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Last week we announced our investment in Awe.sm. It’s squarely in our Glue and Protocol themes and is similar to investments we’ve made in SendGrid (for transactional email infrastructure) and Urban Airship (for push notification infrastructure). Oh – and the founders – Jonathan Strauss and Laurie Voss are – well – awesome.
We love things that wire the web together and believe Awe.sm is the company to do that for the construct of “sharing.” Specifically, Awe.sm’s goal is to become the key infrastructure provider powering quantitative performance marketing across the social sharing channel.
If you are a developer of a web app, take a look at how Awe.sm’s platform can help you.
In the “if you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at” category, I present the video I’m A VC. The formal press release, Foundry Group Premiers Documentary Film About Secret Lives of Venture Capitalists, explains things more fully.
My partner Jason Mendelson created, composed, wrote, sang, and produced the whole thing and explains the back story of I’m a VC on his blog. It’s awesome working with incredibly talented people who have a sense of humor and a willingness to make fun of themselves while letting me make fun of myself. And no – I can’t dance for shit, nor can I sing.
Entrepreneurs – you make our world go around. This is dedicated to you.
A few months ago Suzy Kendrick of CanvasPop reached out to me after I wrote a blog post titled What’s Your Product Cadence. She had some comments relevant to her business and offered to put together a Twitter word cloud print for @FoundryGroup.
It came out great and is now hanging in our office. The CanvasPop team was super to deal with – they offered us the first print for free. It was nice but after staring at it we wanted to tweak it a little. I offered to pay for this one (they didn’t ask – but it was the right thing for us to do) and they did an excellent job of making the changes we wanted.
Even though Amy and I are huge art collectors, this is the first time I’ve ever done a piece of personalized corporate art. CanvasPop totally nailed it for us and gave us something that we could finally use as our entry way sign.
If you are interested in something like this, drop an email to Chris – the Corporate Art Guru at CanvasPop. Suzy – thanks for reaching out!
Yesterday, we announced that we have invested in Occipital. You may know them as the creators of the popular iPhone app 360 Panorama, the creators of Red Laser (acquired by eBay), or just a gang of the smartest computer vision guys you’ll come across. And when I say “computer vision”, I don’t just mean the technical part, but also a vision of where it’s going. For example, from the Occipital blog post announcing the investment:
“Your smartphone’s computational reach into its surroundings ends at its touchscreen surface. To your device, the real world isn’t a canvas of interactivity. Instead, it’s little more than a grid of pixels that might as well be random. We’re changing that. We’re using computer vision to make real world environments computationally interactive and fun, thereby extending the computational reach of your device into the visual space around you.”
I met Jeff and Vikas in 2008. They are brilliant and have always had a huge vision. In Do More Faster, they wrote that you should Be Tiny Until You Shouldn’t Be. Red Laser was step 1. 360 Panorama was step 2. 360verse is step 3. And we are really psyched to invest and to help out with step 4.
Just for perspective, with my iPhone, I was able to create a pano of where I’m staying in Tuscany. It took 7 seconds and I’m a pretty mediocre photographer.
We now have three investments, starting with the letter O, in teams that just blow my mind with what they can make a computer do. We’ve talked about Oblong many times in the past. And our friends at Organic Motion just released an amazing new version of their markerless motion capture system.
Here’s to the letter O, as well as the machines getting a little bit smarter, every day, and in every way.
Once a quarter my partners (Seth, Ryan, Jason) and I spend 48 hours together. Unlike a typical offsite that ten zillion organizations have, we tend to spend less time on formalities and more time on wider ranging, forward looking discussions about what we are doing, both professionally and personally.
Last night, over an amazing meal, we ended up talking about what we’ve been investing in over the past four years. When we reflect on the 37 companies we’ve invested in since we raised our first Foundry Group fund in 2007, we’re delighted with the mix of companies and entrepreneurs we are working with. We have a very clear thematic strategy that we’ve discussed openly, along with a few other key principles such as being willing to invest anywhere in the US and being syndication agnostic.
At dinner we zoned in on all of the current activity in early stage tech. There’s an awesome amount of exciting stuff going on right now and a real entrepreneurial revival throughout the US. Sure, there’s all the inevitable bubble talk going on which I’ve encouraged entrepreneurs to simply ignore and play a long term game instead, and once again many VC firms are spreading themselves wide and chasing after whatever the latest interesting thing is. But entrepreneurship, especially throughout the US, is vigorous, exciting, and creating many really interesting companies, some of which will be important in the future.
When we think about what has driven the success of some of our investments, we realize that we’ve chose the macro environments to invest in really well. Our HCI, Adhesive, and Distribution themes are all great examples of this. With HCI, we are at the very beginning of a massive shift over the next 20 years around how humans and computers interact. Adhesive plays the macros of digital advertising – every year meaningful ad spend is shifting annually from offline to online and that will continue for quite some time. And with distribution we’ve benefitted from the application of the concept of social to extremely large existing online markets where innovation had stagnated.
Our conversation shifted to 2015. While we still believe there are many exciting opportunities within our existing themes, we think that given the velocity of technology innovation and the way we use technology, things will shift dramatically over the next four years. Completely new and unexpected innovations are emerging and entrepreneurs who are obsessed with transforming existing industries, creating radical new technologies, or dramatically changing the use case of existing technology are starting to work in 2011 on things that will matter immensely in 2015.
We have one new investment coming up that reflects this and, when we start talking about it, you’ll see the kind of entrepreneur and company we are searching for. We decided last night to look for a lot more of it. While our deeply held beliefs about what we invest in and how we invest are the same, we’ve decided to open up our intellectual aperture and make sure we’ve incorporated a stronger view of “what is 2015 going to be like” into our thinking.