Community is not a buzzword, it is a challenge


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I first covered Launch House in October 2020, when the co-founders described a strong focus on inclusion in creating homes for hackers. A co-founder then said, “I wouldn’t say we’re the next Y Combinator, but the next YC would look something like this.” The company soon turned to venture capital for its vision of what a next-generation entrepreneurial ecosystem would look like, combining the benefits of remote working with the growing expression around “community.” It won investment dollars from Andreessen Horowitz, Lightship, CAA co-founder Michael Ovitz, Electric Ant’s Chris Ovitz, 6th Man Ventures’ Mike Dudas and other angels.

A Vox investigation last week uncovered specific allegations surrounding harassment, assault and abuse of power at Launch House. The reaction was complex. The irony of the “publicly built-in” mentality is that, as accusations and investigations surface, privacy — or at least opacity — is back in vogue.

As TBEN reports, some existing investors in the startup and venture fund have made public statements supporting the alleged victims and denouncing the alleged behavior described by Vox in its article on Launch House. Launch House, meanwhile, has confirmed to TBEN through a spokesperson that it is launching an independent, third-party investigation through a detained law firm.

Days after the investigation went live, Launch House held a town hall with some members of their community. Co-founder Michael Houck said the startup “dropped the ball by responding quickly enough” [and] with enough compassion… that does not reflect the values ​​we have built and care about this community from day one.”

“Simply put, we should have met you all sooner than today,” Houck added, “What I can say now is that we are ready to speak and we have a plan.” The conversation focused on three topics: what Launch House says it has done in the past, what it will do in the future, and how it plans to rebuild trust among female founders in their cohorts.

The Vox investigation, Launch House’s response both publicly and privately, as well as the community’s outcry or silence over surfaced allegations, are a reminder that community is not a buzzword. It is a challenge. Some people may see LH as a caricature of the “community-based VC-backed startup” trend, but this offers a real look at what happens when these “buzzy trends” meet a bull market, in a remote world, with limited controls and balances.

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For the full story of key details in Private City Hall, read my story: “Launch House Holds Private City Hall, Says Investigation Is On.” For investor and community response, read my story with Rebecca Szkutak: “Launch House community responds to allegations of misconduct and harassment.”

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about Y Combinator’s paranoia, fund manager shifts, and a follow-up from one of the pandemic startups admitting it’s wrong. Make sure to read the whole story, because I sneaked a TC+ discount code in the mail especially for Startups Weekly readers.

If you like this newsletter, will you do me a quick favor? Forward it to a friend, share it on Twitter, and tag me so I can thank you for reading for yourself!

Y Combinator is still paranoid

Michael Seibel of Y Combinator, managing partner and head of the accelerator, is one of the most influential people in startups. He joined Equity to talk about the point of the demo day, diversity challenges and competition.

Here’s why it’s important: Given that YC doesn’t do much press anymore, the interview has cleared up some misconceptions. More on TBEN+ tomorrow, but in the meantime he described the usefulness of demo days as follows.

It’s hard for me to generalize on demo days. There are many different demo days in the world, and I don’t really know how they work.

I’d say YC’s Demo Day has two functions. The first is the obvious one, namely: present the companies and stimulate leads. The second is like a mandatory feature for the founders, right? Only [as] YC does not necessarily require an application TBEN. In fact, we read applications all year round. But as an imperative function to [say] “Hey, there’s a date we want to get to this and it’s important,” [it] really, really helps the founders get to top speed faster, as opposed to a more general system.

I would say [Demo Day] also helps the investors. When I’m an investor, and I talk to a company, and I know they’re going to increase [at] Demo day in a week, maybe I’ll make my decision a little faster. So one of the things we tell founders going through YC is: [that] different companies will use Demo Day differently. And that’s okay. It’s a tool and it’s your job to make the best use of it for your business.

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Figma is leaving

Adobe bought Figma for $20 billion, reminding us that mergers and acquisitions can indeed happen in 2022. As Ingrid Lunden of TC reports:

The idea now is to create a seamless connection between this and Figma, essentially building it out as the native platform to bring them all together. Adobe already had something like this, of course, in the form of AdobeXD. It is not clear what will happen if this deal is closed. Whether all this will catch the attention of antitrust authorities is indeed worth watching: Adobe is already dominant in so many of the tools it uses, and now it will also be the dominant player on the platform for all of these tools.

This is why it’s important: Mass acquisitions have a ripple effect way. In this case, Adobe has just joined forces with one of its biggest rivals in digital design. Figma will soon no longer be a private company and thus will not have to share its specific financial data, and Figma’s employees will presumably be a whole new generation of angel investors. There are also many investors who have gained from this exit; a homogeneous bunch, another notes.

White plastic bottle being painted green;  greenwashing

Image Credits: firn (Opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The sequel

I’m experimenting with a new section in Startups Weekly, where we follow an old story or trend every week to see what has changed since our first look. This week we come back to take a look at Maven, a creative economy meets edtech game that has raised $25 million in two years.

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Here’s what’s new: The live learning platform announced a pivot this week. Instead of creating courses taught by creators, it focuses on courses taught by experts. It’s another example of when it comes to running the community – this time in a learning sense – it can be challenging to run. I appreciated the transparency of what they did wrong and what’s new for the future.

“We hypothesized that a creator with a large audience will have a great course and be able to fill it, and we were surprised that this hypothesis was wrong,” Kao said in an interview with TBEN. “It is not because someone is a creator that he or she will take a successful course. Instead, we saw tons of smaller instructors who were subject matter experts in their field and didn’t necessarily have a large audience, who wanted to make the fuss and take the effort… were doing really well on the platform.

emerging managers, lps

Image Credits: Tim Robberts / Getty Images

Wait for it. See it? Yes, I’m excited too. And while we’re on the subject of housekeeping, a few more notes:

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Seen on TBEN

Codi raises $16 million, led by a16z, to prove we never really liked working together

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Why this consumer investor is switching from VC firm after becoming a partner last year?

Most fintechs work with banks. Varo became one and says it’s paying off

Twilio lays off 11% of its workforce as it aims to achieve profitability by 2023

Uber investigates cybersecurity incident after hacker hacked into its internal network

Seen on TBEN+

Now that the Ethereum Merge is behind us, what next?

Pitch Deck Teardown:’s $9.8 Million Series A Deck

VC Fundraising Gets Weird As Fall Approaches

Have you already written off your portfolio? You’re running out of time to hide

And that’s this week’s startup diary.