houston innovators podcast Episode 165
Houston investor shares what startup founders need to prioritize in 2023
Heading into the new year, startup founders in Houston and beyond need to focus on conserving and raising cash, says Samantha Lewis, principal of Houston-based venture capital firm Mercury.
“We all know it’s turbulent market times. We’re unsure where the market is going, and when there’s uncertainty in the public markets, that puts uncertainty in the private markets,” Lewis says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. “What I’ve been spending the past two quarters doing is working with our portfolio companies to just make sure our balance sheets are bulked up for what’s to come in 2023.”
She says Mercury's startup portfolio has focused on extending each company's runway financially through 2024 — and she recommends all startups to try to do the same. She advises on the show that even if a company raised funding within the past year, open on the same terms and valuation just to bridge the gap.
“In 2023, if things start to look up, great. But if things continue to be volatile, then we need to be prepared for it,” she says. “What we’re advising all of our startups to do is to get as much cash in the door right now as you can.”
She outlined a lot of this analysis in a report for Mercury looking back at the market in 2022. Lewis, who was named a member of the Class 27 of the Kauffman Fellows Program, a group of global innovation investors, factors in what she's experienced through the program at an international level.
Lewis is focused on what she calls the "power theme" at Mercury, which includes fintech, blockchain, web3, and more. She says these industries have been hit in particular within market uncertainty.
"Ultimately the companies that are now getting investment and see capital flow through them within Web3 are the ones that have been building a sustainable business from the beginning," she says. "And thinking about what are the real use cases that blockchain unlocks and how it adds economic value."
When it comes to VC activity, Lewis says 2023 has been plagued with "FOMO investing" — the fear of missing out on a buzzy new technology — and "hype projects." Investors were throwing money into Web3 technology that hadn't yet been vetted in a real way.
Mercury didn't do that, Lewis says. "We've been very disciplined about where we put dollars within Web3. We've done mostly infrastructure Web3, and the only thing we'll continue to do is infrastructure." She cites Topl, a Houston-founded blockchain network company, as an example.
On the podcast, she shares more about the tumultuous ride blockchain has had in 2022, and why she's still bullish on Web3 despite the bad actors within cryptocurrency. She also shares some of the things Mercury has been up to with its Houston-based portfolio and what's next for them.
Listen to the episode below, or wherever you get your podcasts — just search "Houston Innovators Podcast."