Category: Foundry Group
At Foundry Group, we’ve decided to voluntarily extend our Work from Home policy until at least the end of May 2020. Until then, our office is closed. We will re-evaluate this on May 25th and decide whether to let our Work from Home policy expire, or extend it further.
We encourage all Colorado-based software and professional services businesses to consider this policy. Given our State’s current “Safer at Home” policy, overall limitations on testing, uncertainty around the current state of the Covid crisis, and the existing stress on many healthcare-related systems, we believe that many businesses can do their part to ease the strain by continuing Work from Home policies.
We are fortunate that we can run our business in a completely remote and distributed fashion, with everyone working from home. While the Safer at Home policy allows offices to have up to 50% of their staff working at any one time, to be truly safe at work requires numerous processes, including regular testing and tracing of employees, extensive office cleaning, and controls around visitors. We are not prepared to do this at the level we believe we need to in order for our team to feel safe and think that, at a minimum, we need more time to prepare.
We also recognize that many businesses cannot operate remotely. While we immediately think of hospitals and frontline health care workers, many essential businesses have not been closed during the “Stay at Home” order. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these people and recognize that one thing that we can continue to do in May is work from home to keep the burden on the system lower.
Numerous businesses have been extremely impacted by the Covid crisis, including some, such as restaurants and retail, that are going to open more slowly and on a limited basis. Their environments are different than a software or professional services firm, as their employees and customers physically interact continuously throughout the day. Many of them, especially restaurants, are already tuned in to health and safety issues in a way that traditional office environments are not, so putting additional safety measures in place, while burdensome, is more natural for them.
We have been studying many things that larger companies are doing. It’s apparent that the private sector will need to be very involved in creating a safe working environment for their employees. While the government can give us parameters and constraints we are going to have to have to carry them out on a daily basis. And, to do that well, will require real preparation.
A number of tech companies led the movement to work from home, including a group of us in Colorado. You don’t have to be in an office environment to develop software products, practice law, trade stocks, or make investments. If you have the flexibility to work from home, we encourage you to consider being the last to exit the Work from Home dynamic, just as we were the first to enter it.
It’s that time of year again where we like to shop at our portfolio companies.
If you want even more gift options, Techstars also has an awesome gift guide.
Inspired by our friends at Techstars and their Techstars Holiday Guide, we thought it would be fun to highlight some of our direct and partner fund portfolio companies this holiday season. We think everything listed below is awesome, so we’ve tried to keep the hyperbole out of the descriptions so you can quickly scan for anything you are interested in.
Apparel, Lifestyle, and Sports
- Betabrand – Business casual clothing
- Havenly – Online interior design
- Inkbox – Temporary tattoos
- Primary – Kids clothing
- The Pros Closet – Pre-owned bicycles and components
- Wires – Handcrafted eyeglasses
- Bluprint – Online courses from world-class experts
- littleBits – Electronic building blocks
- Modular Robotics – Robot building blocks
- Osmo – Hands-on game system
- Sphero – Educational robots
Health, Fitness, Pets, and Food
- Fitbit – Health and fitness trackers
- Halo Neuroscience – Neurostimulation training headset
- June – Convection oven, air fryer, dehydrator, slow cooker, broiler, and toaster
- Molekule – Air purifier
- Nima – Portable gluten and peanut testers
- Peloton – Exercise bike and treadmill
- Rover – Dog boarding, walking, house sitting, and daycare
- Formlabs – 3D SLA (stereolithography) printer
- Glowforge – 3D laser printer (laser cutter)
- Looking Glass – 3D holographic display
- Occipital – 3D scanning and mixed reality
Toys and Games
- Harmonix – Music video games (Rock Band and DropMix)
- OpenROV – Underwater robot
- Roli – Musical instruments
- Two Bit Circus – Immersive entertainment experience in LA
Semil Shah recently wrote a post titled Investing Outside The Bay Area. In it, he talked about his own experience expanding his investment horizons beyond the bay area, but also mentioned some other folks, including us and USV, where he did a quick analysis of the location of our partner funds.
From Semil’s post:
“Another firm linked closely to USV — Foundry Group in Boulder — has also been investing with an eye for geographic diversity. While I don’t have portfolio level stats for them, their new endeavor Foundry Next (to invest in smaller funds and then follow-on into key investments) has built up an LP basket of 23 positions in a variety of new VC funds. Of the 23 funds listed here, 13 are in the Bay Area, 3 in NYC, 3 in Boston, 2 in LA, and one each in Detroit, Seattle, Toronto, Waterloo, Indianapolis, and Fargo, North Dakota. This is a very clever way of helping new funds get their footing and hearing about what is working before others may pick up the scent.”
That generated a fun email exchange between us and prompted me to do an analysis on the locations of the direct investments that we’ve made since we started Foundry Group in 2007. The geographic breakdown of our 123 direct investments follows:
Twelve years later, we were pretty close. When we started Foundry Group, we said that 33% of our investments would be in California (which, at the time, we thought of as equivalent to the Bay Area), 33% would be in Colorado, and 34% would be in the rest of the United States.
We have always believed that great companies can be created anywhere. While we don’t have a geographic allocation approach, we were willing to travel and invest everywhere in the US. We knew that some places, like NYC, Boston, and Seattle, where we already had deep networks, would be common places for us to invest. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the expansion of our networks in other geographies, like Southern California (LA, San Diego, and Santa Barbara) and Portland.
It’s useful to note that in addition to our direct investing and partner fund investing, we are investors in Techstars, which has redefined seed stage investing all over the world. Currently, they are running accelerator programs in over 16 cities and 13 countries, in addition to Startup Weekend and Startup Week activity, which thoroughly covers the world.
As we start investing Foundry Group Next 2018, I expect we’ll add a few more states on both the direct and partner fund investing side. Hopefully, we will continue to help develop and expand existing and new startup communities.
We are happy to announce the closing of our seventh fund, Foundry Group Next 2018. The $750 million fund combines all of our prior fund strategies – our early stage, early growth, and partner fund investments – into a single fund.
For historical reference, our early-stage funds (FG 2007, FG 2010, FG 2013, and FG 2016) are all $225 million in size. Our first early growth fund raised in 2013, Foundry Group Select, is also $225m in size. In 2016, when we raised Foundry Group Next, we approximately doubled the size of that fund to $500 million since 30% of it was going to be invested in partner funds and 70% in early growth. So, at the beginning of 2016, we effectively raised $725 million (FG 2016 and Foundry Group Next). Foundry Group Next 2018 is simply the combination of those two funds rounded up slightly.
Our strategy is unchanged – we’ve just combined all of our investing activity into one fund going forward. When we started Foundry Group, we had four equal partners. We now have seven equal partners. We invest all over the United States and Canada. We have a deliberate and focused set of themes that encompass almost all of our investments. We are syndication agnostic, being indifferent between investing by ourselves or with co-investors – especially our partner funds – where we mostly have long and successful relationships. Our goal is to have significant ownership in companies we are investors in (often over 30%). We are very long-term investors, focusing on net cash on cash returns, rather than short-term or intermediate IRRs.
While we have an early entry point from our historical early-stage investing, we don’t have to be the first investor in a company. With the Cambrian explosion of seed funds that has occurred in the last five years, we’ve chosen to invest in these funds directly (which we call our partner funds) rather than try to chase seed investments all around the country. If a company hasn’t raised more than $5 million, we are a good target, as long as it is in the US (or Canada) and in one of our themes.
We are full lifecycle investors and willing to invest, and lead, Series A, B, and C rounds. We refer to B and C rounds as early growth – essentially financings with valuations between $50m and $300m pre-money. By being syndication agnostic, we are happy to lead multiple rounds of companies we are already investors in, but we also love to welcome in co-investors who we like and respect, along with any of our LPs who want to participate directly alongside us.
We have a small team (16 people total). The seven partners all work directly with the companies and partner funds. We have a CFO, a General Counsel, six EAs, and one fund investment associate. We don’t expect or intend to add anyone to our team going forward.
We’ve worked hard to have a network-centric view of the world. As a small team based in Boulder, Colorado, we have developed a very broad network which includes all of the entrepreneurs we work with, our LPs, VCs we co-invest with, our partner funds, several startup studios, Techstars, and many other colleagues through our writing, startup community leadership, and non-profit activities. We think of ourselves as one node on a mesh network, an important node, but not a central node through which everything must flow. We subscribe to the notion of #GiveFirst and try to be helpful to everyone we come in contact with.
We know who we are at year 12 in our journey as a firm, love what we do, and try very hard to do it clearly, honestly, authentically, and transparently with everyone we interact with. Creating and building companies is extremely hard, and we have deep respect for everyone we get to work with through all the ups and downs.
We very much look forward to continuing to work with everyone we currently work with, as well as another group of great entrepreneurs and VC fund managers in our Foundry Group Next 2018 Fund. We are also happy to welcome a small number of new Limited Partners to our family. We are pleased to partner with such a great group of investors.
Thanks for allowing us to be part of your journey.
– Jason, Ryan, Seth, Brad, Lindel, Moody, and Jamey
In case you don’t know about Jason, prior to co-founding Foundry Group, Jason was a co-founder of SRS Acquiom and a Managing Director and General Counsel for Mobius Venture Capital. Prior to this, Jason was an attorney with Cooley. Early in his career, Jason was a software engineer at Accenture.
Going further back, Jason holds a B.A. in Economics and a J.D. from the University of Michigan. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Law School. He is also an active musician with his band Legitimate Front (which has a gig in Boulder April 13th should you be around). Most importantly, he is my co-author on our book Venture Deals and he puts up with me on a daily basis.
Jason is returning to Detroit to sprinkle some of the wisdom he has learned along the way with the Detroitpreur startup community at Bamboo Detroit on April 5th from 6-8 pm.
Startup Grind Detroit is one of over 350+ chapters around the world, holding Fireside Chats with notable entrepreneurs and bringing startup communities together. The Detroit chapter has recently been reignited by Ben Seidman and Dwain Watkins, the co-organizers, who breathed new life into the program. Recent speakers include Dug Song of Duo Security, David Tarver of Wayne State University, Stacy Brown-Philpot of TaskRabbit and more!
Thanks to Jason’s generous sponsorship of this event, attendance is free to all. But space is limited so register your spot today. If you live in Detroit or know someone who lives in the #2 place to visit in the world (according to Lonely Planet and Jason), please sign up or share this free registration link.
Last summer, when we made a statement about Our Zero Tolerance Policy On Sexual Harassment, a number of people asked us to publicly release our formal policy. We wanted to take our time and make sure we covered as many different elements of the issue as we could. We’ve done that, and as part of #MovingForward we’ve made the Foundry Group Sexual Harassment Policy public.
Among other things, we’ve tried to address the issue of non-disparagement clauses. We’ve come to the conclusion that they should be excluded from agreements, and are encouraging our portfolio companies and the funds we invest in to do so as well. Following is the specific section about non-disparagement clauses from our Sexual Harassment Policy.
NON-DISPARAGEMENT CLAUSES. With respect to all agreements between the Company and any employee or contractor, the Company will exclude reports of sexual harassment or assault from any non-disparagement clause. In addition, the Company will encourage portfolio companies and funds to adopt a similar practice.
Please view this policy as open source. Feel free to download it and modify it for your own purposes. If you have any suggestions or feedback on ways to improve it, please email me.
Recognize that this is not legal advice from us, but merely a starting point for anything you’d like to incorporate into your policy.
Over the past 25 years, I’ve attended approximately 14,387 board meetings. My partners and I talk a lot about how to improve them and today released The Foundry Group Manifesto on Board Meetings. It follows:
In 2013, I wrote a book with Mahendra Ramsinghani about board meetings titled Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors. It was a tough book to write because every time I dug into it, I got bored, but I think it ended up being a contribution to the corpus of entrepreneurial knowledge. However, I anticipate Bored Meetings will be an even more significant contribution.
As a preparation for something new and exciting, let’s reminisce a little. In 2011, we did our first Foundry Group music video “I’m a VC.”
I remember being amazed when the Youtube views went over 100,000. I recall being equally amazed when I heard that our IT guy (Ryan) had cleaned up our random Google accounts, deleted firstname.lastname@example.org, and as a result deleted the video. When it was restored, the view counter was at 0.