Month: February 2007
Ah – growth is good. A number of my portfolio companies have recently increased the pace at which they are hiring, especially on the technical side. StillSecure is working on an exciting new “convergence product” and also expanding its Safe Access team. Mitchell Ashley – who is running the convergence product – has a brief note up on his blog about the type of folks StillSecure is looking for. If you fit the bill and are interested, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hema Oza at TheStreet.com wrote an article after an email interview with me titled Tech Tips for Small Business. She captured the interview well – my current favorites are my T-Mobile Dash, Lenovo X60 Laptop with Vista and EVDO, FeedDemon, Trillian/Skype, and Firefox. Of course, I have a much longer list of things use all the time – including some non-business ones (e.g. my Slingbox and Guitar Hero), but these seemed like the current “if I am running a small business and I wanted to get some new toys (hardware and software please), which ones would I get.”
My partner Jason just told me about a Google Local search experience he and Ryan McIntyre just had. They were out last weekend guitar shopping. Jason is looking for a custom shop Gibson ES-335 and can’t find one anywhere. (If you know where to find one, please email me.) They had planned a day of hitting every guitar store in Denver. On Google local, they found a listing for Cadillac Guitars. It was near the Denver Guitar Center, so they decided to visit it.
They went to the address, but instead of a guitar shop, they found Rupps Drums. They figured that they must have made a mistake, because clearly this store had been around a while. After driving around the block and checking the web again, they were clueless and decided to go into the drum store. They asked about Cadillac Guitars and were informed that they moved out over 15 years ago.
15 years ago? Bad data – oops. Now – I can’t bash Google because Judy’s Book shows the same listing, as does Yahoo, as does Yelp, as does … Someone needs to run a dedupe algorithm on addresses – oh – and fix the underlying data that everyone is using to seed their databases.
Coming out of the Venture Capital in the Rockies conference, I was pleasantly surprised with how solid most of the presentations were. There was plenty of pre-conference preparation, practice, and iteration from the companies presenting – and it showed.
A few weeks ago, one of my portfolio companies met with a prospective investor. The company isn’t raising money – they are doing very well – but will be in the market at some point. The VC they met with has expressed interest in the company several times in the past, is a long time friend of mine, and is a smart, thoughtful guy.
I spent five minutes with the CEO of my portfolio company preparing him for the meeting. Our time was spent entirely on the background of the prospective VC and some suggestions about how to approach the meeting. I spent 0 minutes looking at the company “fundraising presentation” (since we weren’t fundraising – it didn’t really cross my mind) and I took the meeting casually assuming the VC would be also be viewing this as a casual meeting.
The meeting was a disaster. I saw the presentation after the fact – it was a “C” – not horrible, but not very good, and certainly not “VC pitch friendly.” The VC immediately formed a negative opinion based on being presented with data and a bottoms up corporate presentation (rather than a clear presentation that lead him through the business systematically.) The result – no interest in having any further conversations.
My assessment of the problem was that we approached things casually. Even thought this wasn’t a real “decision meeting”, we should have either declined taking it now since we aren’t fundraising (my normal approach), or should have prepared and not been casual. I wasn’t paying attention because the prospective investor was a long time friend that has consistently expressed interest in the company. The result – the door is shut for a real conversation in the future.
Simple message – in all fundraising situations – don’t be casual. The first impression counts a huge amount and sets the tone. This is obvious, but even after doing hundreds of financings, I blew it this time.
Five of my Boulder / Denver based portfolio companies (Rally Software, StillSecure, Me.dium, NewsGator, and Gold Systems) are holding a joint recruiting even on March 7th. They are each looking for a variety of people across Sales, Marketing, Engineering, Services and Support. If you are interested in a new job at a young, rapidly growing software / Internet company, this is a great way to check out some of the hottest companies in the area.
Wednesday, March 7
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Process and Questions
Arrive anytime between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. on March 7. Tables will be set up to meet with representatives from Rally, StillSecure, Me.dium, NewsGator and Gold Systems. Please bring plenty of copies of your resume and any other relevant work samples; registration in not required. Business attire is recommended, and tea, coffee and light snacks will be provided.
Rally Software – Voted the best tech company to work for in Colorado, Rally leads its industry by providing tools and coaching services for Agile software development – one of the fastest-growing trends in the technology space. Search open positions at Rally.
StillSecure – Ranked #12 on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 Rising Star list, StillSecure creates network security software products covering network access control, vulnerability management and intrusion detection/prevention. Search open positions at StillSecure.
Me.dium– One of the most blogged about Colorado tech start-ups, Me.dium has developed a window that reveals the hidden world of activity behind a browser, allowing people to see their online world for the first time. Search open positions at Me.dium
NewsGator – Headquartered in Denver, NewsGator is the world’s leading RSS company and develops and markets its RSS aggregation solutions for individual end users, enterprises and online content providers. Search open positions at NewsGator.
Gold Systems – Since its founding in 1991, Gold Systems has been hailed as one of Colorado’s biggest high-tech successes, and its software has helped automate more than 1 billion telephone calls around the world. Search open positions at Gold Systems.
For additional questions, email email@example.com.
I participated in the press roundtable at the Venture Capital in the Rockies conference that the National Venture Capital Association put together today. David Cohen sat in and recorded it – the podcast is up on the ColoradoStartups.com site. We hung in there for almost 90 minutes and covered a lot of ground – if you are interested the show notes (per David) follow.
5:00 – What does Colorado have to offer from a venture capital perspective?
8:45 – Where do Colorado companies get “serious capital”? Do they tend to need to move to get access to that kind of capital?
10:00 – Good discussion of why Colorado is a great tech startup region.
11:25 – Out of staters are surprised by the depth of technology present here in certain segments.
12:30 – Out of state VCs trust Colorado VCs to “look after the shop” and it may be attractive for B rounds.
14:05 – What are the staple industries that are being invested here, and what are the ones which may be emerging?
18:45 – Surprising number of life science companies being funded (30+ in Colorado last year)
20:30 – Less “follow the leader” in Colorado than elsewhere.
21:30 – Are VCs here stringent in terms of business plans, revenue models, etc?
24:45 – Renewable energy, CleanTech discussion.
27:45 – What role can the government play in promoting energy and CleanTech?
29:50 – How strong is the local market for venture debt?
31:45 – Consumer products (natural foods, beverage, restaurant chains, LOHAS, etc).
36:00 – How does globalization affect Colorado?
39:55 – VC industry in general is much smaller than it was a few years ago.
40:40 – Where is the money going if it’s not going into VC funds?
44:40 – Does every VC firm in Colorado see every funded deal here?
47:25 – How have Colorado VCs done in comparison to the rest of the country?
50:45 – Has your mindset changes regarding exits and how you think about them lately? IPOs, strategic acquisitions, etc?
56:10 – Is there an appetite for foreign IPOs (e.g. AIM)?
58:00 – Is it rhetoric that companies may go public overseas because of Sarbanes-Oxley?
59:20 – Should startups/small companies have different Sarbanes-Oxley rules?
1:03:50 – Discussion of the history of the accounting industry – Books that Brad references (and couldn’t recall) are here and here.
1:04:30 How generous are you all feeling with your checkbooks in 2007?
1:06:35 (2 minute drop in audio due to technical problem)
1:07:20 The best things the state of Colorado can do for entrepreneurs? Brad and John say focus on education.
1:10:30 What few things would you like to see if Ritter could make one or two key moves?
1:11:30 The most underestimated thing about Colorado is simply that people want to live here.
1:14:15 What Cleantech technologies look most interesting?
1:15:30 Thoughts of VCs on recent Union bill veto by Ritter.
1:17:00 What keeps VCs up at night these days?
1:20:30 Energy/aerospace collaboration with government?
1:23:45 Are Colorado Springs and Fort Collins second fiddle to Denver/Boulder/CU?
It happens all the time. You do something, don’t think hard about the implications of it, and then realize that you’ve “stepped in shit.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve done this in business over the last 20+ years – at least I know how to clean my sneakers off quickly and efficiently.
Earlier today I had a phone call with an exec from one of my portfolio companies. He did something recently that could only be characterized as stepping in shit. It ultimately came back around to me because of the various people involved. It wasn’t a major thing (stepping in shit never is), but it was unpleasant, a little messy, and smelled bad. My reaction – when I heard about it – was similar to the one I have after the aforementioned physical event.
We had a great, short talk. He quickly got the implications of what he did, realized it wasn’t appropriate, and took corrective action. But – more importantly – I think he learned from it.
Stepping in shit doesn’t hurt, isn’t life or death, but is unpleasant. Learning how to walk a little more carefully through a field that is regularly visited by dogs is a healthy thing.
We’ve just made a modest investment in Slice of Lime. We’re excited – but Kevin Menzie, Jeff Rodanski, and their team are “extremely excited.”
Before you say “hey Brad – why are you making an investment in a small, local, web design and development firm”, stay with me for a second. Put your Warren Buffett “I invest in great people that I like in businesses I understand that can make money over a long period of time’” hat on, and try to remember a little about my past.
I first met Kevin when he was working for Return Path. At some point, he went to part time (Return Path didn’t need a full time person in Kevin’s role) and he worked out a deal with Matt Blumberg (Return Path’s CEO) to start Slice of Lime with Return Path as his first client. As part of this, we introduced Kevin to a few of our portfolio companies and he was off to the races.
He reminded me a lot of myself when I was starting my first company (Feld Technologies.) Hungry, smart, willing to do anything to satisfy a client, unusually responsive, and a complete sponge for new information. I loved his style and we were (or at least I’d like to think we were) continually helpful – for no reason other than we thought Kevin did great work. Over time, I got to know Kevin’s partner Jeff – who also is a stud – and my respect and enthusiasm for them grew.
Over time, they did a lot of work for companies I have invested in, including Return Path, NewsGator, and Collective Intellect. They also did work for some of the other organizations I’ve been involved in, including the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, the Women’s Wilderness Institute, and Blink Gallery. They did a bunch of work for me also, including the Feld Thoughts and AsktheVC sites.
Thanks for staying with me. If you know me, you know why we made this investment. Kevin and Jeff have been running a nice, small, cash flow positive business. They have been in the good position of having too much demand for their services. They also have built some great frameworks that allow them to do stuff very economically. Over the last year we’ve spent some time with them giving them advice on how they could expand their business.
One of the biggest stresses of trying to grow a small professional services business is to hire slightly ahead of demand. If you do this too fast, you’ll run out of money. If you do this too slowly, you’ll choke on the work and go through a classic feast and famine dynamic (too much business one month, not enough the next.) If you are capitalized the way Feld Technologies was (e.g. with ten dollars), there is no buffer.
We decided to provide a little bit of buffer for Slice of Lime. While we would never force any of our portfolio companies to work with them, we obviously endorse them and recommend them highly. And – as a number of other people did with me early in my first business – I hope when Kevin and Jeff look back 20 years from now they view us as key mentors for them.
On 8/8/06, while in excellent shape (I ran the New Mexico Marathon on 9/3/06), I somehow convinced myself that it would be a fun idea to run the North Pole Marathon. By the end of December, I realized that there was no way I’d be able to maintain the level of training necessary to do it. I also realized that I’d taken leave of my senses in August when I signed up for this.
I’d paid for everything so I decided that – in conjunction with YourRunning.com – I would give away my entry. Today we’ve announced that Bobby Bostic is the winner of our contest and will be running the North Pole Marathon in April.
See more videos like this at Running at YourRunning.com
There were 65 incredible entrants with awesome stories. I’m blown away – and inspired – by the fitness level and accomplishment of these folks. Congrats Bobby. Time for my run.