Startups roundup: Investor AI research on ethics, B2B SaaS... roundup: Investor AI research on ethics, B2B SaaS KPIs, don’t frown on down rounds


Investors have raised expectations about the profitability and growth of SaaS since the start of the recession.

As a result, it’s even more important for founders to have a firm grasp of key metrics VCs are likely to consider before saying “yes” or “no.”

In his latest TC+ article, Paris Heymann (partner, Index Ventures) shares formulas for calculating gross dollar retention and net dollar retention, two KPIs that provide in-depth insights into the health of your business. For context, he also included DDR and NDR benchmarks for enterprises and SMEs.

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“Predictable companies are more sustainable, easier to manage and typically rewarded with higher valuations than unpredictable companies,” Heymann writes.

Depending on the market, acquiring a new customer can be 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing customer.

With that in mind, putting more logos on your customer page isn’t just good for morale: it also creates “more conviction around investing to drive future growth.”

Thank you for reading,

Walter Thompson
Editorial Manager,
@your protagonist

Down rounds are a “ticket to try again,” says the founder who raised three in a row

down round, valuations, startups

Image Credits: Getty Images

Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, a prolonged drought is an exercise in humility for yacht owners and kayakers alike.

According to Carta, “the number of down rounds in the first quarter of 2023 nearly quadrupled compared to the same time last year,” writes Rebecca Szkutak.

With valuations falling, founders who accept downturns no longer have the taint of failure, said Russ Wilcox, a partner at Pillar VC.

“If you set a valuation of $700 million, it seems like you’re winning somehow and you’re not being diluted, but actually you’ve set the bar so high,” he said.

Four investors explain why AI ethics cannot be an afterthought

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/

Because AI requires human input, it is inherently prone to bias.

Given the potential to transform so many aspects of the way we work and live, “some responsibility rests with investors to ensure these new technologies are built by founders with ethics in mind,” writes Dominic-Madori Davis.

She interviewed four investors to get their thoughts on empathy, building equitable systems, and “how to encourage founders to think more about… doing the right thing.”

  • Alexis Alston, Director, Lightship Capital
  • Justyn Hornor, angel investor and series founder
  • Deep Nishar, General Manager, General Catalyst
  • Henri Pierre-Jacques, co-founder and managing partner, Harlem Capital

Pitch Deck Teardown: The Perfect Pitch Deck

Image Credits: Suppliful/

During his last appearance, Haje Jan Kamps revisited a seed deck he covered last year from Supliful to see how it could be improved.

“Okay, we didn’t quite get it 100 percent perfect,” he writes. “There are still some issues, and in this post we’ll break them apart to learn what could be improved and how we would do it.”

Slides 1-5 face the paywall:

  • Cover
  • Traction
  • Resume
  • Problem
  • What makes a great CPG brand
  • Solution
  • Product
  • Case study
  • Business model
  • Market
  • Predicate companies
  • Competitor
  • testimony
  • Team
  • To ask
  • Operational plan
  • Closing

Ask Sophie: Can I enter the US if my passport expires in 5 months?

lone figure at the entrance of a maze hedge with an American flag in the middle

Image credit: Bryce Durbin /

Dear Sophie,

I founded a startup in Zimbabwe a few years ago. I planned to visit the United States for the first time next month to see the market and applied for a visitor visa.

I am planning to stay in the US for a few months but I just realized my passport expires in September. I understand that I must have a minimum of six months remaining on my passport in order to travel to the United States.

Is that (still) true? Should I postpone my trip?

— Hopeful in Harare

Have Seed Deals Come Back to Earth? It is difficult to estimate.

seed investments, valuations, market downturn

Image Credits: Getty Images

There is statistical data and then there is anecdotal evidence.

According to PitchBook and Carta, median early-stage pre-money valuations and deal size grew between Q4 2022 and Q1 2023, even though it was “the slowest period for seed deals in 10 quarters,” reports Rebecca Szkutak.

At the same time, “several seed investors have told that they have seen a drop in reach for seed deals and that valuations have softened.”

This week about Equity

Equity Podcast icon

Image Credits:

In Wednesday’s Equity episodeNatasha Mascaren interviewed Sam Chaudhary, the founder of ClassDojo, and Chris Farmer, the founder and CEO of SignalFire, a company that recently announced a $900 million fund.

Topics they discussed include:

  • What an outsider advantage looks like in startups
  • Why ClassDojo doesn’t see itself as an edtech company
  • How Sam caught the eye of a hard-to-catch consumer early on

New episodes drop every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7 a.m. PT: Subscribe Apple podcasts, Cloudy or Spotify.

Down rounds prevail as power shifts back to VCs

Image of a pink balloon floating over three spikes to represent risk.

Image Credits: Richard Druy (Opens in a new window) /Getty Images

My hot take on down rounds: If you’re considering the alternative, they’re fine.

Reasonable people can agree that startup valuations have been overvalued for years. I’m not an economist, but this looks more like a market correction than the start of a harsh winter.

Still, Alex Wilhelm reports that downside rounds “accounted for nearly a fifth of all venture investment Carta saw in the first quarter.”

“I see no reason why this trend should suddenly stop, let alone reverse,” he writes.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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