Yesterday Atlas Venture invited 10 MIT students involved in entrepreneurship to a dinner in a private room at the Kendall Hotel with Sam Schaevitz, the founder of Lilliputian, and 2 partners of Atlas (including Jeff Andrews, founding investor of Lilliputiam). The objective of the dinner was to have an interactive discussion on new ideas, new opportunities and new challenges.
Lilliputian has developed a Mobile Power System, based on miniature fuel cell technology, which provides portable power to mobile devices. Currently it carries 5 times more energy than a normal battery. Nowadays there are about 15 million people in the US buying $15 rechargers that can be used only once! Lilliputian's device (the size of a cassette with a USB output) can be easily recharged and with each charge it can provide energy for 15 iPhone battery charges. Sam dropped his PhD at MIT in 2001 to start the company. They got funding in 2002 and they plan to go into commercialization in 2010. Currently there are ~35 employees and so far have raised ~$60M in funding.
Atlas Venture has $2.5 billion under management and just closed a new fund in December 2009. Since 1980 they have helped build >300 companies and since 1995, ~50 investments have been acquired and >40 have gone public with an aggregate market cap of >$20 billion.
- "Competition you can beat is a very good thing": it proves that people are buying, there is a market, etc
- First rule for VCs: "don't do something that requires change in user behavior "
- Sam: "I started this company because I wanted to start a company and it was the best thing at my hand where I could add value"
- In a startup, you need one captain to lead the ship (although a captain with whom you can disagree or fight).
- Don't give titles early on to employees and then degrade them. People take it personally.
- The amount of work between something that works and something that you can put in front of the customer and he buys, it, is amazing!