Category: Foundry Group
We announced yesterday that we are looking for a general counsel for Foundry Group. While Jason has proclaimed himself a recovering lawyer for some time now, in reality, he’s been doing the high-level legal work for us since we started Foundry Group. He also runs our fund operations and is a full-time venture capitalist, so it is time to get him some help.
When our prior fund hired Jason as our general counsel, I wasn’t even part of the decision. Back then, people would just show up and occupy various offices. I wasn’t sure that we needed an in-house lawyer, but over the years I realized the importance of this role. In fact, I’ve had several outstanding lawyers, including Len Fassler and Jerry Poch, as mentors, so I occasionally play the role of Jason’s “junior associate” on legal issues that we (and the companies we invest in) face.
One thing I will say about our business – it’s never boring. (Okay, maybe some of the board meetings are, but I’ll leave that one for another day). I think this role will be an incredibly interesting experience for someone who wants to practice in a multitude of areas both for us as a firm but also in helping out our portfolio companies. Jason has been doing this job longer than anyone I know, so getting to work alongside him will be a great learning experience.
I look forward to working with one of you.
I’ve been friends with Manu since 2009 and an investor (personally) in his first two funds. I vividly remember the first time we met – we were both sitting on the floor in the back corner at the fbFund Demo Day at the Facebook office in downtown Palo Alto. A number of interesting companies were presented.
I adore Manu. I love his style, his energy, and his intellect. We’ve had many conversations over the years where he’s reached out to me with a specific question about something and it’s clear that I’m one of several people he was calling to collect data on something that would inform his decision. It’s a classic engineer / rational problem-solving approach that appeals to me. While Manu went to CMU, his style is similar to many of my MIT friends.
Not surprisingly, Manu still had our first email exchange. I love the minor “grapewine” typo in the first sentence.
From: Manu Kumar <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, Sep 15, 2008 at 10:58 PM
Subject: TechStars Demo Day in Mountain View, CA
Your posting below was forwarded to me over the grapewine. I’m actively investing in startups in the Bay Area and have been aware of some of the companies that have emerged from TechStars. Would love to attend and hear the pitches at your Demo Day in Mountain View.
You can see my full background on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/sneaker. It looks like we know several other folks in common too… look forward to meeting you.
While we must not have met there, I’m glad we were both in the back of the room the following summer. Our next meeting was lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto called Mandarin Gourmet. It was during that meal that Manu told me about the fund he was raising. I made a commitment to invest at the end of lunch and we’ve been working together ever since.
My partners Chris Moody, Seth Levine, and Lindel Eakman are all blogging right now. My other two partners, Ryan McIntyre and Jason Mendelson have blogged in the past, ut took a break in 2017. Also, the Foundry Group blog is always active, with occasional thought pieces but mostly updates on initial financings both for companies and other funds that we invest in.
So, I thought I’d point you at Moody, Seth, and Lindel’s blogs (and some posts) in case you are interested in following more of what we are doing at Foundry Group.
Seth has started a Friday series named Friday Fun because the world needs more fun. His longer thought pieces like The Feature -> Product -> Company Continuum, How to value your SaaS company, and Reading Your VC Pitch Meeting are must-read posts for me – and for every founder and company executive. Also, Seth’s not afraid to be very personal and open, as he shows in his post Drowning.
Lindel is getting into a grove with posts like Saying “No” too often is part of being a good investor, Mi Casa Es Su Casa – How we seek to interact with our family of GPs, and Venture Risk and Return circa 2017. Very few LPs blog, so it’s neat to add Lindel’s perspective as a fund investor into the mix.
If you are following and reading me, I encourage you to follow and read my partners to get the full view of how we think about things at Foundry Group.
We very rarely hire anyone at Foundry Group (although we are hiring an Executive Assistant). However, many of the companies we invest in are often hiring.
Over the years we’ve had a Foundry Group Jobs Page but we’ve never found software that was painless for us to use to keep it current. As a result, it would often get out of date and have to be updated manually. The endless kludge that we’d created was yucky, a pain to maintain, and likely much less effective than it could be.
If you are looking for a new job, take a look and tell me what you think of it and how we could improve it, as we are still tuning it.
We are excited to announce that Chris Moody is joining Foundry Group as a partner.
When we started Foundry Group in 2006, we were very clear that we were not going to build a legacy venture capital firm; one meant to outlive its founders. There would be no generational planning, no transitions to younger partners, and no senior partner hold-outs who would hang onto economics well after they had stopped working. Simply put, when we are done investing, we will drop the mic and shut off the lights.
In 2014, Seth, Jason, Ryan, and I had the first of many conversations about our long-term plans for Foundry Group. These discussions resulted in the creation of Foundry Group Next, the addition of Lindel Eakman to our team, and our first Foundry Group Next fund which we closed in 2016.
The conversation that we started in 2014 has continued on a regular basis, both formally at our quarterly off-sites but also pretty much every time the four of us were together. As part of this, we started an exercise of explicitly looking forward a decade and talking about what Foundry Group looked like from each of our perspectives at that time. With each new fund we raise, we are making at least a ten year forward commitment to each other, our investors, and the founders whose companies in which we invest. For the first seven years, this was easy, since we each had a 20-year view of Foundry Group when we started it in 2006. But as time passed, we realized we needed to start to think more deeply about the future of Foundry Group and how we evolve our investment activities.
The venture business is an inherently challenging one to scale. Leverage – of time, capacity, and capabilities – is hard to achieve. As Foundry Group raised more funds, we realized that our ability to continue to manage our business effectively was becoming limited by our individual time and capacity. Recognizing this, we started to make a list of people we would consider adding as partners, as one of our deeply held beliefs was never to have associates, venture partners, or EIRs as part of our firm.
For a while, the only name on the list was Lindel’s. It took us several years to get our mind around adding someone, but once we did, we added a few more names to the list. It probably won’t be a surprise to anyone reading this that it is a very short list.
Back to Chris Moody. Chris was most recently VP & GM of Data & Solutions at Twitter, running a multi-hundred million dollar enterprise business unit. In addition to running one of Twitter’s fastest-growing business unit, Chris was responsible for leading Twitter’s developer platform and ecosystem involving hundreds of enterprise partners and one of the world’s largest active developer communities. We’ve known Chris since 2007 and worked extremely closely with him when he was the CEO of Gnip and well as a leader in the Boulder Startup Community. Over the years, we also became very close friends with Chris.
After we had raised the first Foundry Group Next fund last September, we started having a serious conversation about having Chris join us at Foundry Group. This was driven by our reflection on our current workload, how we were adjusting what we were doing based on the addition of Lindel to the team – which had re-energized us a lot, and how we were thinking about the next ten years of Foundry Group.
In addition to working closely with Chris as a CEO (I was on the board of Gnip), we all worked with Chris through Techstars (he was one of the original mentors in the 2007 program). After Twitter acquired Gnip in 2014, Chris joined the boards of two of our portfolio companies (Pantheon and mLab) and worked closely with Ryan on these boards as an outside director.
We knew Chris was an extraordinary board member as well as an extremely seasoned CEO. We had a great affinity for each other, and he shared our value system. When the five of us sat around talking about Chris, after each conversation we got more excited about having him join us, especially as we learned about his personal view for the next decade of his life.
For those of you who don’t know Chris, I encourage you to watch this short video of Chris’ commencement address at Auburn University last spring. I think you’ll get a small glimpse of what he is about and why we’re so excited to have him as our partner.
Chris has been burning the candle at both ends for 27 years without ever taking a meaningful break. We insisted that he take the summer off to recharge his batteries and spend focused time with his awesome wife Sarah and his three delightful kids. He’ll officially join us at the end of the summer.
I’ve become a huge fan of Harry Stebbings, the intrepid entrepreneur turned VC whose age (20) matches the title of his podcast (The Twenty Minute VC.) Today, at SaaStr at 1:40pm in the Hypercritical section, Harry is interviewing me about – well – whatever he wants.
Harry has done hundreds of 20 minute VC interviews over the past few years. It’s a staple of mine on my podcast listening rotation so I’ve heard a bunch of them. It’s fun to watch Harry evolve as an interviewer as his knowledge of the industry has increased dramatically and his point of view about various VC-related things has become crisp and clear. And his hustle is relentless and has led to him also doing the SaaStr podcast and joining Atomico.
All five of the Foundry Group partners have been interviewed at this point. I think our interviews are a great way to get to know us quickly since we each tell our story, our strategy, and our approach in our own words and from different perspectives. Over the past few weeks I’ve probably talked to over 100 VCs between my trip to Australia, LA, and SF. When I find myself telling our story in response to being asked, I often wish I had a short cut to point people to.
This post is now the shortcut. I’ll use Harry’s original titles so you can see how his SEO prowess has evolved.
Yeah – I don’t love the capital letters either, but there you have it.
In case you are wondering about the tone of the 100 VCs I’ve talked to, I’d rate it as very high on the anxiety meter. Some of the tone is from the macro dynamics post election, but some seems deeper and more unsettled. I don’t know what it is, but I switched my Headspace meditation pack from Motivation (which I don’t need any help with) to Anxiety, just to be proactive.
It’s Sunday and it’s -8 degrees in Boulder. Egads. As I sat in my warm office catching up on email from the week, I sent links to our Foundry Group videos to a friend that had never seen them. I realized two things: (1) I’m still annoyed with Ryan for accidentally deleting our Youtube account and resetting the counters on both videos from > 100,000 views to 0 views and (2) A bunch of people in my world have probably never seen these videos.
So – for your viewing pleasure, here are me and my partners making fun of ourselves. As a special bonus, check out my singing and dance movies. And Seth – well – enough said.
If you see Jason in the next few weeks, tell him that it’s time to make Video #3 so we can get Lindel in the mix. Maybe the next one will be called “I’m an LP.”
Last month I had dinner at Pizzeria Locale in Boulder and did a long interview with Nick Chirls and Alex Lines of Notation Capital for their podcast. Dinner was about them and as they learned, if you trek out to Boulder, dinner is on me.
Their podcast series is called Origins and is unique among podcasts as they go deep into the formation history of venture funds, especially from an LP perspective. I was their ninth interviewee following some really great ones including Beezer Clarkson (Sapphire), Naval Ravikant (AngelList), Chris Douvos (VIA), Michael Kim (Cendana), and Judith Elsea (Weathergage).
They walked me through multiple origin stories, including how I started making angel investments (1994), the origin of Mobius / Softbank Venture Capital (1996-1997), the origin of Foundry Group (2007), and the creation of Foundry Group Next (2015-2016).
The show notes for Harry’s interview with Lindel follow.
1.) How Lindel made his way into the weird and wonderful world of LPs and then Foundry? What is the origin story behind is first fund investment, Union Square Ventures?
2.) Question from Michael Kim @ Cendana: How is Lindel approaching portfolio construction for Foundry Next? What combination of GP portfolio & direct exposure diversifies the portfolio while retaining upside through individual deal performance?
3.) With the direct co-investment platform how does Lindel look to mitigate the negative signalling that can occur with opportunity funds? Does Lindel agree with Chris Douvos in stating this could lead to the ‘hybridisation of GP and LP’?
4.) Where do most prospective fund managers fail when pitching to LPs? What does Lindel look for in a risk strategy for a potential fund investment?
5.) What are the biggest problems with the LP community today? What would Lindel like to see change? What do the financial compensation plans look like for LPs?
We have some entertaining news to share with you today. We have recently registered with the SEC and are now considered Registered Investment Advisors. Did we do this so that we can have cooler business cards? No. Did we do this because our back office was lacking in purpose? Heck no.
We had to, per the SEC rules. And the reason you ask? Well, we can’t tell you that or we could possibly break some other SEC rules. So for now, just accept that your friendly neighborhood venture capital firm is now subject to a lot of new and stimulating paperwork.
Why are we even bothering telling you this? Because it will affect what we can say on the Foundry Group blog and personal blogs that we write. We’ll have to be careful with statements that we make about companies we invest in. We’ll also be cautious in what we write about our funds or the industry in general. According to the SEC rules, we can no longer write anything that “promotes” our funds. While we’d argue that we never try to promote our firm, but just write anything that comes to mind and try to have fun doing it, with our new registration status comes new responsibilities.
This will be a learning process for us and our goal is to bring you content that is still 100% transparent. Please be patient with us if there are hiccups along the way, or perhaps even questions that we can’t legally answer in the comment sections anymore.
And as always – thank you all for the support. We love what we do and the community, and our interaction with you through our blogs, is a big reason why. And, don’t worry, there will be a third VC video from us – someday.