James Currier, NFX: Harnessing the Power of Network Effects, Ep 130

James Currier is General Partner at NFX, an early-stage venture capital firm that focuses on network effect businesses. As a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of four VC-backed companies, James has become an expert on network effects and growth. 

Through software and educational content, James and his co-founders are building a venture firm with a founders first approach that allows them to share their knowledge about growth and network effects to build impactful companies.

I sat down with James to talk about his experience as an entrepreneur and an investor and starting and working with some of today’s leading internet companies. James gives great advice on starting a company, choosing a co-founder, and approaching a meeting with a VC. We also touch on NFX’s selection criteria for founders and how they tripled the rate at which they were investing when COVID-19 hit.

Building a website with 175M users when the Internet had 600M

After graduating from Harvard Business School, James was stuck between two paths: work at a VC or learn about growing a company. He chose the latter and dived into a 16-year-long career as an entrepreneur. His first company –of many– was Tickle, a viral media company pioneering A/B testing and other viral growth mechanisms. Tickle won many accolades including Webby’s fastest growing website of the year in 2002.

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about how James exited Tickle and led many other successful companies.

Co-founder dynamics

According to James, one of the biggest reasons for startup failure is co-founder disagreement. Finding the right partner is essential for a business to succeed, so it is important to look out for warning signs of incompatibility between founders in a work environment. James explains that it’s easy to romanticize the idea of starting a business with a friend or a family member. However, founders should experience working with them first for a couple of years to understand what they are like as a business partners. 

Learn more about work relationships between founders in this episode of Crossing Borders.

The best mindset for a meeting with a VC

James explains that many founders go into a VC meeting with the wrong attitude. He advises founders to approach these meetings with the intention to collaborate as an equal. Dedicate a part of the meeting to presenting and another to discussion. VC firms can see the market through a wider lens. A founder that is open to having a dialogue can greatly benefit from that perspective.

In this episode of Crossing Borders, James provides other pieces of wisdom and useful tools for founders to build great relationships with venture capital firms.

James Currier has learned important lessons about what it takes to create successful companies over the years as a founder. Now, as an investor at NFX, he is sharing that expertise with present and future founders to build the next generation of leading tech companies.

Outline of this episode:

  • [1:40] – About NFX 
  • [2:36] – Big returns from Latin America
  • [5:49] – Lessons learned as a founder
  • [10:19] – Things to consider for co-founder dynamics
  • [13:00] – NFX selection criteria for founding teams
  • [15:57] – NFX’s investment thesis
  • [20:00] – Servicing the founders
  • [24:08] – A meeting with NFX
  • [29:42] – What’s next for NFX?

Resources & people mentioned

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