to NY and I am writing another one as I am flying back. After spending 4 days in NY these are my main thoughts .
  • Next time I go to NY I should also spend the weekend there
  • Next time I go to NY I should make sure the weather is better.

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And now focusing on the most important staff
  • Although it is not San Fransisco, New York has a booming Tech Scene. Some of the world’s best investors are located there (like USV) and some of the world’s best accelerators and incubators (like TechStars).
  • Especially on the HRTech side, New York has a lot of startups and Talent Tech Labs, an incubator / accelerator focusing entirely on this segment.
  • How will the future of work look like? Are the online freelancer marketplaces going to prevail in any type of business? Do you see in 5 or 10 years also the high profile white collar jobs contracted via these marketplaces? How far is the day where one would hire investment bankers from a marketplace like Elance-oDesk, twago etc?
  • Is Uber’s model going to work in every industry? With our mobile phones we all are a node in the network. But which are the industries that this model can really disrupt and where does it make no sense?
  • Everybody is talking about the trends of today in the industry. But what are the trends of the next 10 years?
  • Too many people talk about the employeefication for software. This practically means that if you have an enterprise software, you can offer it to employees for free, try to establish an engaged user base and then charge the company to use it. Can this model work?
At some point in the future I might try to tackle some of these aspects one by one. Depending on time and appetite. Please keep sending me emails on topics you would like to see in this blog.

Is Europe anti-inovation?

I am currently on a plane, travelling to New York for a short trip to meet interesting and innovative startups. In order to prepare for this 8 hour flight from Amsterdam to New York I downloaded some videos with interesting discussions that took place in 2014 to watch. One of the videos I watched is the discussion that Fred Wilson (from avc.com) and Loic Le Meur had during LeWeb 2014 in Paris. It is a very interesting  45 minute video that I highly recommend to every entrepreneur, (aspire) VC or tech enthusiast that you can find here.

In this discussion Fred Wilson is talking about his view on the biggest trends of our age. He discusses in detail the sharing economy, the latest valuations, the healthcare sector and wearables. Being one of the top VCs worldwide, he also openly discusses about his biggest mistakes, like passing on Uber and Airbnb (passing on Airbnb is a very nice story that you can read on his blog).

What captured my attention, was his phrase “one of the issues in Europe is that leaders in Europe, governmental leaders are anti-innovation”. That is an interesting approach. As I come from Greece, I still can’t forget the support that the ex development minister gave to taxi unions instead of Uber. Of course I am sure that Greece is not the example Fred Wilson had on his mind. He was particularly referring to Angela Merkel’s opinions on net neutrality.

During the same talk he mentioned twice that he would love to have the opportunity to have a brief discussion with her, as she is the most powerful political leader in Europe on net neutrality and also technology and the future. As far as I know, this meeting never took place. And personally I believe that it is a shame that there are not many discussions like this in Europe. I would love to know that (top) European politicians are indeed exchanging ideas with some of the top venture investors in the world. Not only the ‘local VC association’, but with really successful people that operate in the core of innovation.

Fred Wilson also mentioned that he spends 15 – 20% of his time talking with government officials and regulators. He believes it is important to discuss on technology and where it is going, in order to get them thinking out of the box.

I know there are some meetings taking place. A few years ago, when I was still working at Rockstart accelerator I remember that we had invited Steve Blank for a discussion. And he had mentioned that he had some meetings with Dutch government officials. Of course The Netherlands is not a representative example of the rest of Europe, as it is considered to be one of the most innovative economies.

But I wish this would happen more. I wish government officials and regulators would take the time to discuss with the successful people of the industry on the trends and problems. Because the current recipe to solve problems is to throw more money at them and I am not convinced that blindly throwing money in innovation related companies will transform a country or a region to a big innovation hub.

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