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Launching Signal 1.0 — a Tool for Founders to Find the Right Investors

Signal Logo super large


NFX Guild has a division called NFX Guild Labs that builds software.  The software is for both internal and external use.

Last year, one of our internal projects for our Founders was a fundraising tool we called Signal. The idea was to cross reference all their Gmail accounts to find introduction paths, and then crowdsource information about investors so all the NFX Guild Founders could have faster, easier, higher quality fundraising processes.

It worked well, and we found that the more we all used it, the more valuable it became for everyone.  As you might imagine, it created a network effect.

So we’ve decided to open it up for everyone to use.  It’s free forever, of course.  It’s now an open tool for the Founder/VC ecosystem.  NFX Guild doesn’t make money by selling software, but by building community and investing in great founders.    Here is Signal 1.0. 

There’s a long way to go, so please give feedback.  Send to  We have a dedicated team who can build nearly anything, so please go through it (as described below) and see if you find bugs, find that things aren’t clear, or have an idea of what would make it work better for you.

It’s crowdsourced, so please edit investors profiles and add investors. The more of us use and edit Signal, the better everyone’s fundraising can become.

Connie Loizos covered Signal in the StrictlyVC newsletter here, and on TechCrunch here.

The mission of Signal is to decrease the noise and increase the signal for everyone touching the fundraising process — CEO’s, Investors and Advisors.


Video Introducing Signal 1.0


If you’re a CEO

1) Connect your Gmail.  98% of CEO’s do that. 2% sign in with user name and password.  If you sign in with Gmail, it works about ten times better, but we understand privacy concerns.  Just be clear, the system doesn’t pull the content of your emails, only the metadata about the emails like email address and name.  That’s enough to let people see their paths to each other and get a pretty good measure of “relationship strength” between people.

2) Search and filter investors on “The BIG List” to see just the investors right for your stage and sector.

NFX Guild Labs Signal BIG list PNG

3) Add investors that are missing to the BIG List, and edit ones that are incomplete.  This is a crowdsourced list, it needs your contributions.

4) Collect the short list of your target investors by clicking “Make Target” button next to their name on the BIG LIST.  If you have a list of investors on a spreadsheet today and want to get your best introduction path to them, go to the Intro Paths page in the nav, then under the Add Target Investors link, paste your list of target investors.  Once done, hit the “Reveal your best intro paths” button.  You’ll then see a CSV file with all the data filled in for those investors, including who can introduce you to them.  It’s kind of cool, and hopefully will save you a lot of time.

5) Export that CSV list to your spreadsheet of whatever tool you are using to manage your fundraising process.

If you’re an Investor

The reason you would use Signal is to get the right deals referred to you by the best people in your network.  It’s not going to let random CEO’s spam you.  Just the opposite.  Right now, the people you trust to refer great companies to you are talking to 10’s of great CEO’s.  Despite their affection for you, it’s hard for your referral network to remember which companies to send to you or not.

When you are connected to your referrers on Signal, you will show up more at the top of lists when those great CEO’s search for who to put on their short list of potential investors.  All through the magic of interlocking Gmail accounts.  Then they will ask your trusted sources for referrals to you.  Also, when your referrers search the BIG list reminding themselves of the best investors they know, you will show up and they will remember more easily to make that CEO introduction to you.

You can further rise to the top of those searches by specifying what types of companies you are specifically looking for this quarter.  Make sure to keep those fields updated.  Further, you can reduce noise by specifying which types of deals you are specifically NOT looking for.

1) Connect with Gmail.  94% of investors connect with Gmail and 6% connect with user name and password.  As we said above for the CEO’s, Signal works about ten times better if you use Gmail.  But we understand privacy concerns.  Just be clear, the system doesn’t pull the content of your emails, only the metadata about the emails like email address and name.  That’s enough to let people see their paths to each other and get a pretty good measure of “relationship strength” between people.

2) Add your profile (or claim your existing profile) and make it great.  1000’s of founders and other investors will be looking for you here and grabbing your data to put on their spreadsheets.  What you put in your profile will help increase how often people see you when searching and will help discourage people from hitting you with deals you already know you don’t want (e.g. in synthetic biology if you don’t invest in that, or in travel software if you don’t like that, or in Series B rounds when you do seed rounds, etc.)

3) Request connection to your referral network and investing partners (emails will be sent from the system to your referrers).  When they connect their Gmail, more great CEO’s will have your rise to the tops of their searches because their relationship strength to you will be higher and occur more frequently.


Is there a FAQ on Signal?  Yes, it’s here:

Why is NFX Guild doing this?  We think this tool needs to exist.  The current way our community connects and review deals is a bit medieval.  We’ve been part of the Silicon Valley and Israeli ecosystems for many years, and for most of those years, we’ve all complained about the laborious fundraising process.  Seems like software has a chance to help streamline parts of it.  Also, as the earliest of investors, NFX Guild is highly collaborative with other investors, so we’re probably best positioned to offer this type of tool for free to the ecosystem.

What is “Signal Elite” on the nav bar?  It’s an intro tool and CRM system that we built for the NFX Guild Founders.  It’s not really open yet.  We are going to allow a few 10’s of top founders use it if they want, but we need them to apply so we keep the quality high.  And to get feedback on how to make it better.  The Signal Elite tool does three things for Founders.  a) It lets Founders get intros through the Signal system via their network of advisors.  Note: Founders still can’t directly email investors through Signal, even with Signal Elite.  b) Signal Elite lets investors look at Founder’s private and secure company summary page.  It’s like DocSend, but customized to fundraising.  c) Founders can have investors reply through the system, and then manage their fundraising process.  But again, this is behind an application wall for now.

In Summary

Enjoy V 1.0, please edit and add to the BIG LIST, and give us feedback.


— The NFX Guild Labs Team


Pete Flint, Trulia Founder & CEO, Joins NFX Guild

Today we are excited to announce that Pete Flint will be joining us as our fourth Partner!

Pete is the Founder and former CEO of US real estate marketplace Trulia, which he ran since its beginning in 2004, to its IPO in 2012, and through its $3.5BN merger with Zillow Group in 2015. Previously, he was part of the founding team of in Europe, an online travel marketplace that was acquired in 2005 for $1.1BN. Two companies, two billion-plus dollar creations.

He’s a rare talent, and for us, a rare fit.

  • When you talk with startup Founders who have worked with Pete, what you notice is how universally they rave about his advice. About how valuable and important it is to them. This is exactly the kind of value we seek to bring to our Founders in the Guild. It’s not easy to find. Pete has the ability and temperament to successfully mentor and teach Founders so they can achieve ambitious goals.
  • Like us, Pete is a product person at heart, and applies a product-centric approach to solving challenges.
  • Pete brings a deep network of relationships that’s complementary to the NFX Guild network. He built his network by working, investing and raising money in Silicon Valley for more than a decade.
  • Who has achieved that level of success but is still willing to work as hard as one needs to in order to build a new institution? Turns out, Pete is.
  • Last but not least, Pete has deep knowledge of network effects, our core business focus. He had significant roles in scaling two major businesses relying on network effects, and most of his investments are in companies pursuing network effects.

All of these attributes mean Pete will be a huge asset to the current and future NFX Guild portfolio companies.

But picking a new Partner is more difficult than that for us.

Yes, we absolutely needed to get that talent-level fit. And a background fit. A geography fit. A role fit. A timing fit. A compensation fit. A stage-of-life fit. An effort-level fit. A vision fit.

But perhaps more difficult to find, we wanted personality, motivation, and character fit.

*Who* our next partner was as a person was just as important to us as to what they could achieve.

For us, Pete is that rare combination. A killer but also a teacher. Decades of experience, but still learning every day. Determined yet empathetic. Confident yet humble. Hyper-successful but still wanting to work hard to build something lasting and extraordinary.

The mission of NFX Guild is to bring together the world’s leading early-stage entrepreneurs and give them an unfair competitive advantage. The way we give them that advantage is with superior training and by forging them into a committed and powerful Guild.

In other words, we apply our own teachings to running our own startup, NFX Guild. We iterate and test the product we provide to be repeatable and have network effects … whereby every new member brings exponential value to the other members.

In this way, we aim to build a lasting institution, benefitting thousands of top founders and impacting generations of entrepreneurs.

With Pete, we are better set than ever to realize this vision. We feel very lucky to have found him and lucky that he chose us.

 —  James, Gigi, Stan


Some stats about NFX Guild:

  • NFX Guild founded June 2015 in Palo Alto, CA.
  • NFX stands for Network Effects, as we focus on bringing better network effects to the companies we fund.
  • 45 portfolio companies funded over the first 3 classes. 70% of those have raised capital subsequent to NFX Guild.
  • 30% of companies are Israeli origin
  • More than 50% of companies have second-time founders or have already raised significant capital
  • 50% B2B, 50% B2C companies
  • We provide more than 30 hours of unique curriculum
  • NFX Fund 1 is $15M and funded by the NFX Guild Partners and also by leading Silicon Valley VC’s: CRV, Greylock, Shasta and Mayfield
  • A network of 100 Scouts send us hundreds of high-quality, vetted applicants per class. Application to NFX Guild is invitation-only, and our Scouts are the gatekeepers.
  • A very active Alumni Community of 150+ founders with 2–3 events per month and info sharing within rules of strict confidentiality


Network Effects Are Not Dead, They Are Alive and Thriving

Recently, my friend Sarah Lacy at wrote yet another insightful thought piece about the state of venture investing and the startup world.  But this one emerged with an unfortunate title:

The death of network effects and the sad return of the VC kingmaker

The original idea for the article came from a conversation she and I had in October, which has nothing to do with network effects.  My point was that raising capital was becoming more important to success, not less, and thus VC’s are becoming kingmakers again. Thus, this article generously quotes me.

Unfortunately, based on the title, several people have thought that I am now saying network effects are dead, despite being a Partner at a fund whose name is Network Effects Guild (NFX Guild).

It would indeed be an irony if true, but nothing could be further from the truth.

More than ever, we believe getting network effects are critical to building value in startups.  I believe this will be true for the rest of my lifetime.  So much so that my Partners and I spend many hours per week honing our skills at helping build network effects in our 65+ portfolio companies.


Network effects are alive and thriving.  The most valuable companies have them, and the most valuable companies in the future will have them.

– James

Where to Invest in Network Effects

Levy-Weiss and Currier are Partners at NFX Guild, an early-stage fund with a three-month program for businesses utilizing network effects.

Facebook, Uber and WhatsApp: Why “Platform Applications” Are the Key to Cracking Open Massive Future Markets

Every new hardware technology platform — telephone, radio, TV, computers, mobile phones, Internet — brings a flood of new innovation and wealth-creation opportunities. But while the hardware platforms kick off these huge waves of value creation, they don’t capture the majority of the value. The applications built on top of them do.

The more precise insight is that the majority of the value is actually captured by a particular type of application, a rare type we call Platform Applications — applications that become platforms themselves.

Hardware Platforms Unlock Possibilities

New hardware platforms are clearly the main drivers for new innovation. Every new application we see around us is only made possible with fundamental new technologies.

The timeline below shows the emergence of the main tech hardware platforms of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries.

Each new hardware platform gave rise to hardware companies leveraging the new fundamental technologies to grow fast and become huge (think RCA in the television era, IBM in computing, Compaq in personal computing, Cisco in Internet, and Nokia in mobile and Apple in smartphones). Each one of these companies was ahead of the curve when a new hardware platform arrived, and they profited.

Interestingly, however, the majority of the financial value created by these innovations did not stay inside the hardware companies.

These companies were so focused on hardware that they did not play a significant role in where most value was created — the applications.

Applications Unlock Markets

Applications are essentially the software that runs on top of the new tech platforms.

Once computing became available, databases, operating systems, and other applications emerged that really took advantage of the platforms to create new things you could do with the technology. These applications captured larger, more lasting pieces of the wealth created.

Once PCs were available, everyone could use word processing or spreadsheets. The Internet was the tech platform that made Google and Facebook possible.

Of course, not all applications are made equal. Some cater to valuable core needs of its customers, some to less valuable needs. Some serve broadly, others serve only a niche.

Historically, the early application companies on each new hardware platform capture the most valuable needs first. Let’s call these Main Applications. After a few years, new companies can find only smaller niche opportunities available, and investors are left investing in smaller market opportunities.

The number of Main Applications is smaller than the number of Niche Applications, but the financial outcome of each main application is 10 times larger than a niche application.

However, in each hardware cycle, there is a unique type of Main Application that is 10 times more valuable than a standard Main Application. These are Platform Applications.

Platform Applications Are Where the Magic Happens

Platform applications are not hardware platforms but they behave like platforms themselves. Other companies are built on top of them or around them. They create their own ecosystem of value creation and capture a significant portion of that value.

It turns out most of the companies investors admire in tech follow this pattern of Platform Applications. Microsoft on PCs. Google and Facebook on the Internet. Uber, WeChat and WhatsApp on mobile.

So what allows Platform Applications to grow so fast and become so dominant?

Network effects.

The same thing which allows most companies in tech to become dominant.

Platform Applications powered by network effects capture most of the value from every new hardware platform. Telephony networks. Radio networks. TV networks. PC operating systems. App stores. Social networks. Search engines. Messaging apps. Marketplaces. On-demand services. They all fit the pattern.

What This Tells Us About the Future

So, as an entrepreneur or an investor today, where should you focus, given that history tells us that Internet and smartphone applications for consumers and small businesses are getting to the stage of mostly niche applications?

1) Look for remaining Platform Applications or Main Applications on mobile or the Internet. While history tells us most core innovation on the Internet and smartphone platforms is possibly behind us, we are still occasionally seeing the discovery of yet uncharted ‘islands’ of Platform and Main Applications. This will diminish over time, but it’s not over yet!

2) Pursue core innovation in laggard verticals. There are huge remaining vertical markets where, due to regulatory constraints or structural challenges, innovation has not yet caught up. These are, in order: enterprise, financial services, healthcare and government.

The diagram below shows the current state of each platform in each vertical (where green means the timing is right for investment).

3) Find Platform Applications on emerging hardware platforms. Each fundamental new tech platform represents an opportunity for applications, especially the opportunity to create a Platform Application.

The exciting thing today is that there are multiple new hardware platforms emerging simultaneously. Augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics, blockchain, 3D printing, synthetic biology and others. It’s not clear which ones will be as big as the Internet or mobile, but as investors in innovation, it’s worth betting on all of them right now.

In these new platforms, as the ones before, the main prize will go to those who capture the network effect Platform Applications.

Guards at the Gate

These are exciting days in tech, but it’s not easy to break in: The current large tech companies are all too aware of these tech platform changes.

In the old days, none of the TV giants became significant players in the Internet world. Even Microsoft failed to translate its success in the PC operating system to the next platforms, Internet and smartphones.

Today, with Facebook and Google, the dominant Platform Applications on the Internet platform, are now also the dominant players on the smartphone platform. They have been able to both migrate their products and to spend aggressively and smartly on key acquisitions to own new Platform Applications or even new platforms.

For Facebook it’s FB Mobile, FB Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Occulus. For Google it’s Nest, DeepMind, Glass, self-driving cars and an investment in Magic Leap. A few billion dollars is a small price to pay not to miss the next platform revolution.

What’s different now is quite clear. In the past, the time between one revolution to another was long enough for the management teams of the past giants to become complacent and lose their paranoia. With new platforms coming faster, current management teams are still young, hungry and paranoid. They are buying or copying at unparalleled speed and at nearly any price.

As a founder, these are exciting times. There are many new platforms to work on that offer access to billions of customers in record time. But the incumbents are no longer complacent and slow — they are alert and fast. Now, more than ever, increasing speed and embedding network effects in the core of the business are critical in the hunt for the next platform applications.

Defensibility Adds the Most Value for Founders

The recent $26 billion LinkedIn acquisition by Microsoft was the largest in the history of the software industry, and the $19 billion WhatsApp acquisition by Facebook in 2014 was close behind. These are examples of how much valueis created by companies that achieve truedefensibility.

Some advisers tell founders, “Don’t worry aboutdefensibility. Focus on doing something to delight customers and do it better.” That’s okay.

But, if I have a choice, I’d rather start a business where I know if it works, it will be defensible… that I can really protect it from competition. For a long time.

The punch line here is that the best way to get true defensibility in the digital world seems to be by using network effects. We’ll get to that.

The key to understanding this more broadly is that nearly all of the massive returns to you and your investors — the 100X or 500X returns — come from businesses that have long-term defensibility. For early-stage investing it’s the big hits that drive returns. So having a line of sight to defensibility matters, even for early-stage investing.

The game has changed

In the old days, the business literature listed many ways to create defensibility: unique access to raw materials, favorable geographic location, government regulations like tariffs, patents and licenses, etc.

Network effects have emerged as the native defense in the digital world.

In the digital world, however, these have largely melted away. In software, information transparency is much higher, geographic borders mean less, it’s easy for customers to click to a competitor, etc.

What we’re left with are a short list of competitive advantages and just a handful of true defensibilities.

How startups get competitive advantages

“Competitive advantages” help your company become successful.  “Defensibility” helps you stay there. Both add value to your business. Here are eight competitive advantages that are currently working well in the digital world:


Currier Competitive Advantages Image.png

Speed. Going faster is a significant advantage in the short and medium term. It’s the No. 1 competitive advantage every startup can give itself. At NFX Guild, this is one of the critical things we screen for in our Guild members.

Capital. Like we’ve seen with Uber, Square or NextDoor, the ability for a team to raise more capital lets a company hire faster, buy market share and move to set up real defensibilities. Further, raising a lot of capital helps scare other investors from investing in your competition. (It can also lead to errors in judgment that hurt the company, but that’s another story.)

Unique Team. Either technical talent or having unique insight into a customer/market.

Content. Companies like Zillow, Yelp and Facebook were places for users to get unique content at launch or shortly after launch.

Buzz. When companies like Slack or Meerkat capture the elusive imagination of influencers in tech and media, it makes it easier to fundraise, hire talent, get press and get noticed by customers.

Relationships. People do matter. Having a personal advantage with a customer can be an advantage for a time against competition.

Silicon Valley. Companies located here have a competitive advantage because of access to capital, press, talent and creative insights from the dense network of people working on similar problems.  The numbers prove it.

Patents. These can apply, but we’re seeing them apply less over time in software and the digital world.

Real value creation

If you build a business with good competitive advantages, your value grows linearly as you grow revenues. That’s good.  But if you’re able to move past competitive advantages to truedefensibility — to really being able to protect your business from competition — your valuegrows exponentially.

The four defensibilities of the digital world

In the digital world, there are few defensibilities. Today, we count just four.


Currier 4 Defensibilities Image.png

Economies of scale (example: Amazon). When you get bigger, a host of advantages accrue to you.  More users means more volume, means you can get cheaper prices from suppliers, means lower prices for customers, means higher conversion rates, makes your advertising more effective than your competition, etc. The numbers all move in your favor, and math is hard to compete with.

Brand (examples:, Google). With brand, a certain company can stand top of mind when we think of something we need, like when I need a hotel room. Priceline, the owner of, spends more than $2 billion per year in advertising to make sure that’s true. Further, people come to identify themselves with brands. People who want to associate with Apple products will not comparison shop. Those psychological barriers make it very hard for competitors to break in.

Embedding (examples: Workday, Oracle, SAP). Embedding works when you integrate your software into a customer’s operations so the customer can’t rip you out and replace you with a competitor. This is obviously more prevalent when customers are organizations, not individuals, and is typically accompanied by a direct sales force to drive the embed.

Network effects (examples: LinkedIn, Alibaba, Craigslist). A network effect is when another user makes the service more valuable for every other user. Once your company gets ahead, users won’t find as much value in your competitors’ smaller networks.

There are five major types of network effects. Direct (LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Facebook); two-sided (eBay, Craigslist, Microsoft, iOS); data (Google Maps, Waze); tech performance (BitTorrent, Skype); and interpersonal (Slack, Apple).

Each of these makes your business hard to catch once it gets going. They make it defensible.

Network effects have emerged as the native defense in the digital world. Fortunately, creating network effects are available to startups from Day One. As such, we consider network effects the mostimportant type of defensibility, and thus, the surest route to value creation.

If you’re starting or investing a business, don’t start it until you’ve thought thoroughly about how to design it with one or more of the core network effects. Then think about how every new feature you build could add value to the other users of your product. That way of thinking about business and product design puts you on the road to true defensibility and massive impact and value creation.

The Last 10 Years Have Been About Social Networks — The Next 10 Will Be About “Market-Networks”

Market Networks NFX Guild image[**Note: a shorter version of this article appeared on TechCrunch.]

 [**Disclosure: we are advisors and/or investors in many of the companies mentioned in this post including Honeybook, Houzz, Lyft, Angelist, Poshmark, Doordash, Meerkat and GoodReads]

[**Note: If you invest in marketplaces, networks, market networks, and other businesses with network effects, please apply to attend the NFX Guild Conference to see NFX Guild companies present. If you run one of these companies or plan to start one, please apply for investment from NFX Guild and be a part of the next NFX Guild Class.]


Most people didn’t notice last month when a 35-person company in San Francisco called HoneyBook* announced a $22 million Series B.

What was unusual about the deal is that nearly all the best-known Silicon Valley VCs competed for it. That’s because HoneyBook is a prime example of an important new category of digital company that combines the best elements of networks like Facebook with marketplaces like Airbnb — what we call a market-network.

Market-networks will produce a new class of unicorn companies and impact how millions of service professionals will work and earn their living.


What Is A Market-Network?

“Marketplaces” provide transactions among multiple buyers and multiple sellers — like Poshmark*, eBay, Uber, Patreon*, and LendingClub.

“Networks” provide profiles that project a person’s identity and then lets them communicate in a 360-degree pattern with other people in the network. Think Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads*, Meerkat*, and LinkedIn.

What’s unique about market-networks is that they:

  • Combine the main elements of both networks and marketplaces
  • Use SaaS workflow software to focus action around longer-term projects, not just a quick transaction
  • Promote the service provider as a differentiated individual, helping build long-term relationships

market network three rings

An example will help: let’s go back to HoneyBook, a market-network for the events industry.

An event planner builds a profile on That profile serves as her professional home on the Web. She uses the HoneyBook SaaS workflow to send self-branded proposals to clients and sign contracts digitally.

She then connects the other professionals she works with like florists and photographers to that project. They also get profiles on HoneyBook and everyone can team up to service a client, send each other proposals, sign contracts and get paid by everyone else.

Market networks Angelist Honeybook


This many-to-many transaction pattern is key. HoneyBook is an N-sided marketplacetransactions happen a 360-degree pattern like a network, but they come here with transacting in mind.  That makes HoneyBook both a marketplace and network.

A market-network often starts by enhancing a network of professionals that exists offline today. Many of them have been transacting with each other for years using fax, checks, overnight packages, and phone calls.

By moving these connections and transactions into software, a market-network makes it significantly easier for professionals to operate their businesses and clients to get better service.


We’ve Seen This Before

AngelList* is also a market-network. I don’t know if it was the first, but Naval Ravikant and Babak Nivi deserve a lot of credit for pioneering the model in 2010.

On AngelList, the pattern is similar. The CEO of the startup creates her own profile, then prompts her personal network of investors, employees, advisors and customers to build their own profiles. The CEO can then complete some or all of her fundraising paperwork through the AngelList SaaS workflow, and everyone can share deals with everyone else in the network, hire employees, and find customers in a 360-degree pattern.

In 2013, when I met Oz and Naama Alon, two of the founders of HoneyBook, they were building a beautiful network product — a photo-sharing app for weddings. We sat down and I walked them through the new idea of a market-network. They embraced it immediately, and have taken it to a whole new level – from the design and workflow to the profile customization and business model.

Houzz* is a third good example. Houzz connects homeowners with home improvement professionals and with products they can buy for their home. They have a product that is very nearly a market-network. The company raised $165M in its last round.

Joist is another good example. Based in Toronto, it provides a market-network for the home remodel and construction industry. Houzz is also in that space, with broader reach and a different approach. DotLoop in Cincinnati shows the same pattern for the residential real estate brokerage industry.

Looking at AngelList, Joist, DotLoop, Houzz and HoneyBook, the market-network pattern is visible.

Currier Market Network Map 1


Seven Attributes Of A Successful Market-Network

  1. Market-networks target more complex services

In the last six years, the tech industry has obsessed over on-demand labor marketplaces for quick transactions of simple services. Companies like Uber, Lyft*, Mechanical Turk, Thumbtack, DoorDash* and many others make it efficient to buy simple services whose quality is judged objectively. Their success is based on commodifying the people on both sides of the marketplace.

However, the highest value services – like event planning and home remodels — are neither simple nor objectively judged. They are more involved and longer term. Market-networks are designed for these.

  1. People matter

With complex services, each client is unique and the professional they get matters. Would you hand over your wedding to just anyone? Your home remodel? The people on both sides of those equations are not interchangeable like they are with Lyft or Uber. Each person brings unique opinions, expertise, and relationships to the transaction. A market-network is designed to acknowledge that as a core tenet and provide a solution.

Currier Market Network Map 2


  1. Collaboration happens around a project

For most complex services, multiple professionals collaborate among themselves—and with a client—over a period of time. The SaaS at the center of market-networks focuses the action on a project that can take days or years to complete.

  1. They have unique profiles of the people involved

Pleasing profiles with information unique to their context give the people involved a reason to come back and interact here. It captures part of their identity better than elsewhere on the Web.

  1. They help build long-term relationships

Market-networks bring a career’s worth of professional connections online and make them more useful. For years, social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook have helped built long-term relationships. However, until market-networks, they hadn’t been used for commerce and transactions.

  1. Referrals flow freely

In these industries, referrals are gold, for both client and service professional. The market-network software is designed to make referrals simple and more frequent.

  1. They increase transaction velocity and satisfaction

By putting the network of professionals and clients into software, the market-network increases transaction velocity for everyone. It increases the close rate on proposals and speeds up payment. The software also increases customer satisfaction scores, reduces miscommunication, and makes the work pleasing and beautiful. Never underestimate pleasing and beautiful.


Social Networks Were The Last 10 Years. Market-Networks Will Be The Next 10.

First we had communication networks like telephones and email. Then we had social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. Now we have market networks like HoneyBook, AngelList, DotLoop, Houzz and Joist.

You can imagine a market-network for every industry where professionals are not interchangeable: law, travel, real estate, media production, architecture, investment banking, personal finance, construction, management consulting, and more. Each market-network will have different attributes that make it work in each vertical, but the principles will remain the same.

Over time, nearly all independent professionals and their clients will conduct business through the market-network of their industry. We’re just seeing the beginning of it now.

Market-networks will have a massive positive impact on how millions of people work and live, and how hundreds of millions of people buy better services.

I hope more entrepreneurs will set their sights on building these businesses. It’s time. They are hard products to get right, but the payoff is potentially massive.






An Epiphany about Network Effects

NFX Guild logo square16 years ago, in 1999, we founded Tickle, a company most of you don’t remember.  It was one of the first viral, user-generated content sites.  It offered self-assessment tests and quizzes.

It got pretty big.  100 million registered users when the Internet only had about 600 million users.

But unfortunately, the retention was near zero.  People would come to the Tickle website, take the tests for about an hour on average, get viral with their friends, and leave.

Without retention, every few months we had to redesign the product and re-find product market fit.  We A/B tested all day.  We swam in data and language changes and site releases.  We didn’t sleep much or relax.  We took no pleasure in our victories because we could see they wouldn’t last long.

We tried adding and subtracting features, and that helped.  The product got a bit better every week.  But that frenetic feeling wasn’t going away.

During those sleepless months of 2001, a realization hit us. “Our product really doesn’t add any more value to user #100,000,000 than it did to user #1.”

At that moment, the importance of “network effects” was seared into our brains.

We were really good at getting new users, but onboarding those users wasn’t making the product better. With this realization, we started building products that had network effects.

In 2001, we launched a dating marketplace — Tickle Matchmaking, which eventually became LoveHappens.  It registered 29 million people who captured each others’ attention with photos and profiles for many months.  The more people we had there, the better off other users were.

In 2002, we launched Tickle Social Network – coincidentally the same day MySpace launched — and it grew to 30 million users.  These people created content for each other on a daily basis. The more people, the more content, the more valuable for all the members.

In 2003 we launched Grapevine, an advertising marketplace for advertisers to buy ads on user generated content sites like ours, Hi5, Bebo, etc.  The more ad units we had, the more valuable to the advertisers.  The more advertisers we had, the more valuable Grapevine was to the publishers.

Each of these businesses had a network effect, and they each felt better to run than our initial business.  Unfortunately, perhaps due to lack of skill, or perhaps due to running five different businesses inside the company and thus being spread too thin, each of these products fell short of dominating their markets.  While we had been profitable for three years, had $32M in revenue doubling every year, and we had plenty of cash… but weren’t out of the woods.

As it happened, in 2004, two months after Facebook launched, Monster offered to buy Tickle for $110M. We took it.

Inside a network effect business

Once we were part of Monster, we experienced the power of a successful network effect.

Monster is a two-sided labor marketplace.  Employers on one side, employees on the other. The company was founded in 1994.  They dominated their market and had a market cap of $3.5B at the time.

In every element of the business other than the sales team, this was a poorly run company.  I don’t think they had changed the website in two years.  Poor product, poor customer service, poor strategic decision making, and from what we could tell, a lack of insight into what was about to happen to them because of LinkedIn and others.  We tried to get them to let us build a LinkedIn competitor when LinkedIn had less than 1.5 million users, but to no avail.

What stood out was that none of this mismanagement mattered.  They had a network effect in place.  Like Craigslist, the only feature that mattered was that everyone was there.  The buyers found efficiencies in using them and so did the sellers.  Both sides of the marketplace kept coming, and Monster kept making money.

So enduring is their network effect, that Monster still posted $770M revenue in 2014, despite hardly changing the product, and despite years of buyout rumors intended to replace the management.

Lesson learned.  Network effects were what mattered, and that’s where we were going to focus.

To pursue our newly acquired thesis around network effects, we did several things.

Our first angel investments were all network effect businesses. First was Flickr, which sold to Yahoo. Second, a family social network called Maya’sMom that eventually sold to Johnson & Johnson. Third,  Goodreads that sold to Amazon after seven years.

The first board of directors I joined?  SecondLife,  the virtual world, where every new user add more entertainment and potential revenue to every other user.

Our first purchase was a set of memorable and spellable URL’s for building networks and marketplaces like,,,,,,, etc.

This 2013 TechCrunch article  chronicles some of the other companies we’ve worked with such as marketplaces Poshmark, Lyft, and Jiff. Since 2013, we’ve been working with companies like Honeybook  and MeerkatFull list of companies here.

I should also point out a case study failure.  We declared Twitter a big deal early. In fact, I tried hard to convince Bill Gurley at Benchmark to invest.  Being the gentleman he is, he texted me two years later when Benchmark announced their investment and just said, “We finally did it.” I texted him back saying, “did what?”  He sent me the link to the Techcrunch article announcing the investment.

We didn’t invest in Twitter.  Why?  Because at the time, 2007, I didn’t have an investors’ mindset.  I had a builders’ mindset.  I was focused on making product.  So it simply never occurred to me to email Ev Williams and ask to invest.

Now I’m adopting the investor mindset.  That’s part of the thinking behind launching NFX Guild.  I’ll post more about that next.