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First Round State of Startups 2017

This is First Round's effort to provide an in-depth snapshot of what founders across the entire tech ecosystem think, feel, fear and value. We surveyed over 860 venture-backed founders who volunteered their experience and opinions.

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First Round State of Startups 2017

  1. 1. STATE OF STARTUPS 2 0 1 7
  2. 2. About the Survey Every year, we survey as many venture-backed startup founders as possible to figure out what it's like to run a technology company right now. This year, we got more responses than ever before — 869 — giving us an even more precise pulse on what entrepreneurs think, feel, fear, and value. As we have since 2015, we're excited to present the results here — starting with the trends and insights that stood out as important or counterintuitive. This year, we asked about everything ranging from the fundraising environment to politics, as well as perspectives on sexual harassment and diversity and inclusion. At First Round, whenever we ask founders what data they most want and need, they almost always say the same thing: they want to know what other entrepreneurs are thinking and doing (and whether what they're doing is normal or in line with their peers). To answer these questions, we're pleased to publish the industry's largest set of data specific to the founder and startup experience — we hope you find it informative and insightful.
  4. 4. 1Half of founders have had personal experience with sexual harassment. Over 50% of the 869 founders who took the survey have been or know someone who's been sexually harassed in the workplace. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the results to this question were extremely gendered — 78% of female founders said they've been or know someone who's been sexually harassed, compared to 48% of male founders. They also split on public perception of the issue. 70% of female founders said sexual harassment in the industry is still underreported vs. 35% of male founders. And men were 4 times more likely than women to say the media's overblown the issue (22% vs. 5%).
  5. 5. 2 Women and men disagree on what will help solve tech's sexual harassment problem. Female founders' top solutions: More women VCs and pressure from limited partners to prevent bad behavior (tied with blacklists publicly calling out offenders). Male founders' top solutions: Sensitivity training and more media coverage of incidents when they occur. Both genders agreed that decency pledges alone won't cut it — only 1% of women and 4% of men thought they were the best solution.
  6. 6. 3 1 in 3 founders think ICOs can compete with venture capital. With Bitcoin and Ethereum hitting record highs, and ICO financing outpacing early- stage venture this year, the founder community seems to be embracing this new form of funding. The most eye-popping stat: In Q2 and Q3, a whopping 90% of the $2.3 billion raised by blockchain startups came through ICOs.
  7. 7. 4Politics impact who founders want in their corner. 25% of founders said someone's perceived or known political affiliation would influence whether or not they'd offer them a job. 29% said an investor's politics would affect whether they'd take the money. 37% said they'd be swayed in choosing a board member based on the person's political views.
  8. 8. 5 Founders remain unfazed by competition. Despite giants like Amazon and Google making bold moves this year, only 5% of founders said they think their company will fail because a competitor outdid them. Many more respondents said they fear not raising enough follow-on capital (22%), missing product-market fit (17%), growth stagnating (15%), or hiring the wrong people (11%).
  9. 9. 6 For the first time, sales leaders take the title of hardest to hire. In 2015 and 2016, engineering leaders were far and away the hardest executive hires to make. But this year, the tables turned, and sales leaders became the most coveted and difficult hires (with 26% saying sales was the hardest vs. 24% saying engineering). This looks like the start of a sea change as more enterprise companies enter the fray, compete for talent, and see firsthand how costly a bad VP of Sales hire can be.
  10. 10. 7 Compared to their peers who think fundraising's a piece of cake, founders who struggle made the same mistakes more often: 3x as many said they monetized too late; 2x more chose the wrong co- founder; almost 2x more pursued the wrong business model; 40% more of them botched their go-to-market strategy; and 40% more let their burn rate get too high. Founders who struggle to fundraise make the same mistakes.
  11. 11. 8 Investors now have the power in negotiations. For the last two years, the majority of founders (64% in 2015 and 61% in 2016) said that entrepreneurs had the upper hand when negotiating terms with investors. This year, for the first time, this power dynamic has flipped, with 53% of founders saying investors now have more sway. Notably, this is a shift that 67% of respondents said they saw coming last year.
  12. 12. 9 2 out of 3 women founders say their gender hurt their ability to fundraise. 66% of women respondents said they think their gender made it more difficult for them to raise venture capital. So, it's not surprising that female founders are also much more likely to say that investors hold the power in negotiations — they have every year. Kudos to the third of male respondents who acknowledged that gender probably helped their fundraising ability. To the 12 men who said it hurt their chances... really?
  13. 13. 10 Good character is the #1 reason founders pick a lead VC. By far, good character stood out as the #1 criterion founders said they look for in a lead investor. 28% said so, compared to the runners up: partner expertise (15%), deal terms (14%), and long- term funding potential (11%).
  15. 15. On the Market
  16. 16. 1 Is now a good time to be starting a company?
  17. 17. 2 Are we in a bubble for technology companies?
  18. 18. 3 Rank these technology trends from underhyped to overhyped:
  19. 19. 4 Do you expect it to get harder or easier to raise venture capital in the next 12 months?
  20. 20. 5 Do you think ICOs pose a legitimate alternative to venture capital funding?
  21. 21. On the Market
  22. 22. 6 If you have at least one co-founder, how would you define your co-founder relationship?
  23. 23. 7 Do you think you'll still be CEO in 10 years?
  24. 24. 8 As a founder, how do you allocate your time percentage-wise?
  25. 25. 9 How concerned are you about the following issues?
  26. 26. 10 Which of the following mistakes have you made in growing your business?
  27. 27. On Fundraising
  28. 28. 11 In your last round, did you raise more or less than you targeted?
  29. 29. 12 How long was your entire fundraising process for your most recent round?
  30. 30. 13 How many firms did you pitch when raising your last round?
  31. 31. 14 Has your company ever raised a bridge round?
  32. 32. 15 Has your gender helped or hindered your ability to fundraise?
  33. 33. 16 How challenging do you think it will be to raise your next round of capital?
  34. 34. On Investors
  35. 35. 17 Over the past few years, do you think power has generally been in the hands of entrepreneurs or investors?
  36. 36. 18 Over the next few years, do you think power will be more in the hands of entrepreneurs or more in the hands of investors?
  37. 37. 19 What was the most important factor in picking your lead investor?
  38. 38. On Exits
  39. 39. 20 Compared to today, over the next 18 months...
  40. 40. 21 How do you think the number of M&A deals for startups will change over the next year?
  41. 41. 22 If you intend to go public, how long do you think it will be until your IPO?
  42. 42. 23 How confident are you that you're building a billion dollar company?
  43. 43. 24 If you're not successful, why do you think that will be? (Choose one)
  44. 44. On the Bottom Line
  45. 45. 25 How many years until you think you'll be profitable?
  46. 46. 26 Are you optimizing for growth or profitability?
  47. 47. 27 How is your burn rate different now than it was a year ago?
  48. 48. 28 Do you consider curbing burn rate to be a critical priority?
  49. 49. 29 What’s the price per square foot at your current office this year?
  50. 50. On Hiring and Firing
  51. 51. 30 Is it easier or harder to recruit talent this year than last year?
  52. 52. 31 Are you ahead or behind your hiring plan?
  53. 53. 32 How many people do you think you're going to hire in the next 12 months?
  54. 54. 33 What’s the hardest executive hire you've made (choose one)?
  55. 55. 34 What is the average tenure of a non-executive employee at your company?
  56. 56. 35 Have you done a RIF (layoff) in the last year?
  57. 57. 36 A person's political affiliation would influence how you think about:
  58. 58. On Compensation
  59. 59. 37 How much does a mid-level engineer at your company make (salary + bonus)?
  60. 60. 38 How much equity does a mid-level engineer at your company receive?
  61. 61. 39 What’s your policy on employees selling secondary shares?
  62. 62. 40 How much time do employees have to exercise their options after leaving the company?
  63. 63. On Diversity and Inclusion
  64. 64. 41 What is the male to female ratio of your board?
  65. 65. 42 What is the male to female ratio of your entire team?
  66. 66. 43 In the past year, has your company talked about diversity and inclusion internally or externally?
  67. 67. 44 Does your organization have a strategy to promote diversity and inclusion?
  68. 68. 45 What is the primary cause of underrepresentation of women and minorities in tech? (choose one)
  69. 69. 46 When do you think the tech industry will become representative of the general population when it comes to gender and race/ethnicity?
  70. 70. On Sexual Harassment
  71. 71. 47 Have you or has someone you know personally experienced sexual harassment in the workplace?
  72. 72. 48 How big in scope is the problem posed by sexual harassment in tech?
  73. 73. 49 What do you think will be the most effective way to address sexual harassment in the technology industry?
  74. 74. About the Respondents
  75. 75. 50 What was your last funding round?
  76. 76. 51 Where is your company headquartered?
  77. 77. 52 I identify as:
  78. 78. 53 How old are you?
  79. 79. 54 How long ago did you start your company?
  80. 80. 55 How many founders does your company have?
  81. 81. 56 How large is your team today?
  82. 82. 57 Which sector best describes the type of company you are running?
  83. 83. 58 Which platform are you most focused on?
  84. 84. THANKS A team of phenomenal people made this year's State of Startups possible. Many thanks to Andreas Weiland, Jarom Vogel and July Camp Design for building this beautiful site. And to Mike Goodwin, our indefatigable data scientist, who made sure we did everything right (especially our math). Last but not least, we're grateful to the hundreds of founders who took the time to share their perspectives so that we could create an accurate snapshot of startup life in 2017.
  85. 85. stateofstartups.firstround.com/2017