Archive for the ‘Foundry Group’ Category

I’m Adopting A VC Code of Conduct

A few days ago, Gil Dibner posted what he called a VC code of conduct.  I read articles all the time where VC’s write about how venture capital “should work” and the vast majority of the time I either disagree or find them a waste of time.  I feel that most of these articles are just self promotion with no actual new intellectual capital being created.

But Gil’s article is fantastic.  It’s also depressing that he felt compelled to write it.  It is yet another indictment that many VCs behave poorly and have given our ecosystem a bad, but deserved, reputation.  When I read it I had three strong reactions: one, I have tried my best in my career to comply with these ideas (call me out if you feel otherwise!), two, I think others VCs would do well by adopting these proposals, and three I think my partners at Foundry Group score well on these metrics to date.

I’m going to summarize his idea of a VC code of conduct and add a few wrinkles of my own.  That being said, you should read his full article here.  I’m only going to detail where I have a particular spin.  I also think that Gil missed three themes that are important as well.

1. I will do no harm.  Should be “duh,” but being on boards for the last 15 years proves this isn’t as simple as it sounds.

2. I will respect your time. CEO / Entrepreneur time is simply more valuable than my time.  I don’t make the companies successful – y’all do.

3. I will not ask for material I don’t need.  And I wish Gil would have added “And I will read and be responsible for understanding all materials that you send me.”  I can’t stand board meetings where a CEO is having to go through the presentation for the benefit of lazy board members.

4. I will not string you along.  It always surprises me how many people thank me for a quick NO.  It’s the humane thing to do.

5. I will let you know about competitors in our portfolio.  Done.

6. I will be transparent about any conflicts of interest between and entrepreneur and myself.  I’d argue that this should be even broader.  Just be transparent in general!  An entrepreneur should never wonder what a VC is thinking.  Let’s just be open and keep filters to a minimum and clear honesty to a maximum.

7. I will not sign a NDA, but will act as if a reasonable one is in place.  Simple.  But also know that if you ask me for a NDA I’ll know you haven’t done much homework and you aren’t starting off on the right foot.

8. I will not share your slide deck unless you give me permission.  With my partners, yes.  With others, no.

9. I will not speak to your customers without permission.  This is horrible behavior in our industry that must stop.

10. I will educate before I negotiate.  I’ve always loved doing this and this is what led to Brad and I writing our book Venture Deals – Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist.

11. I will be honest about what standard terms are.  I agree with the sentiment, but as a former lawyer, I hate the idea of negotiating over the term “standard.”  I’d prefer to just put our term sheet out on the web and give the same deal every time as we’ve done at Foundry Group.

12. I will not issue a term sheet unless my firm has made a firm decision to invest.  This is perhaps the worst behavior in our ecosystem today. I see it more often with late stage firms than early firms, but it is present at all stages.  Once a firm pulls this trick on a company I will never work with them again. Ever.

13. I will reflect the term sheet in the final legals.  A deal is a deal.  ’Nuff said.

14. I will not seek an unreasonable equity stake in your business.  I think this is an important one.  Everyone must feel like they have proper “skin in the game.”  This seems like a simple concept, but often you find people fighting over things that shouldn’t matter.  Assume the company will be a huge success and don’t over optimize around the edges.

15. I will avoid surprises.  I think that if VCs and entrepreneurs have transparent relations, as in 6 above, then this just follows.

16. I will act in the best interests of the company at all times.  It’s not only the law, but a good idea too.

17. I promise to try not to look at my phone in meetings.  This is a hard one, but an important one. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying.  Frankly, I find myself looking at my phone when the meeting gets bogged down, usually by a board member who didn’t come prepared.

I also think that there should be three additions to the list.  I welcome your feedback.

18.  I will respond to you promptly, especially if we have an investment in your company.  This should be table stakes to a VC, but it isn’t.  There are always particular emergencies and situations which will make this difficult, but it is really important for an entrepreneur to know they always have someone to turn to.  After all, being CEO is a lonely job.

19. I will not collude with other VCs to harm your company.  I find it reprehensible when VCs collude to either drive down valuation / terms prior to a financing, or when the company is in dire straights collude to take over the company on the cheap.  There are plenty of other situations, too.   This one may have the greatest “subject to interpretation” issue to it, but I’ve seen this line crossed at times and it disgusts me.

20. I will answer all well-tailored emails.  If I am sent a well-crafted email, I will answer it.  I promise.  Whether or not I know you or not, you’ll get a response.  This doesn’t mean that I will answer spam, emails created from mail merges, emails with so many grammatical and spelling mistakes that I can’t read or emails that are clearly from someone who has done no research into what Foundry Group invests in.  But if you at least try, you’ll get a response from me.

That’s an even twenty and I’m sure we could add a few more, but this would be my Twenty Commandments of VC, or as Gil put it a VC Code of Conduct.  

I’m proud to say that Foundry Group signs up to this code of conduct as we feel this should be the minimum baseline for good VC / entrepreneur relations.

Have an opinion?  Feel free to leave  comment below or hit me up at @jasonmendelson on Twitter.  Well done Gil and thanks for getting an important conversation started.

 

 

 

 

 

January 22nd, 2014     Categories: Entrepreneurship, Foundry Group, Frustrations, Venture Capital    

I’m a VC – My First Foray Into Film Making

Last May, I got an idea stuck in my head that I should create a music video to promote the release of Venture Deals:  Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, written by yours truly and my partner Brad Feld.  It was a germination of a conversation that I had with Emily Mendell (VP of Communication at the NVCA and great blogger at MothersofBrothers.com).  Emily is a great PR person and threw out an idea that the Foundry Group could actually pull off a music video, in the SNL Digital Short genre, to highlight the book and have a ton of fun in the process.Having very little logical sense and a severely limited good judgment filter, I immediately jumped on what I thought was a great idea and thus “I’m a VC” was born.

For those of you who know me, I can get a bit (a lot?) manic when I get excited about  something.  I stayed up most of the first night writing the song and story boarding the potential video.  I woke up the next day, exhausted, but pleased with my first efforts.  I had never written any music in this genre before (cheesy 80’s boy band) and certainly have never made anything with video, but I felt confident.

First I emailed by partner in business and music Ryan McIntyre, who immediately told me it was a dumb idea and that he generally hated parodies.  Awesome.  My project was starting off perfectly.

Undaunted, I brought the lyrics and story idea to our regular Monday partner lunch and after a beer, I found a receptive audience, including Mr. McIntyre.  I was given a green light to proceed and the rest is history.

We issued a fake press release along with the video that I find funny, especially the quotes from my partner Seth Levine about his insecurities as a venture capitalist.

So without further delay, I present to you “I’m a VC.”  Please share with everyone you know if you like it.  Also, don’t forget to buy our book!

And just in case, here are the lyrics thanks to Ryan.

September 6th, 2011     Categories: Foundry Group, Music    

Organic Motion Powers Avatar Exhibit at Seattle’s EMP Museum

One of our companies Organic Motion is powering an awesomely cool exhibit at Seattle’s EMP Museum. By use of their marker-less computer vision platform, one can put themselves in the middle of James Cameron’s Avatar. Here is a great news report about the event including an intro from James Cameron, himself.

Also, here is an example of a person using the system to reenact a scene from Avatar.

June 20th, 2011     Categories: Foundry Group, Foundry Group Investments, Technology    

Our Investment in Attachments.me

Today we announced our investment in Attachments.me.

What is attachments.me? It’s a really cool company and one that I’m proud to be associated with.

Imagine that you remember someone sent you a document about a particular subject or a funny video.  You just don’t remember who sent it to you or what the email text was.  Now, you will be able to search by subject matter embedded in links and attachments, and browse by content type, not just by sender, and the results will include not just data in the email body itself, but in the attachments and links themselves.

This mailbox crawling technology will allow for a single searchable interface to automatically group and filter the structured data and documents in a user’s email archive.  This data will also be accessible via mobile applications for on-the-go access.  Attachments.me recognizes the fact that for most users, email is their de-facto filesystem, knowledgebase and personal information manager, and that better tools are needed to access and manipulate the extremely valuable data in the messages a user sends and receives.

We were investors in Stratify (Acquired: Iron Mountain) which changed the way lawyers worked the discovery process by automatically reading documents and creating subject matter-based folders. Personally, I’ve always had a “thing” for technologies that allow machines to read, interpret and make our information processing faster as humans.  I’m stoked to get to try it again in a very different manner in a different industry.  I’m even more excited to work with Jesse Miller and Ben Coe on it, as well.

March 2nd, 2011     Categories: Foundry Group, Foundry Group Investments, Technology    

Next Big Sound Powers Billboard’s Social 50 Chart

Today, Next Big Sound and Billboard announced the birth of the Social 50 which ranks the top 50 musical artists on the world’s leading social media sites.

Given the upheaval in the music industry in that it has moved away from radio spins and record sales as the sole factors in achieving success, it’s great to see the preeminent keeper of music charts, Billboard, agree that it’s time to start tracking other metrics to determine an artist’s reach.

Even more cool, however, is that our very own Next Big Sound is powering the charts that Billboard is using.

Check out the Social 50 here.

 

 

December 2nd, 2010     Categories: Foundry Group, Foundry Group Investments, Music    

Foundry Group Raises New Venture Fund

I’m really pleased today to report that we just closed on our second fund. 

The fund is the exact same size as our last one: $225,000,000 in limited partner commitments. We are pleased to be working with a great group of investors.

We will continue to do exactly what we have always done: invest in seed and early-stage investment opportunities in the software and IT space that are located across the United States. We’ll also continue to pursue a strategy of Thematic Investing that has served us well over our investing careers.

And we decided to celebrate by redesigning our website, too.  I honestly can say that I never anticipated having to use this much hair product for a work function. 

ScreenShot

Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen.  From our investors, to entrepreneurs, to portfolio companies to our advisors, mentors and friends – we couldn’t have done this without you. 

October 5th, 2010     Categories: Foundry Group    

Great Interview – Seth Levine on Stocktwits TV

My partner Seth has a great interview on Stocktwits TV, hosted by one of the smartest and funniest entrepreneurs that I know, Howard Lindzon.  The topic is whether or not the Web is Dead.  (It’s not).  Also, he will give you his stock picks, as well.  This I can’t wait to see if he is correct.  :) 

September 2nd, 2010     Categories: Foundry Group, Technology, Venture Capital    

Our Investment in Sifteo

Today, we announced our investment in Sifteo.  It was also picked up in PEHub

I’m really excited to be a part of the team.  Founded by David Merrill and Jeevan Kalanithi, out of the MIT Media Lab, we believe that Sifteo is developing the next popular generation gaming platform that will go beyond the early successes of the Nintendo Wii and Apple iPad/Pod/Touch. 

I addition, it’s another investment that we’ve made with the fine folks over at True Ventures, so that only adds to the happy factor. 

Check our their TED talk for a great demo of what they are working on.  And if you ever happen to meet Dave, let him know that you really like his shirt that he wore that day. 

May 10th, 2010     Categories: Foundry Group, Foundry Group Investments, Technology    

What I Learned at CES

I posted a blog today on the Foundry Group site about our trip to CES.  Among the topics discussed are why you shouldn’t buy a TV for the next 6 months and why Nobu is simply my favorite sushi place that I can dream of.

Also, for some reason, it’s harder every year for me to go to Vegas.  I must be getting old. 

January 12th, 2009     Categories: Food, Foundry Group, Technology    

There is no "I" in Foundry

For those of you not familiar with the Foundry Group, we collectively author a blog about our investment themes, our portfolio companies and what we think differentiates us from other venture capitalists.

Today’s post on the Foundry Group blog is titled "There is no "I" in Foundry," which describes our team approach to running Foundry and contrasts that with the more typical venture firm.  We have a philosophy at Foundry that we are stronger and more successful investors as a group rather than as individuals.

I hope that you enjoy the post and keep reading our blog.

June 23rd, 2008     Categories: Foundry Group, Venture Capital