Ever since I met Ben Huh 18 months ago via an introduction from Micah Baldwin (see Micah – I do take you seriously – some of the time) I’ve had a major entrepreneur-crush (sort of like a man-crush, but, well, you get the idea) on Ben. C’mon – the guy wears a cheeseburger on his head – how can you not love him.
After meeting Ben, I decided to try out the site. My first LOL was my wife Amy’s car on fire – feel free to click on it and go vote it up.
Rich has spend a lot of time in the clouds lately, including his investment in Cloudkick which was acquired yesterday by Rackspace. He got excited about Standing Cloud and their mission to “reimagine hosting” in the context of cloud computing. Shared hosting was a great idea back in 1999 but most users of Web apps today require more control over upgrades, better access to backups, ability to move applications across cloud providers, and extremely high reliability. In addition, deploying apps on most cloud providers continues to be unnecessarily complicated.
There are a huge number of solution providers out in the world who are specialists in any of the more than 70 open-source apps that Standing Cloud supports. For them, Standing Cloud is a simple way to deploy multiple instances of a single app across all of their clients, retain a high degree of flexibility and control over the apps, and not ever have to worry about hosting. These are folks who are helping businesses launch and maintain not only websites but the software they use to run and manage their business.
This week, Standing Cloud launched the Standing Cloud Partner Program for these customers. Becoming a partner includes free hosting for one instance of a single application for one year, volume pricing, and a listing of their services in the Standing Cloud Application Network, launched last week, which is gearing up to be the go-to place for end users and solution providers around Web apps. The program is designed to help grow the business of service providers who customize, support, and deploy online applications, ranging from CMS systems like Drupal, WordPress and Plone, CRM systems like vTiger and SugarCRM, and other business tools like Status.Net, and OpenVBX.
If you’re a solution provider looking for a better way to manage apps for your clients, you can sign up at Standing Cloud. And if you want to see how easy it is to set up any of over 70 open source apps in under five minutes, just select an app and click on “Use It Now.”
Gnip provides access to over 100 other social media feeds but has spent a lot of time in the past six months optimizing and tuning their system for Twitter-related data.
While Gnip has had its public ups and downs, including a reset of the technical approach and parts of the team about a year ago, co-founder and CEO Jud Valeski has done a magnificent job over the past two quarters of accelerating the business with real customers, adding huge depth to the technology stack, building a team that is continuing to scale nicely, and solidifying a long term relationship with Twitter that has been in the works for a while.
I’m at Newark Airport waiting for my plane to take me to Quebec for the Quebec City Conference where I’m being interviewed at the end of the day by Rob Cox of Reuters Breakingviews. Yesterday Rob and I had a short call so he could get to know me a little better.
We will never raise a fund larger than $225 million. We just raised our second fund. It was exactly the same size as our first fund. Assuming we are successful, our next fund, which we expect to raise in three or four years, will be $225 million.
We will never add anyone to the team. I have three partners (Seth Levine, Jason Mendelson, and Ryan McIntyre). We’ve worked together for a decade. We’ve committed to each other to work together as partners “until we are done investing as VCs.” We work extraordinarily well together and have no interest in ever introducing someone new into the mix.
Entrepreneurs want to work directly with us, not through junior people. The manifestation of this deeply held belief is that we don’t have principals, associates, or analysts.
We all work on the same things. While we each have different strengths and weaknesses, we only invest in areas and companies that all four of us have expertise and affinity for.
We have plenty of other deeply held beliefs but these should give you a feel for how we think about it. It’ll be interesting to see how the interview goes today at the conference and if these come up – if I end up on a long riff about it I imagine another blog post on this topic may be forthcoming.
I’m always on the lookout for what I consider to be genius level software engineering talent. As an MIT graduate, I’ve been around plenty of it, but I also know that it shows up in unexpected places. A few weeks into TechStars, I realized that not only was I hanging out with genius level software talent but that Ian and Adam thought about hardware and the combination of hardware and software in unique ways. For example, take a look at a robotic ball controlled by a smart phone.
As part of my involvement in TechStars, I choose one or two companies from each program to mentor. We believe the magic of TechStars is the mentorship and while I tried to work with all the companies in the first two Boulder programs, given that there are now over 40 companies a year going through TechStars (10 each in Boulder, Boston, Seattle, and New York), I realized I needed to act like every other mentor and focus at most on two companies per program.
While Foundry Group has investment in two other TechStars companies (both from the TechStars Boulder 2009 program - Next Big Sound and SendGrid) this is the first company that I’ve mentored that we’ve invested in. One of my goals with my mentorship is to work with companies that are both within our themes and outside of our themes – this keeps my thinking fresh in other areas. So, I set the expectation early with the companies that I mentor that it’s unlikely we will invest. For example, the company in the TechStars Seattle program that I’m currently mentoring is absolutely killing it, but it’s far outside any of our themes. But, I’m learning a lot and they are also.
In the case of Orbotix, I knew they’d be within our human computer interaction theme, but when I started working with Adam and Ian, I didn’t realize how profound what they were doing was. Fortunately, by mid-summer I did, and began encouraging one of their other mentors, Paul Berberian, to engage more deeply with them. Paul, Adam, and Ian quickly started talking about teaming up and used the last four weeks of the program to “pretend” they were partners. By the end of the program they decided to join forces with Paul becoming CEO of Orbotix.
While this investment has resulted in endless teenage humor for my inner 14 year old, it is also another step in my personal strategy of making sure that if the robots actually do take over some time in the future, I’ve helped create some of their software.