Events / Investing / Venture capital

Here’s how to pique the interest of First Round Capital cofounder Howard Morgan

The famed investor took the mic at last week's Philly New Tech Meetup.

Howard Morgan speaks at the Philly New Tech Meetup. (Photo by Roberto Torres)

If you’re going to give anyone a mic and pepper them with questions before a tech audience in Philly, you can’t really do that much better than Howard Morgan.

The famed First Round Capital cofounder — and mentor to Josh Kopelman — spoke last week before a packed house at Quorum, as part of Philly New Tech Meetup. Morgan, who anounced last fall that he was retiring to focus on angel investing, shared stories and answered questions from Mike Krupit and Brad Denenberg.

Despite stepping down as partner, the sometimes leotard-wearing investor is still dispensing sage advice on the board of First Round, all the while investing some seed cash on his own.

“Professors and investors have the same job,” said Morgan, a former University of Pennsylvania tenured professor with ties to the ARPANET project. “Nurturing great ideas and getting the best out of people.”

Here are some quick lessons from the investor:

  • On what he looks for in companies

Market size and passion are the two things that Morgan wants of a company in order to invest at the really early stage. Passion, the investor said, indicated an ability to secure clients. And market size, well, it’s pretty evident: more chances for success. “We want to be in a market that’s going to be really huge,” Morgan said.

  • On being a CEO

Morgan has had to step in the CEO chair a couple of times, if only during transitional periods. Namely, he headed Burlington, N.J.-based Franklin Electronic Publishers and Kentek. What’s the first difference he noted between investing in a company and running it? “How hard it is to hire the right people,” Morgan said.

  • On when to invest

Most of the really good investments, the ones that came back as resounding successes Morgan said, happened at two stages: early and way too early. To salvage some of the lessons, he set up this blog called Way Too Early (which hasn’t been updated since 2015, but still).

  • On staying in school

There’s a few famous college dropouts in tech, like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. Morgan’s challenge was simple and poignant: “Name the next ten.” As any college professor worth his salt, Morgan encouraged young founders to stay in school and finish what they started. “That’s why we started Dorm Room Fund: to help founders develop their ideas while staying in school.”

  • On the “power of the network”

You’d think you were listening to a coworking exec, but Morgan is a staunch believer in the “power of the network” when it comes to entrepreneurship. First Round Capital has a pretty solid platform of CEOs and founders where information is shared and questions get answered.

  • On diversity in business

Data from First Round’s 10 Year Project — with lotsa stats from the firm’s first 10 years of investing — speaks loudly on the gender gap: leadership teams with a female founder did 63 percent better than investments with all-male founding teams. But how to broaden the funnel so that women and underrepresented communities have a shot at getting that term sheet? It’s all about looking outside the box, Morgan said.

  • On what the future holds

Though massive valuations like Snap, Inc.’s and Tesla’s remind Morgan of the ’90s dotcom bust, the founder remains optimistic about the entrepreneurship and technology space. Ya gotta, in order to keep a leveled head in the venture capital space:

Companies: First Round Capital

Knowledge is power!

Subscribe for free today and stay up to date with news and tips you need to grow your career and connect with our vibrant tech community.


WeWork ditched its original Philly coworking space at The Piazza

What roles do gender and race play in the IT job market?

Techstars startup 1to1 is helping ecommerce vendors personalize your shopping experience

This Week in Jobs: Sketch out a new role with these 28 tech career opportunities

Technically Media