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Andy is a great entrepreneur. I first met him in Boston in 1995 when we was working with the original team at a new Internet startup called Agents (which turned into Firefly). Shortly after, he started a company called Abuzz and he asked me to join his board. Abuzz was originally considering creating an online auction site (damn) but ended up creating a complex but powerful email-based collaborative filtering product. Abuzz raised venture money from Flatiron Partners (I sat on the board with Jerry Colonna), Softbank Venture Capital, and DFJ. Shortly after releasing the product, NY Times Digital came calling and acquired the company. We had stars in our eyes about the ultimate valuation of NYT Digital (as they planned to go public in 2000) – with the dot com crash that didn’t happen, but Andy had negotiated a clever put in the event that the NYT Digital didn’t go public and we all got a nice big check for our share of the equity in the deal in 2000.
I then managed to rope Andy into helping me start up a company called Body Shop Digital, which was the dot com spinoff of The Body Shop (retail stores). We fell in love with Anita Roddick – the original founder of The Body Shop – and got caught up in the dot com / brick and mortar spinoff that was in fashion at the time. We should have known it was going to be a disaster when it took us six months to negotiate the deal with the UK-based company, including several long negotiating sessions where we struggled with things like their arcane (and very protective) branding strategy. Within three months of closing the deal, we realized it was going to be a disaster – while The Body Shop was a visionary company, they were consumed at the time with internal politics around the ownership and long term leadership of the company and we were merely a pawn in the game. Fortunately, we had negotiated a 31 year exclusive right to the online brand (31 one years because when we got push back on a perpetual licence, I decided that Body Shop Digital should hold the rights until I was 65 – which was 31 more years). At the end of the first year (when we needed to raise more money for the venture), we managed to get The Body Shop to buy our investment back and we recovered half of our capital. Clearly nothing to be proud of (although by the end of 2001 and into 2002, getting back fifty cents on the dollar was better than most of the investments going around.) However, Andy and I had some incredible experiences and learned a tremendous amount on this one (and were happy to get out of town with some of our skin.)
Andy then took a couple of years off as he enjoyed his new child, helped found and coach a few startups (including Quova and Kefta – both companies I invested in), and stewed on what to do next. A year ago, he started cooking on Judy’s Book – which is now up, funded, and in beta.
In addition to being an accomplished entrepreneur, Andy is a deep thinker with a huge emotional IQ. Look for some great entrepreneurial stories and revelations on his blog.