Category Archives: Venture Capital

SAP Gives SocialText Stamp of Approval

Matt Marshall, who recently reported that SocialText had raised additional funding from SAP, also quotes Ross Mayfield on why the Los Angeles Times’ experiment with (group written and edited) wikitorials failed. Mayfield is CEO of SocialText.

The public nature of the LA Times project is slightly off-point
from Mayfield’s core corporate focus. But had the Times developed the
product more prudently, allowing in a few interested users in a test
mode, perhaps behind a firewall, it could have generated a trusted
community that would have had a stake in participating and editing,
Mayfield explains. And perhaps this group of buy-in readers, once
developed, would have quickly editing out the offensive pornographic
references that eventually caused a quick backlash against the project.
And if the community failed to edit out the porn reference quickly
enough, and members of the greater readership protested, the Times
could have simply wiped its hands of responsibility, saying it was the
job of the interested community to keep up the site. It may have also
argued that the wiki should be maintained precisely because there was
an interested community that supported it. But instead, it was just the
LA Times vs. everybody else — and it died.

Jeff Nolan of SAP comments on the investment.

When I first started talking about wikis the conversation typically
started and ended on what wikis are, and quite often more than a little
skepticism that any company would want to have a tool that enabled
"anyone to edit anything". Fast forward to today and the conversation
is not preoccupied with what wikis are, it’s now about whether or not
you can build a successful business around wiki technology. To me this
shift is a good thing, it signifies that the market is maturing,
accepting the technology, and most important that Socialtext was
successful in being far enough ahead of the market swing but not too
far ahead to have people say "oh yeah, they’ve been around for a long
time". It’s funny how the Valley works…

VC Undead

As part of the renewed activity in venture capital, The Economist notes a revival in technology and venture capital related publications. The magazine also wonders if we are seeing a dead cat bounce.

It is too early
to say whether the flush environment heralds another tech investment
bubble, but there are echoes of the dotcom boom. Red Herring, a once-weighty technology magazine, reappeared last autumn under new ownership. AlwaysOn Network,
a website on technology and media, is publishing a quarterly magazine.
Tech conferences are proliferating again, particularly in Europe. Technology Review,
a magazine published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has
recently unveiled two monthly stock indices covering 150 firms, as a
“gauge on the pulse of innovation”.

VC Blogs

Venture Capital Journal talks to various venture capitalists about what they get out of blogging.

The consensus among that group is that blogging represents a leap
forward for the venture profession. They say that venture blogs help to
shed light on some of the more arcane aspects of the industry, thus
providing entrepreneurs and others a rare glimpse into how things
really work. This, say VCs, is a very good thing because it demystifies
the profession by providing insights into everything from how deals are
structured, to what entrepreneurs should look for in a VC, to the finer
points of "exploding term sheets" and liquidation preferences. Beyond
that, VCs say posting their thoughts also helps with deal flow. That’s
because if you write a posting explaining what you like or don’t like
about, say, nanotechnology, there is a much higher likelihood of
gaining the attention of serious people in the space and actually being
introduced to some decent business plans.

Super Phone, Phone Home

Om Malik notes rumors of an Apple / Motorola project to develop an "iPhone." Jeff Nolan asks, "when will I be able to untether the phone number from
the device without going through the inconvenience of taking the SIM
chip out?" Until they develop Jeff’s ideal phone, maybe one strategy to consider is Paul Boutin’s suggestion in Slate to "Ditch your Treo for a dirt-cheap Nokia [6600]."

So, why am I telling you to rush out and get a cheap,
ugly phone? Because the Nokia 6600 lets you add the cool features you
want without paying for the ones you don’t care about. For the price of
a calling plan, you’ll start with plenty of gadgetry you’d think they
would have saved for the glitzy, high-end models. There’s a
speakerphone, voice dialing, an audio recorder, a serviceable
640-by-480 pixel camera, a (silent) video recorder, RealPlayer for
playing back audio and video clips, an infrared port, and a flash
memory slot that comes loaded with a 32-megabyte card. Most important,
the 6600 comes with Bluetooth and the Symbian operating system with
Series 60, the same robust, reliable platform that’s installed on
high-end Nokias and the $600 Siemens SX1. […] The combination of
Series 60 and Bluetooth allows you to add pretty much any peripheral
device you can imagine.

Best VC Blogs?

Ed Sim of BeyondVC notes that Fast Company is polling readers on the "Best VC Blogs." Ed also mentions his personal favorites, Jeff Nolan, Fred Wilson, Brad Feld, Steve Hall, Steve Brotman, and Ventureblog.

Mobile Micropayments

Internetnews.com reports that PayPal is looking to expand its mobile payment efforts.

The payment subsidiary of eBay confirmed that it is looking to hire a product manager for a possible expansion of its mobile payments, which it posted on Craigslist. The company’s move comes at a time mobile devices and content are maturing, as are high-speed data networks.

Venture Gravitas

Those who have never been part of the fund raising process do not know
what to expect when they go hat in hand to the venture capitalists.
Trying to figure out how to approach them and what they want to see can
be like solving a rubric’s cube. How do you get the color green to come
up?

Even as a former investment banker, I myself have to admit that
things look different from the other side of the table when you are
asking for money instead of advising people how to raise it. (Not to
mention that my time in investment banking was spent looking at high
yield and mezzanine deals–not venture capital.) That being the case, a
book like Steve Harmon’s Zero Gravity comes in handy if you are trying
to understand the mentality of the venture capitalist. Harmon had
access to friends and acquaintances of his in the industry, such as
famed VCs John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Ann
Winblad of Hummer Winblad, whom he queries on such things as what they
look for in an investment. You also get to hear some short war stories
on their investments in companies such as Excite.

Among
Harmon’s best advice is that you study the VCs as carefully–if not
more carefully–than they are going to study you. Do you know what kind
of companies each VC firm likes; do you know who their partners are?
Zero Gravity has many pithy axioms that the entrepreneur will find
helpful. Certain things about the book are annoying, though. For one
thing, Harmon plugs his web site so often, you might think that you
were viewing a particularly annoying pop up ad on the Internet. The
book also has a lot of charts and tables that honestly are more filler
than anything else, especially since a lot of the same information is
available on the Internet for free. Still, the book is a quick read and
probably one of the more accessible books on venture capital on which
an entrepreneur can get his hands.

This review first appeared on financeprofessional.com (now financeprofessional.org).