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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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It’s Time To Reinvent The Signature Page

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Last night I printed, signed, scanned, and emailed two signature pages.  As is my custom of not keeping anything around, I tore up and tossed the sig pages and then deleted the files.  This morning I woke up to an email saying “We didn’t get your signature pages.  Can you please send them.”  I just went through the same print, sign, scan, and email process again.

This is so profoundly stupid.  I sent a note yesterday afternoon in reply to the email thread asking if I was all set to go that said “I’m all set to go.”  A bunch of lawyers were on the email thread (mine and the company’s.)  We are wiring the money today.  Now they have some pretty scanned sig pages also.

There has got to be a better way.  Over the last decade, there have been lots of “electronic signature” companies pop up.  None have seemed to take root in the corporate world.  In the past year, I sold a house and bought a house.  In both cases, there was some goofy online thing that I signed with my mouse (my signature looked like a messy “X”) for the offers (to make / accept) but I still had to go to the title company and sit and sign 37 documents to close.  Every time I go to the grocery store I swipe my credit card through a little electronic checkout machine and when it’s time to sign, I put a big “X” on the sig line.

When I think about the number of places my actual signature is at this point, it’s a pretty useless mark.  But for some reason it’s still important in the legal closing process.  This now seems more like a tradition, instead of a useful thing.

While I’m not interested in funding something in this arena (it’s outside our focus), it seems like there’s finally an opportunity to solve for this, at least in the corporate world.  I’m not talking about biometrics or retina scanning – just a valid electronic signature that becomes a standard.  Maybe someday.  Wouldn’t it be cool if they lawyers took this on and tried to solve it?

HP Buys LeftHand Networks for $360 Million

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Congrats to the everyone involved in LeftHand Networks – it was announced today that HP is buying them for $360 Million in cash.  LeftHand was born and raised in Boulder and is a large company (and acquisition) for this region.  HP is clearly in a buying mood having just completed their acquisition of EDS a few weeks ago.

Brief Thoughts On How The IBM Acquisition Machine Works

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The NY Times has a great short article up titled The I.B.M. Acquisition Machine: A Seller’s PerspectiveIt has several quotes from Pierre Haren, the co-founder of CEO of Ilog which IBM acquired on Monday for $340 million.

I’ve been involved in the sale of two companies to IBM.  While a brief article, the comments Haren makes ring 100% true with my experience.

Avoiding the Shareholder Rep Problem

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My partner, Jason Mendelson, had a post yesterday on AskTheVC about our view on the problem of figuring out who will have to serve as the shareholder rep following the closing of M&A deals.  For anyone who doesn’t know what this shareholder rep issue is, Jason does a good job of briefly explaining it. 

We’re pretty much done serving as the rep on these transactions.  It’s been a problem for us for years, but we’re now working with and advising a company called Shareholder Representative Services that professionally manages the post-closing process so that we no longer have to get stuck with this job.  We also get better information and results when SRS is our rep than when one of the other stockholders takes the job.

See Jason’s post more background on what this shareholder rep issue is and why we try hard to avoid it.

Modest Deals, Happy Deals

Comments (4)

I was talking to a friend yesterday about exits.  In it, he suggested that the tech M&A market had shut down just like the tech IPO market had.

This didn’t square with my experience.  I’ve seen plenty of modest M&A in the last two months (which I categorize as sub-$100m deals.)  Two popped up today – AOL acquired Sphere for a reported $25m and someone is rumored (possibly Expedia) to have acquired Farecast for $75m

While these are modest acquisitions, they are not distressed deals (e.g. company that is struggling gets bought for very little by other private company, usually for private company stock.)  There are plenty of distressed deals happening – they are usually pretty easy to recognize.

While modest deals aren’t the end game of a VC investor, they are definitely a key part of the diet.  Everyone knows that "singles and doubles" don’t turn a VC fund into a winner, but they are needed to fill in the holes.  So – it’s good to see a steady tempo of these modest deals continuing.  Plus, it makes for good copy.

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