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Woof! We just announced Foundry Group’s investment in Rover.com this morning. We led a $7m financing in the leader in digital dog boarding that connects dog owners with approved, reviewed, and insured sitters. Rover.com is part of our marketplace theme, which now includes investments in SideTour and PivotDesk. I’m psyched to be joining the board, working with my good friend Greg Gottesman at Madrona on another Seattle-based company.
Two years ago we probably wouldn’t have considered Rover.com as it would have fallen outside our active themes. Marketplace is a good example of how our themes evolve. Seth and I worked together on ServiceMagic in the 1999 – 2004 time frame (IAC acquired it in 2004 for $180m) so we had a deep understanding of how a heavily metric-based buy/sell marketplace worked. However, at Foundry Group, we didn’t start paying attention to this theme again until we made a seed investment in SideTour coming out of the TechStars New York program. In this case, Seth had been SideTour’s mentor and we classified it as “other” as we sometimes make exceptions and invest in companies outside our themes when (a) we love the founders and (b) we are interested in what they are doing.
Last summer, Jason mentored the founders of PivotDesk as they went through TechStars Boulder. At the end of the summer, we decided to invest as well as categorize SideTour and PivotDesk together in the same theme, which we originally named RAM, after Ryan’s initials, which happened to be the same as the abbreviation for “remnant asset monetization”, the key element of each of these companies that we were interested in.
Specifically, we aren’t interested in investing in any two-sided marketplace. Instead, we are looking for ones that have a very clearly defined inefficiency around “remnant assets”, or assets that expire if not used in a timely fashion. We’re also looking for ones that have huge under-accessed supply or demand, where mobile and location have an immediate impact on utilization, and where existing transaction friction – either as a result of process or trust – exists.
Rover.com was the first of over 100 companies we’ve seen in the last three months that fit these criteria. As a bonus, we loved the entrepreneurs and the domain, as three of the four of us are dog lovers (Jason, sadly, goes for cats, but we have Cheezburger for that.) Furthermore, it’s our fifth investment in Seattle, joining SEOmoz, Cheezburger, BigDoor, and Gist (now part of RIM). And it’s got two linkages to Startup Weekend (where I’m a board member) – they are both Seattle-based and Rover.com was conceived at a Startup Weekend.
I’m psyched to be an investor. And, every time I get in my Range Rover, I’ll think of Aaron. Especially when I’m with my golden retriever Brooks.
I always enjoy hanging out with Jason Calacanis. We first met in the mid-1990s when Jason was hanging out in NY doing Silicon Alley Reporter. I can’t remember who initially introduced us – it was probably Fred Wilson.
We covered a lot in the hour+ interview for This Week In Startups. Things like why I didn’t retire at age 30, what Amy’s ring tone is, Startup Communities, Boulder, what motivates me, the different between mentors and advisors, my biggest failures in the Internet bubble, the Foundry Group investment strategy, my angel investment strategy, why Fred Wilson and USV has been so successful, why the objective of a VC is a straightforward and how to define success as a VC, why the answer to “how is a VC fund doing” is “check back in a decade”, hiring for culture fit vs. competence., why entrepreneurs get to – and should – define their culture, why you can’t change people (and how my first marriage blew up), why investors are like D&D characters, examples of bad behavior of VCs and entrepreneurs, more stuff about VC and entrepreneur interactions, what the best board meetings are, a reminder that people lie, Lance Armstrong and ego, CEO coaches, the first person I ever fired, and a bunch of other stuff.
Jason – you are the Internet’s Charlie Rose. Well done.
I’ve been a huge fan of Xconomy since its debut several years ago. It’s been a refreshing resource for a bunch of startup communities, including Boston (where it started) and Seattle. Over time they’ve added New York, Detroit, San Francisco, and San Diego and are now considering expanding to Boulder / Denver (I encouraged them to combine both as each city is on fire and there’s no reason not to link them together at this point.)
We (my partners and I at Foundry Group and David Cohen at TechStars) are helping them get enough initial sponsors to bring on a full time writer in the Boulder / Denver area. The sign up for the Bring Xconomy to Boulder/Denver page has all the details.
Companies who have already signed up include Application Experts, Foundry Group, FullContact, GoSpotCheck, Gnip, Linksmart, Orbotix, PaySimple, PivotDesk, Precog, Rally Software, SendGrid, Simple Energy, SnapEngage, Standing Cloud, Swiftpage, Sympoz, and TechStars.
Come join us, sign up as a founding sponsor, and help get a great new resource covering the activity in our startup community.
I love this time of year. I get up at 5am, catch up on email (holy shit – is it already 6:37?), write a blog post, go for a run, and then have a completely jam packed day full of working with amazing people. Some days are awesome, some days have crushing challenges, all of them are stimulating.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve run incredibly hot from Labor Day through Thanksgiving. The boundaries seem to be the holidays and the bookends are Amy‘s birthday (9/14) and my birthday (12/1). We often find ourselves in New York around Amy’s birthday and in some exotic warm beach place (like Mexico) on mine. Between the two is complete and total chaos, which is delicious when I give myself up to it rather than fight it.
Here are a few of the things going on this fall.
- We just closed Foundry Group 2012 – a new $225 million fund. We’ll start investing out of it before the end of the year.
- Companies we’ve invested in are doing major launches. Fitbit launched two new products yesterday (Fitbit Zip and Fitbit One), Return Path launches three today (Email Intelligence!), and MakerBot launches several magical things on Wednesday. Who needs Christmas – every day is Christmas around here.
- My fourth book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City comes out at the end of the month.
- The Startup Revolution has begun. If you wonder why this matters, take a look at this Kauffman Foundation research on The Ascent of America’s High Growth Companies.
- I’m running a marathon in Utah (St. George), Vermont (Burlington), and Michigan (Detroit) in October. This is the first time I’ve done three weekends back to back (I’ve done two before).
- Amy and I are traveling all over the United States like nomads – San Francisco, Boise, Oklahoma City, St. George, Chicago, Des Moines, Burlington, Seattle, Detroit, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Lexington (KY), and Palm Desert. I love this country (and Canada). I’ve learned how to ship my clothes to different places – that makes the travel a lot easier.
- Amy and I are finishing up the next book in the Startup Revolution series – Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur which should be out by the end of the year.
- A second edition of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist – which I wrote with my partner Jason Mendelson comes out, along with a teaching guide that Jason and Brad Bernthal (CU Boulder) wrote.
- I’m spending all of my extra time with my three partners at Foundry Group, who I love working with, including a top secret two day retreat, time together at Defrag and Blur, and a few magic meals along the way.
As my dad likes to say, “if you aren’t living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.” I’m enjoying the edge this semester.
If you happen to talk to Kelly along the way, tell her thanks for putting up with me. Or send her flowers. Or chocolate.
I’ve been using Yesware since the first alpha release. While I’m theoretically not a salesperson, I believe every CEO and professional plays the role of a salesperson. And many people, especially in young, fast growing companies, are salespeople even if that’s not their title. As far as I’m concerned salespeople are the unsung heros of most US companies.
The brilliance of Yesware is that it was conceived and built by salespeople, for salespeople, from the perspective of living in email. Most salespeople I know live in email, hate their CRM system, and are constantly switching between the two while bemoaning the idiocy of the whole thing. The whole CRM thing is for sales managers who want to actually track what the salespeople are doing. But it’s all about email for the salespeople. And that’s what Yesware is focused on.
As a seed investor in Yesware, it has been pretty awesome to watch the product evolve and and the user growth spread to over 40,000 users through word of mouth only. As a result of our word of mouth approach, the product has to be great and responsive to the users.
As an investor, I’ve encouraged the team to push a new release once a week, focus on both registrations and daily active users, and instrument every aspect of the product so we can see what’s happening at a very granular level. While Yesware is only available for Gmail, it’s been an outstanding platform to iterate aggressively on and get this kind of feedback. Now that Yesware has nailed the use case with the seed financing and has a serious user ramp happening, it’s time to go after Outlook.
I’m psyched for the Yesware team and proud to be involved with them.