In addition to some fun interviews coming up over the next couple weeks (including today’s with Jonathan Hsu of Tribe Capital), here’s something fun that I wrote a couple months back on a long plane ride and never got around to posting. Don’t read too much into it. A story’s just a story. :)
A Midsummer Night’s Term Sheet, by Alex Danco
Cast of characters:
Alaina: Founder/CEO of Wirefly, a startup about to raise their Series A.
Mia: Founder/CEO of Titanium, also a startup about to raise their Series A, and good friend of Alaina.
Ed: VC at Northstar Ventures.
Sander: VC at Symmetry Capital Partners
Eugene: Seed investor in Titanium and friend of Ed.
Quentin: Co-founder of Frisbee.
Fanny: Co-founder of Frisbee.
Will: Revered tech industry figure and husband-to-be of Renée.
Renée: Revered tech industry figure and bride-to-be of Will.
Scene 1: Wirefly office
Wirefly all-hands meeting. It’s upbeat. Alaina, the founder, ushers in Ed, a VC from Northstar Ventures.
Alaina: Hey Wireflies!
Ed, one beat behind: Hey Wireflies!
Alaina: Before our all hands today we have a very special guest this morning. Some of you may already know Ed, but for people who’ve just joined the company recently, Ed is a partner at Northstar Ventures who’s been friends with us since the very early days. He’s coming around the office today to say hi.
Ed: Thanks so much Alaina, and it’s so great to get to meet all of you in person. We’ve heard so many great things about Wirefly for a while now, and it’s great to put faces to names.
Alaina: It’s been what, two years since Demo Day?
Ed: Two and a half, almost.
They both laugh.
Ed: Well it’s about time. Ed turns to crowd. Let me ask you something. How many people here have been with Wirefly since 2017?
A handful of people raise their hands. A few cheers.
Ed: How about, who joined in 2018?
Several more people raise their hands. Clapping.
Ed: How about just this year?
About half the room raises their hands. Louder cheering.
Ed: OK thanks. Thanks! So let me tell you something. You obviously don’t need to hear this one more time, but I’m going to tell you anyway. You’re all here, or at least I think you’re all here (laughs) because you believe in Wirefly, you believe in the mission, and you come here each morning to go change the world. And I just want to say… (pause for one beat too long) … that that’s awesome!
Cheers from Alaina and from the crowd.
Ed: I’m getting carried away here, and I have to leave in a second to make it back to partners meeting. But just remember, a startup is a journey. One of my mentors told me once; startups are like ship voyages to far off lands, like in early times. You’ll leave port, at demo day (looking at Alaina) when we met! And you’ll be on a journey, alone at sea for a while, with only your navigation and your conviction to guide you. That’s it! You’re gonna have doubts. You’re gonna wonder if you should just go work for Google or something. But that solitary struggle, that’s the journey. You’re on a boat. Hesitant pause. So it’s so great to see all hands on deck here! Keep up the great work everybody!
Alaina gives him an awkward high five. Ed exits.
Scene 2: Blue Bottle in San Francisco near South Park
Quentin, in line, sees his former coworker Fanny sitting at one of the tables.
Quentin: Fan, my dude! What’s going on?
Fanny: Not much buddy. Living the dream.
Quentin: You still vesting? Aren’t you past your cliff?
Fanny: Yeah, April. I’m in the clear. Thinking of leaving to go out on my own but I’m not sure for what, really. Might just see if someone will give me a term sheet to just go mess around.
Quentin: That’s funny cause I was actually thinking something sorta similar. You know how Will and Renée are getting married Saturday, yeah?
Fanny: Well yeah. Everyone in all of tech knows that. Literally everybody is going to be there.
Quentin: Mmmmmhmm. Ok uh, so between you and me, I actually wasn’t invited. I’m trying to figure out a way to get in.
Fanny: Really? Heh, sucks to be you.
Quentin: Who invited you?
Fanny: Ok, well no one invited me either, but still.
Quentin: Fan, dude, this is exactly where I was going. We should be founders. I mean, founders together. If we’re founders, we’ll for sure get invited. If you’re a founder they’ll let you into anywhere. Plus, when we’re at the party, we’ll be able to raise money. Everyone’s gonna be all drunk and posture-ey in front of each other. It’s the perfect place to get seed commitments.
Fanny: Yeah yeah. I’m down. I just don’t really know what we should do.
Quentin: Oh whatever man. I've got lots of ideas. That’s not what’s important. Ideas are cheap. First we’ve got to get some traction. That’s what investors want to see. Then we’ll worry about our pitch.
Scene 3: On the Embarcadero
Alaina and Mia are running together.
Alaina, visibly worried: I need reassurance that I’m doing the right thing by just going with Ed and not talking to other Series A investors. I haven’t reached out to anyone else. Am I making a huge mistake?
Mia: I’m sure you’re doing the right thing. You always do. You’ve always spoken really highly of Ed, ever since when we did Demo Day together, although I don’t know him that well. You’re nothing if not consistent, you know.
Alaina: Honestly Mia, he’s so great. He’s been so helpful, not just like prospective investor helpful but really helpful. He’s one of the only people I actually want in my cap table; he’s so helpful with numbers and helping everything make sense in terms of how much to raise and what to spend it on. I really want him as our lead investor. It’s all I want out of this fundraising process.
Mia: That’s great! You know I’m super happy for you. I hope I find someone I have that much confidence in for our Series A. You know how they all are.
Alaina: Sure do.
Scene 4: Blue Bottle
Mia is with Eugene, one of her seed investors.
Eugene: So if I remember correctly, today we were supposed to talk more about Series A options for you. Yes?
Mia: I’ve been working on my deck and by tomorrow I’ll have our growth numbers for this month. They’ll be good. What I need your help with is getting straight all the relationships between these VCs. You said that Ed from Northstar Ventures and Sander from Symmetry Capital were good candidates to talk to and I know there’s some backstory between them.
Eugene: Right. So around ten years ago, just after the financial crisis if I remember correctly, Ed and Sander both joined Symmetry as junior people around the same time. Sander had sold his business Green Spot to Capital One right at the top before everything crashed, and after lounging around for a couple years he came in as an EIR but impressed everybody so much they made him principal within a couple months. Ed meanwhile was this whiz analyst from Sloan that could do no wrong numbers-wise and had just joined the firm. The two of them were an awesome pair. They even brought in Travis Kalanick when he was pitching Uber Cab and wrote this great memo on why they wanted to do the deal. The GPs passed, but the memo got emailed around and, well, you know.
Mia: I thought they didn’t like each other?
Eugene: That’s more of a recent thing, I don’t really know what happened. They both really looked up to each other and learned from each other. When Ed got hired by Northstar as a partner, Sander threw the party. I think the turning point was when they did the Apper.io Series B together; with Ed and Sander as co-leads for the two firms. People noticed when Apper got that huge markup 10 months later-
Mia: Sorry, what’s a Markup?
Eugene: It’s when a VC goes out to raise a new fund and needs to show IRR, so they get their friends at other firms to invest into their portfolio companies at a huge valuation but with intensely structured terms. Everybody wins: founders get that Unicorn title, original VC gets to raise their new fund, the new VC gets attention plus a whole lot of downside protection. I mean, except the LPs. In this case, for example, Apper got to be this paper unicorn in order to help juice the numbers for Northstar Fund 4.
Mia: Does that mean the fund won’t do well?
Eugene: Look, I don’t know offhand how any of their funds are doing. They’re probably doing fine, I dunno. But I did notice that that was a real turning point in the relationship between Ed and Sander. Ed became all talk all of a sudden; apparently last year he went on this bizarre public rant about how he was his own man and he didn’t look up to anybody, least of all Sander, and Sander "wasn’t a real VC, just a spoiled founder who got lucky” when he ate half a pot brownie at Outside Lands.
Mia, unimpressed: That’s not a great look.
Eugene, obviously proud of himself: And that's the tea.
Ed: Anyway, it’s a good thing that you know all this because Ed actually called me yesterday and said he wants to talk to you about your A. I told him you’d be happy to.
Mia: What? Why? I didn’t know about this. You told him what exactly?
Ed: Just that I thought you two would get along well together, and I know they’re looking to make an investment in the space, and we had that block of time scheduled later on so I figured we could use that.
Mia, to the audience: Well this is awkward. I had pretty much made up my mind I didn’t want to pitch Ed before this morning. He doesn’t have any expertise in our field; his recent track record to be honest isn’t that great, and he kind of comes across as a bit desperate, it sounds like. But Alaina really seems to want his investment. Is she wrong? She’s usually not wrong. I mean, what’s the harm just with taking a meeting? I’m sure it’ll lead to nothing. But that’s ok, right? I do... want to see what she keeps saying is so great about him. Plus it’ll get Eugene off my case for a little bit. I know he’s not a board member and I don’t really have to listen to him. But I should take the meeting, right? It’s just a meeting.
Mia, to Eugene: Sighs audibly in the affirmative. Mia is secretly pleased.
Scene 5: Coworking space
Quentin and Fanny have assembled a ragtag band of developers; they’re all together for the first time.
Fanny: Hey guys! We’re so stoked to have everyone here, and to see so many people on board with our mission.
Quentin: As founders, we want to make one thing really clear from the beginning: we’re all a family. There won’t be titles here. Everyone’s job is just to crush it. Do whatever needs doing. Hustle. You know? Shoot for the moon!
One of the coders holds up a rubber unicorn head. Everyone laughs.
Quentin: in that spirit, just so that it’s clear that this is coming from the top, Fanny and I are both co-founders and co-CEOs. Whatever I say, it’s what we both say. And vice versa. Isn’t that right, Fan?
Coders clap awkwardly.
Quentin: Ok so we’ve gotta divide up jobs to do. Fanny’s the technical one here, so I’m guessing you should be CTO?
Fanny: Obviously. Also, I think I should also be head of product, at least at first. After all, our tech IS our product.
Quentin: Really? I sorta thought I should be in charge of product.
Fanny: You don’t want our head of product to be someone non-technical, do you?
Quentin: Oh yeah. Yes that’s right. You’re right. Addressing crowd: We agree!
Coder from crowd: I’d like to be in charge of growth.
Fanny: Cool, cool cool cool. Hey thanks! That’s really great of you to volunteer. I actually think that, at first, I should be in charge of growth. Cause we’re going to be a very metrics driven company. So growth should be a really technical role, you know? Plus I ran growth at my last startup.
Quentin: Fan, your last company was a pyramid scheme.
Quentin: So you’re not running growth. Think about what our investors would say. Or, like, our lawyers. They would not like that.
Coder: We have lawyers?
Quentin: Well, I mean, we will have lawyers.
Coder: Hey, guys, what’s our name?
Quentin: True! We need a name! Who’s got a good idea for a name?
Fanny: Hm. What’s something cult-ish? Zero to One said good startups are like cults.
Coder: Ultimate frisbee teams are kind of like cults. Have you ever gotten trapped in a conversation with someone about ultimate? It’s worse than Burning Man.
Quentin: Should we be called Ultimate?
Fanny: Uber kinda already did that. Ultimate, in german, that’s what Uber means. Turning to the side and whispering to a coder next to him: Is that what Uber means?
Coder: What about Frisbee?
Quentin: Frisbee’s cool, actually.
Nods in agreement. Someone starts chanting, Frisbee. Frisbee. Frisbee.
Scene 6: Northstar Ventures office conference room
Northstar Ventures morning partners meeting.
Ed: Hey guys, so I have a pretty interesting opportunity that just came up. Titanium wants to pitch us. The founder, Mia, she’s something. This company is the real thing. We’ve got to get in on this.
One of Ed’s partners: Aren’t we committed to doing Wirefly? We have the term sheet ready to go.
Ed: You know, I’ve been thinking. Wirefly just feels so… safe, you know? Like, they’re not going to return 10x. Who are we kidding. They’re solid, yeah, and I know Alaina really well at this point, she’s a solid founder. But … like I just feel like if we want to go for base hits, Wirefly is a solid single. But venture is a home run business. That’s not Wirefly. Titanium, now that’s swinging for the fences. They’re a Fund-Returner Unicorn.
Partner: Well we do need one of those, seeing as we’re a bit underwater right now.
Ed, annoyed: We’re not underwater, we're in the J curve.
Partner, muttering to himself and mocking Ed: “And I actually wrote the memo about the J curve, did you know that...”
Partner: I said yeah, uh, venture is a power law business. Home runs.
Other partners laugh.
Partner: Fine, you go meet with Mia. I have an entrepreneur coming in soon so let’s wrap up. We’ll talk about this Apper recap plan next time.
Scene 7: Symmetry Capital Partners office conference room, in the building next door
Sander, arriving late: Sorry I’m so late guys. I just got off a really interesting call: apparently Titanium is now raising their Series A, and Northstar wants to lead.
Other partner: Oh yeah, I know Mia, the founder. She’s always played hard to get, ever since when they were in that accelerator a few years ago. She thinks she’s a lot better at it than she is.
Sander: Ok, true, but I have a hunch she’s building a great business. I actually really want to check this out. It could be a big one.
Partner, suggestively: Isn’t, ah... Ed in the deal for Northstar?
Sander, annoyed and slightly embarrassed: Why are you asking me.
Partners exchange glances.
Sander: Don’t worry. You have my word not only that we will win this deal if we want to, and that Ed will not be in it.
Junior Associate: Didn’t you guys use to work together?
Awkward silence punctuated by gulps of Fiji water.
Sander: I don’t worry about Ed and neither should you. We don’t lose deals to NV on my watch. Does anyone have Mia’s number?
Scene 8: Coworking Space
A banner has been unfurled on the wall that says FRISBEE.
Coder: Ok, our acquisition funnel is live. We’re actually getting pretty good conversion to paid!
Quentin: Hell yeah! Ring that gong!
Coder hits a tiny gong with a wooden spoon; everyone cheers.
Fanny: Those conversion numbers are tight, bro. How’d you get this?
Coder: Well this is just a placeholder until we get product up and running. That’s you, yeah?
Fanny: Uh, it is, but we don’t have a product yet. What are we converting customers into… doing?
Coder: Dunno, fam. I’ve just been working on our ad spend for the time being. Something, though, cause we have Stripe payments coming in. Ask Quentin, he set up the landing page.
Quentin, chiming in: I figured, while we were coming up with what we were going to do, we should have a placeholder value proposition, you know, something to bring customers in.
Fanny: Which is?
Quentin: We’re sharing some of the revenue with them. That’s a really attractive value proposition, actually.
Coder: Revenue from?
Pause. A few suppressed laughs as people figure it out.
Fanny, visibly amused: Bro.
Quentin: Is there a problem?
Coder: I mean, that is literally why you said Fanny couldn’t be in charge of growth.
Quentin, agitated at this point: I thought we agreed on this!
Fanny, laughing: I agree that you’re an idiot
Coders all start murmuring amongst each other. Quentin looks mad and embarrassed.
(Fanny, looking very smug, approaches the gong. Quentin gives him a pissed off sideways look. Fanny pauses, and then rings the gong very obnoxiously.)
Quentin, recovering somewhat: Ok, everyone it’s late. Let’s go to the bar. Beers on us. The wedding is Saturday, it’s Thursday and we still don’t know what this company does. Out out out, let’s go!
Everyone grabs their stuff. As they leave, Fanny grabs the rubber unicorn head hanging on the wall and stuffs it in his bag.
Scene 9: Blue Bottle
Mia and Alaina are in line getting coffee. Alaina is fretting that Ed hasn’t replied to her most recent email.
Mia: It’s going to be fine. But I think you need to be a little bit, you know… be a bit of a challenge for him.
Alaina: what do you mean, be a challenge? We’ve always had such a great relationship. They’re perfect investors for us.
Mia: Ok, I know, but you need to play difficult a little bit. He thinks he’s got this deal in the bag, right? So make him a little worried, for once. Let him be the one sweating a little bit! You might get some better terms out of him, you know.
Alaina: Why should I get better terms by being a worse person? We have a good relationship!
Mia is about to answer but her phone lights up from a text. Alaina notices.
Alaina: Hey! Why is he texting you?
Mia: (briefly gets flushed) umm.. Ok don’t be mad. Please don’t be mad.
Alaina: Did you pitch him??
Mia: Ok, yes I did. But only because Eugene really wants me to. I promise. I was going to tell you but you were already so stressed out tonight I didn’t want to add to it.
Alaina, miserable: Ugh. I wish I could just.. do things the way you do. I’m so lame. I’m such a bad founder. I’ll never be able to raise money. Also, I’m really mad at you! Why am I so stupid??
Mia (lying): Alaina, I promise you, the minute I knew you wanted to raise money from Ed, it became completely off the table for me.
*Mia’s phone lights up from another text*
Mia: Sorry, I need to answer this. One second.
Mia steps away from the counter, out of earshot.
Alaina, to crowd: This process is so frustrating. I just want this fundraising process to be over, and get back to building my company and being a good CEO. What am I supposed to do? Our metrics are just as good as theirs. We’re growing at the same rate as they are. Our technology is just as new and interesting as theirs is. Should I change my name to Titanium also? We could be Platinum! How about that? Platinum, that sounds nice. I have no clue how it relates to what we do. But if that’s what investors want, then I’ll change my name to Platinum. I’ll change our name to We Love Northstar! Ughhhhh…. Alaina looks like she’s about to cry.
Meanwhile, Mia, to crowd: Ok, Ed will not stop texting me. Like, who is that desperate? Like, here’s this again, this isn’t his number but I bet it’s one of his associates. They seriously need to back off. Turning towards phone, texts while spelling it out: W-H-O ... I-S … T-H-I-S?
Phone blings again.
Mia, lights up: Oh! It’s not them at all. It’s the other guy, Sander from Symmetry! Well that’s interesting. He says he wants to chat about our round… I’m not going to lie, this is really what I’ve wanted this whole time. Right? Yes. This is what I’ve wanted the whole time.
Mia heads back to join Alaina.
Mia: I know you’re upset at me, but I just got some good news. Sander from Symmetry wants to have drinks, in like a half hour. … Will you come with me? Or at least walk there with me? Please? I’ll make it up to you. I promise.
Alaina, cheering up a bit: Sander? He’s the one who wrote the famous Uber memo, right? Well that’s exciting. Maybe he’ll write you one.
Mia: Well, he has his own money now. They both laugh, faking it a little bit, and they can both tell.
Scene 10: Northstar Ventures Office.
Ed, sitting in a painful-looking half-lotus pose on the floor in his office, talking in his AirPods.
Ed: Yes, I’m really looking forward to getting together with Mia, thanks so much for setting this up… is she free tonight? No? Why not? *pause* … Sander? What, why? You're right I don’t like that. What is that bozo doing here? He’s going to ruin this just like he always ruins things when he gets his way because everyone loo-oo-ooves Sander. We loved your memo, Sander, it was so smart, you’re such a thought leader, Sander, you’d be so rich if they’d listened to you, Sander-
Eugene, at the other end of the phone, says something inaudible.
Ed: I wrote that goddamn memo!
Ed angrily taps his AirPod, knocking it out. He compulsively checks his heart rate on his Apple watch.
Ed, exasperatedly: 66??
Ed briskly stands up, and begins pacing around them room muttering to himself. The lone AirPod lies on the floor, precipitously close to being stepped on, but survives.
Scene 11: Symmetry Capital Partners Office.
Afternoon. Sander and an associate are in a conference room.
Sander: Ok I’m have drinks scheduled with Mia shortly. I’m gonna go get this Titanium round done. That aside, how is our deal coverage looking? Are we seeing every deal? I want to See. Every. Deal.
Associate: It’s great, Sander. We just ran the numbers from this past quarter and it’s looking phenomenal. Out of every Valley series A that got done, we were in the running almost every time, I’ll send you over the exact numbers. Looking at the live picture right now, as far as I know we’re in essentially every single one.
Sander, cocks an eyebrow: what do you mean, essentially?
Associate: I mean, like, essentially all of them.
Sander: So not all of them.
Associate: Ok, like, all of the ones that matter.
Sander, angrily: Absolutely not with your “all the ones that matter”. Listen to me. You never know which companies are going to be successful. You Do Not Know. I have been in the venture business too long to think we can coast for even one second, or make ANY assumptions about what companies are hot. I want you to find out for me exactly what deals we are missing the scoop on, and why. If we do our work and pass on a company, that’s one thing. But missing entirely isn’t acceptable.
Associate: Uh as far as I know the only one outstanding right now is Wirefly. I know they’re due to raise right now but we haven’t heard anything from them. They’ve been completely radio silent.
Sander: Radio silent, my ass. If they’re keeping this deal quiet that means someone has the inside track and is guarding this jealously. No one hides these deals unless they’re trying to take the entire round. I want that round. Write up a term sheet and make it good, we’ll fill in details later. I feel like we’ve got to move fast on this one.
Associate: So you want me to… send her a term sheet? We haven’t even heard her pitch.
Sander: You think you’re going to learn anything from her pitch? I already know everything I need to, and that’s that we aren’t in this deal. And that’s unacceptable to me. Send Alaina the damn term sheet. I still have this Titanium dinner that I’m stuck with but text me as soon as you hear anything. I’ll bail if I have to.
Scene 12: Northstar Ventures office.
Ed, facing audience, phone in hand, incensed:
Sander you weasel. You are absolute garbage, you know that? I will not let you steal two deals from me in one day. You swipe Titanium from under my nose? Fine. I’m a forgiving person. It’s business. That’s fine. I’m not mad. I’m calm. This is amusing to me, actually. But Alaina? Over my dead body will I let you cuck me like this. Wirefly is MINE.
Yelling to an associate walking by: Find out where Alaina is tonight. I don’t care how. Just find out. And send her a new term sheet. What was the first one at? Thirty Pre? Make it sixty.
To no one in particular: Sander will NOT get the win for this. Not this time. Not anymore. This is MY win. I am the winner.
Disappearing offstage: You think I’ll log off? Joke’s on you, imbecile, I will never log off-
Scene 13: The back of the bar
Everyone from Frisbee arrives at the bar.
Quentin: Ok, ice breaker time. In the spirit of radical candor, which is what we do here, we will answer any questions that you have. Does anybody have any questions?
Coder, raising hand: Ok, I mean this is a small question and I don’t want to be annoying and I know we’ll work things out as we scale, but I’m not sure what we’re making, or who’s in charge, or what I should be doing.
Everyone, as a chorus: Yeah us too.
Quentin: OK, ok, well that’s what these meetings are for! We’ve made some great progress so far as a company and I’m really proud that we can be so honest with each other. Fanny agrees, obviously. Right Fan?
Fanny, ignoring Quentin: Ok let’s be real. What should our company do?
Coder, hesitating: Hey, here’s a thought. I dunno if this is a good idea, but here goes. We work in startups, right? Everyone we know works in startups. Everyone is a startup now. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of all buying our own stuff like desks, power cords, I dunno maybe even our laptops, we could share them with other companies? Like you could rent them out when we’re not working, and stuff.
Quentin: Airbnb for offices. I love it.
Coder: Doesn’t WeWork sort of do that?
Another coder, being sarcastic: Airbnb for WeWork.
Quentin, clearly missing the sarcasm: Airbnb for WeWork!
Fanny: Seems too limiting. What if we made software that let other people build their own, uh, their own Airbnbs for Wework?
Coder, skeptically: Like a platform?
Quentin: Yeah exactly! Like a platform. Investors love platforms.
Fanny: Smart Platform for the Workplace Sharing Economy.
Fanny, pulling out Unicorn head, puts it on: Frisbee!!
Coders cheer feebly while looking at one another anxiously.
Fanny: I’m gonna get us some beers to celebrate.
Scene 14: The front of the bar
Ed, furious, is also at the bar. He’s waited for a half hour on instructions from his associate that Alaina would be there, but hasn’t seen anyone through the crowd, and can’t get a bartender to serve him in the crowd of people.
Fanny arrives at the bar, wearing the unicorn head.
Bartender (to Fanny): “Hey, Unicorn guy, what’s your order?”
Ed reflexively leaps up, spins around and slams straight into Fanny. Fanny knocks a tower of beer all over Ed.
Ed, flabbergasted, staggers for words but manages to only make nondescript, angry sounds. He heads to the bathroom, and opens the door right as Sander is walking out.
Sander: Ed! Uh, hi Ed. You are.. you are covered in beer.
Ed, furiously: No shit I’m covered in beer. Well at least I’m not covered in.. (Ed thinks for half a second) covered in fawning adoration for something you fully know was my work, my work, mine. I was the one who did the DCF that turned out to be right on the money. I was the one who figured out the unit economics were going to work. I was the one who understood the two-sided network effect. Your contribution was “People take taxis so maybe they’ll use an app for it.” How is that-
Sander, interrupting exasperatedly: Ed that was nine years ago. You need to get over this. What do you want me to do?
Ed: You ought to know, you’re the fucking thought leader.
Sander: Ed, don’t be a vulgarian.
Ed: You’re the vulgarian, you fuck! I will burn down your office.
Sander, sarcastically: Which one, Sand Hill or South Park?
Ed: I am serious. You will not get away with this. Not after Apper. Not after you knowingly gave TPG that ridiculous deal structure that you knew full well would force a recap. Apper was the most promising company we’ve had in the NV portfolio in years, and now we’re each going to lose half our stake in it.
Sander: Our fault? You think Apper was OUR fault? Because you needed to raise Fund Four? Because you needed that markup and had to come to big brother Sander once again, who always has to take care of your shit? You want my honest opinion? That company should be put out of its misery. They should be taken out back and shot, and you should be forced to watch.
Ed: You think I’m not serious? I will shut that company down right now.
Sander: Not without my vote you’re not, you impetus. You don’t have the guts OR the votes. But lucky you, cause big brother is here to be the adult in the room and put an end to this bullshit. I hereby call a board meeting to order; as majority shareholders here represented, as of tomorrow morning Apper IO is shut down. Seconded, NV?
Ed: Seconded, asshole.
A long pause. Everyone catches their breath.
Sander: So, uh, I think they had a several million cash left of runway. We should return it, I guess?
Ed: Meh. Dump it into San Francisco Bay for all I care.
Sander: Whatever. See you at poker?
Ed: Yeah, whatever. Ed leaves.
Scene 15: The back of the bar
Fanny, after finally acquiring beer, makes his way back to the table, where only Quentin remains sitting there.
Fanny: where is everyone?
Quentin: Uhhh…. they quit.
Fanny: They ALL quit?
Quentin: Yeah. One of em, I can’t remember his name, said something about there being no one in charge and no one knowing anything and it being a fraud? Or maybe some of those things? I can’t remember which things.
Fanny: So they left the bar?
Quentin: No they’re sitting at that table over there. (He gestures) See them? That’s Alaina from Wirefly and Mia from Titanium. They both going to raise huge series A rounds, apparently, so I’m sure they’re hiring engineers.
Fanny: How come THEY get to raise money? We should be able to raise money.
Quentin: I know, right?
Fanny, clearly bummed out: So I guess no wedding.
Quentin: Oh, I forgot to tell you? I got us invites. You know Eugene whatshisname, the angel investor? He sent me an email like, a few hours ago saying he heard people taking about our awesome revenue sharing product feature, that we sounded really smart and he wants us to come to Will and Renée’s afterparty.
Fanny. Bro, you are the best.
(They bro hug)
Quentin: Can you, uh, take off the unicorn head?
Scene 16: Will and Renée’s wedding reception
Renée: Phew. I’m having a great time, but this is a bit exhausting. You’d think people would have the decency not to pitch you at your own wedding.
Will, laughing: Well, comes with the territory. That’s the Bay Area for you, I guess.
Renée: I have to say, I’m glad that everything got worked out for Alaina; I hear Ed’s doing their Series A, 10 million at 60 pre? Am I wrong that in thinking that those terms don’t.. make any sense? She’s such a phenomenal founder though. I feel sometimes she’s one of the few honest ones.
Will: Yeah, I heard the story was actually kind of complicated, but things worked out ok. Water under the bridge. Mia from Titanium also has a term sheet, from Sander.
Renée: Interesting. I had no idea Sander was interested in 3D Printing.
Will: Me neither.
Renée: Hey speaking of, how about those two guys that were asked to leave? Did you hear about this?
Will: No. What, were they a bit too excited about being here?
Renée: Something like that.
Will: Founders, man.
Renée: What is it about this place?
Will: Sharon Heights?
Renée: No, this place, I mean like, this whole place. This whole startup world. It really grabs people and puts them under this… this spell, I guess.
Will: Look, it’s understandable. Doing a startup puts you under a really intense microscope. You’re the only person in the whole world who thinks a very particular thing, who’s headed on a very particular course, and feels with every cell of your body that you need to build it into a company. It can drive you crazy, knowing that you’re on this journey of one. It’s like a ship voyage, in the early days, off to get spices in a land that no one believes exists. There’s a lot of conflict inherent to believing something no one else does; you end up doing some pretty out-there things. It explains a lot of the mindset.
Renée: You know, I used to think something like that. But the longer I spend here, the more I’m starting to feel like it’s the exact opposite.
Will: How so?
Renée: Look at these people. Do you ever notice how similar everybody is here? You hear that table next to us? They’ve been talking about Barry’s Bootcamp for forty minutes, because no one at the table dares to bring up a new topic. Two thirds of the guys here at this wedding are wearing Allbirds. Two thirds! At my wedding! Everything here is this… this performance to fit in so that you’ll be able to keep getting invited to parties and keep being able to say you got the hottest angel investment and keep raising money for whatever it is. I used to think that what held this place together was some combination of quirky uniqueness and well-aligned self-interest. But some days I feel like it’s the opposite: it’s like this place works because it’s all of these different interchangeable people and parts, and then all this… this mimicry, I guess? Jealousy? FOMO? I dunno how else to put it.
Will: That’s not how startups work.
Will: Well it’s not what made my startup work.
Renée: And you’re always going on about the boat! No one is on a boat. No one is catching scurvy here. No one is dying of thirst or getting thrown overboard. If you’re on a boat, it’s like, a boat in the Marina surrounded by a hundred other boats with equally nice perks. If you get thrown overboard from your startup you go work somewhere else and maybe they don’t have Pamplemousse Lacroix, maybe they only have coconut.
Will: I like coconut!
Renée: Okay well maybe that’s why you feel like startups are a journey of one.
They both laugh.
Will: I’m glad we got married.
Renée: Me too. But you’ve got to get over yourself with this boat story. I honestly, really hate it. All I want as a wedding present from you is to stop telling that stupid ship metaphor at Demo Day.
Will: Yes. (Pause). Because it’s a rocket ship metaphor now. A journey of one… to Mars.
Ed and Sander, arms around each others’ shoulders, stumble by, singing: Is there life on Maaaaaaars?
Renée rolls her eyes.
Will: Let’s go dance.
Renée: Let’s go dance.