Part 2 on Phone Etiquette: How to Leave a Voicemail

April 8th, 2010 by Jay Levy View Comments

I tend to hate receiving voicemails and almost never leave them. The majority of the time the voicemail tells me the same thing that the missed call does – you want to talk.

Today I received this voicemail (the name/number are beeped out).   

Now in order for me to return this call I need to spend time googling the phone # to see if its a telemarketer (in which case no call back) or a legit entrepreneur.  In the case of a entrepreneur the first impression ins’t great!

I understand that there are some circumstances when you need to leave a voicemail, such as calling a landline, lack of access to email, dont have any other way to contact the person, etc.

When you are leaving a voicemail for someone who doesn’t know you, keep it short and sweet and speak clearly.  From a content perspective include  who you are, a few words on what you are calling about and leave your number twice!  Keep the voicemail to less than 30 seconds!

A special thanks to Sean McCann @sea for helping me beep out the name / phone number of the auto file and thank you to everyone else who offered help.


Must Read Book for Entrepreneurs

April 5th, 2010 by Jay Levy View Comments

Two and a half years ago when we launched Zelkova and made our first investment (Ribbit) I received a stack of closing documents and while I knew many of the high-level concepts (valuation, liquidation, voting, etc) there was a lot more in there that I wanted to understand better.

I immediately ran over to Barnes & Noble and purchased Term Sheets & Valuations by Alex Wilmerding.  This book has become my go to guide whenever I have a question about different ways of structuring a term or how a term sheet is being structured.  The book explains every part of the term sheet and provides examples of investor favorable, entrepreneur favorable and middle of the ground drafting.

This is a must read book for anyone who is out raising money and is a handy guide for VC’s who want a quick reference.


Where do the deals come from?

March 29th, 2010 by Jay Levy View Comments

One question that we are regularly asked is where do we find our deals or how do deals find us? We track all deals we “see” at Zelkova, along with some basic data points. I define a deal we ’see’ as one where I have at least a one-hour conversation with the team. In the past two plus years we have “seen” more than 500 deals, and here is how the stats break out:

The above chart is only interesting in that it gives a sense of where VCs (Zelkova in this case) get their deal flow from. The chart below, which shows the sources of our approximately 15 investments over the past two years, is more interesting.

Some takeaways by category:

Event or Conference
We attend several great events each year. Some of these include TechCrunch50, Open Angel Forum, Under the Radar, The Hatchery, AlwaysOn and many others I’m missing.  Given the vast number of companies we see each year at these events, it makes sense that a good portion of our investments are from these sources. We tend to always try to attend the events that have a heavy screening process, providing quality deals for us to look at.

VC / Advisory Group
As you can see, this category is “over-weighted” in the number of investments as compared to source of deals. This isn’t surprising to me, as we tend to do syndicates (almost by rule). It’s not about a herd mentality, it’s about a probability of success mentality. First and foremost, we want to find deals that will be able to close funding, and partner VCs are critical to this. Secondly, other VCs help drive success, bringing more minds to the table and more resources (contacts, ideas, capital).

Friend / Family
This category is mostly self-explanatory. It includes not only friends and family but also includes colleagues we have worked with in the past.

Cold Calls
The lack of any investments in the cold-call space has nothing to do with a bias or a “club.” Most of the cold calls that come in are outside of our area of expertise, but we take the time to speak with the teams. We feel it’s a duty of ours to help entrepreneurs, if what they do is remotely close to what we do. (Note: for each entrepreneur we speak to, we get about three or four that are totally outside of our areas of help). It’s also no secret that a warm introduction is much better than a cold call. Less-experienced entrepreneurs will try the spray-and-pray method; more-experienced entrepreneuers will try to connect to us through one of the other channels – through another VC or at an event.

Existing Investments
As you can see, we haven’t funded any deals through existing portfolio companies — yet. I accredit this to the fact that we are a relatively new fund (two and a half years old) and many CEOs are very cautious in recommending companies to look at. The lack of investment from this source isn’t surprising given the fact we have only “seen” around 15 – 20 deals from this source.


The Whites of the Eyes of The Feet on the Ground

March 24th, 2010 by Jay Levy View Comments

This week I spent the day at one of our portfolio companies for a board meeting. The format was a bit different than usual, in that prior to the meeting we invited the entire company to join the board for lunch and spend two hours discussing whatever came to mind, it was AWESOME!

The board and management started out by walking thru our vision for the future and discussing the past accomplishments and challenges, we kept the section short on purposes. From there we turned it over team members to fire away questions, discuss thoughts, air concerns or anything else that came to mind.

As expected it was a bit awkward at first until someone broke the ice with the first question; but from there we were asked a range of questions from financing, staffing, sales, etc. They weren’t softballs either and the board tried not to skirt around any questions.

From my perspective it was great to hear the questions that came in, brainstorm with the team on potential strategies and see the whites of the eyes of the feet on the ground! From the team’s perspective they were excited to get a chance to interact with the investors and understand what goes on behind the closed doors at these ‘exclusive’ board meetings!

A follow up from the meeting was to do the meeting in more regular intervals, which we will be doing.

To often board members and VC’s deal just with senior level management and don’t take the time to meet with all the team and understand their perspectives. A few hours can really make a difference!


Let’s JIBE

March 22nd, 2010 by Jay Levy View Comments

Online recruiting is broken…  we see opportunity to fix it! That’s why we are proud to announce — along with Polaris Ventures LererMedia Ventures, Jason Calacanis and Josh Kushner — our investment in JIBE (previously LocalBacon), led by Joe  Essenfeld and Peter Margulies. TechCrunch Coverage Here.

JIBE is a social recruiting platform for today’s world. More and more, we are hearing about people landing jobs from their activities on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. While this way of getting a job is growing in numbers, these job-seekers are still in the minority. For now.

We, and JIBE, feel social recruiting is the future, and  JIBE is launching a platform to help facilitate this type of recruiting via a “Employment Networking Platform.”

From a job seeker’s perspective, JIBE increases your chances of getting hired by getting you that warm introduction.  From a recruiter’s perspective, it provides more transparency in the candidate, helping in the interviewing and hiring process.

Another core philosophy of JIBE is fixing the two largest complaints of online recruiting:

  1. Job seekers feel it’s one giant black hole to apply for a job online. You submit, wait & forget.
  2. Recruiters are inundated with responses and can’t handle it all – help!

Look for great things to come from the team at JIBE!


About Jay Levy

Jay Levy

Jay Levy is a co-founder and principal of Zelkova Ventures. Jay focuses most of his time in working with the current portfolio company and looking at new investments in the software-as-a-service, internet media and green tech space. More »


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