Welcome to another edition of Business Twitter, where we collect the best tweets to come out of Silicon Valley so you don’t have to. This article is part of a newsletter — if you want a weekly Business Twitter roundup sent to your inbox every Friday, subscribe here.
This week: A Y Combinator alum shares why her startup failed, an early BitGo investor tells the story of its founding, a look at the upcoming FIGS IPO, and remembering David Swensen.
Here’s everything you may have missed from this week.
1. BitGo’s early days
1/ eating glass and staring into the abyss -- how crypto's largest $1.2B M&A came from a failed startup https://t.co/69U9y8BOFX— bill lee 21x.eth 🚽 (@westcoastbill) May 5, 2021
On Wednesday, Galaxy Digital announced it was buying BitGo, a digital asset trust and security company. The $1.2 billion acquisition cements Galaxy Digital’s place as a Bitcoin-focused financial firm.
Bill Lee, a general partner at Craft Ventures, was an early investor in BitGo, and recently shared a thread about the early days of the company — and they weren’t smooth.
According to Lee, BitGo was born from the ashes of another startup, Twist, which shared users’ ETA, much like Google Maps tells you when you'll arrive at your destination. The company simply wouldn’t grow, so Lee and Twist’s co-founders, Mike Belshe and Benedict Chan, decided to fire the 20-person staff and start from scratch. That’s when a focus on crypto came into play.
Thanks to early adopters of Bitcoin, BitGo was able to find a business model that worked. And, with crypto’s yearlong rally, BitGo has done better than ever. In fact, the acquisition is the first billion-dollar deal in crypto history.
“To all founders having tough times, I hope this motivates you — startups are like eating glass and staring into the abyss,” Lee wrote.
2. FIGS is going public
.@wearfigs just filed to go public, and it's probably my favorite DTC IPO of all time.— Bill D'Alessandro (@BillDA) May 5, 2021
😍 26% EBITDA margin (swoon)
🧑⚕️1.3M customers in 2020
📈138% YoY growth
Let's break down their biz in a thread 🧵👇 pic.twitter.com/ZeuALWVJIT
It’s already a historic year for IPOs, from Coinbase to UiPath to Robinhood’s upcoming public debut. But one IPO, from scrubs maker FIGS, is worth a closer look, at least according to Bill D’Alessandro, CEO of Elements Brands.
The company just made its IPO announcement on Thursday, and plans to go public on the New York Stock Exchange. In a recent thread, D’Alessandro outlined why FIGS was his favorite IPO.
“FIGS took something lame and generic (scrubs) and made them functional, comfortable, and cool,” he wrote.
But that’s not all. FIGS was able to market their stylish scrubs to medical professionals, a growing market, without physical retail locations while reducing customer acquisition cost (CAC) in the process. And the company gets plenty of repeat customers. Retention is up to 60%, and FIGS makes $202 in revenue per customer.
“This is a brand that knows their customer AND makes money,” D’Alessandro added. “You love to see it.”
3. Tales from a failed founder
1/ Here’s something we need to normalize: talking about failure.— Lauren Kay (@laurenikay) May 3, 2021
My @ycombinator startup failed 6 years ago. I stayed silent.
And because of that silence, other startup founders—going through the exact same thing as me—felt alone in their shame too.
I want to break that trend.
Y Combinator may be known for the stellar startups it helped create, but not every company that came out of the accelerator was as successful as Airbnb or Dropbox. In fact, many failed, including Dating Ring, a dating startup co-founded by Lauren Kay.
Kay, who now works as a young adult writer, recently wrote a thread sharing her experience of startup failure six years ago.
“Any time someone brought up startups, I’d feel nauseous and change the subject,” she wrote. “I tried to reinvent myself, pretend that part of my life never happened. But it’s been six years. I’m done hiding from my shame.”
In the thread, Kay shared a blog post that detailed why the company failed: Investors were hard to come by on Demo Day, there weren’t enough organic users, and there was no app yet — just a website. Eventually, Dating Ring ran out of money and shut down, leaving Kay with nothing.
But, she wrote, 90% of startups fail. “But that doesn’t make me—or my startup—a failure.”
4. Remembering David Swensen
A key behind-the-scenes figure in turning Tier 1 venture capital into what it is today— Jason ✨BeKind✨ Lemkin ⚫️ (@jasonlk) May 6, 2021
Yale aggressively backed many of the top managers with a high concentration in VC and PE, and went long on them
It’s the model that fueled these often highly illiquid investments pic.twitter.com/CRWCTHp3Z5
On Thursday, the world lost one of the most revered figures in the financial world, David Swensen. As a money manager for Yale’s endowment fund, Swensen’s focus on hedge funds and venture capital made it the country’s best-performing fund in the last 20 years.
While Twitter was soon flooded with posts remembering Swensen’s kindness and generosity, Jason Lemkin, co-founder of EchoSign, wrote a thread explaining why Lemkin’s ideas were so innovative.
“Many endowments would put just a tiny amount into ‘risky’ illiquid investments like VC,” Lemkin wrote. “But 1% into VC can’t move the needle. The Yale model formalized the idea that generational endowments should trade illiquidity for higher returns of top managers. And to invest an outsize %.”
“Yale then became perhaps the #1 quality signal for VC funds,” he added. “If you had Yale in as an LP, everyone would want to invest in your fund. VC funds used to be a lot harder to close. But if you had Yale, it wasn’t.”