I’m an early stage investor. Very early. Think “seed stage.” My favorite investments are in tiny teams of founders that I can get in a closet (e.g. one to four – a normal sized closet, not Amy’s.)
One of the seeds I planted in 2004 was NewsGator. I met Greg Reinacker in the spring of 2004 via an introduction from one of the members of the Return Path leadership team who said “hey Brad – there’s this RSS thing – it looks a little like email – you should check it out. Oh by the way, there is this guy named Greg you should meet.”
I sent Greg an email and we set up a meeting. I spent some time poking around on the web before the meeting. I figured out that RSS was a protocol, a bunch of smart software guys had gotten into a huge war over it and a protocol called Atom, and it had something to do with the blog things that were popping up all over the place. Other than that I didn’t really get it.
In that first meeting, I spent two hours in a conference room with Greg. The first thing I learned was that Greg was one of those rare software developers that is 100x better than virtually everyone else. When you find a guy like Greg, you lock him in your basement, make him break up with his girlfriend, and don’t let him out until you have a deal. The second thing I learned was that RSS was a transformational protocol that has extremely broad implications.
I often say that my analogy for RSS was SMTP. SMTP is the protocol that begat email. Email has been very, very, very good to me (and continues to be – witness the success of Postini and Return Path.) SMTP:RSS as RSS:“something”. I didn’t really know what the “something” was, but I knew it was something (brilliant, I know.)
We did the seed financing for NewsGator in May of 2004 and its growth has exceeded all of my expectations. Yesterday, along with announcing a new version of the NewsGator Enterprise Server, they announced that they now have over 100 customers and 400,000 seats of its enterprise software licensed. NewsGator now has well over a million people using some version of their software every day. And yes – it’s a real business – generating real revenue.
I’ve continued to plant plenty of seeds. My garden of stuff around RSS and a theme I call the “Implicit Web” is growing nicely. I continue to tend to it, remove weeds when necessarily, and fertilize regularly (I’ll let you figure out how I do that.)
Greg, JB, and the entire team at NewsGator – thanks for helping create a tree! Now – let’s work on the forest. And Greg – sorry about that girlfriend thing.