Brad Feld

Back to Blog

Watching the Seeds Grow Into Trees

May 01, 2007
Category Investments

I’m an early stage investor.  Very early.  Think “seed stage.”  My favorite investments are in tiny teams of founders that I can get in a closet (e.g. one to four – a normal sized closet, not Amy’s.) 

One of the seeds I planted in 2004 was NewsGator.  I met Greg Reinacker in the spring of 2004 via an introduction from one of the members of the Return Path leadership team who said “hey Brad – there’s this RSS thing – it looks a little like email – you should check it out.  Oh by the way, there is this guy named Greg you should meet.”

I sent Greg an email and we set up a meeting.  I spent some time poking around on the web before the meeting. I figured out that RSS was a protocol, a bunch of smart software guys had gotten into a huge war over it and a protocol called Atom, and it had something to do with the blog things that were popping up all over the place.  Other than that I didn’t really get it.

In that first meeting, I spent two hours in a conference room with Greg.  The first thing I learned was that Greg was one of those rare software developers that is 100x better than virtually everyone else.  When you find a guy like Greg, you lock him in your basement, make him break up with his girlfriend, and don’t let him out until you have a deal.  The second thing I learned was that RSS was a transformational protocol that has extremely broad implications. 

I often say that my analogy for RSS was SMTP.  SMTP is the protocol that begat email.  Email has been very, very, very good to me (and continues to be – witness the success of Postini and Return Path.)  SMTP:RSS as RSS:“something”.  I didn’t really know what the “something” was, but I knew it was something (brilliant, I know.)

We did the seed financing for NewsGator in May of 2004 and its growth has exceeded all of my expectations.  Yesterday, along with announcing a new version of the NewsGator Enterprise Server, they announced that they now have over 100 customers and 400,000 seats of its enterprise software licensed.  NewsGator now has well over a million people using some version of their software every day.  And yes – it’s a real business – generating real revenue.

I’ve continued to plant plenty of seeds.  My garden of stuff around RSS and a theme I call the “Implicit Web” is growing nicely.  I continue to tend to it, remove weeds when necessarily, and fertilize regularly (I’ll let you figure out how I do that.) 

Greg, JB, and the entire team at NewsGator – thanks for helping create a tree!  Now – let’s work on the forest.  And Greg – sorry about that girlfriend thing.