How and why did you transition from being a developer into a venture capitalist?

While working at IBM’s Networking Labs, I convinced management to allow me to pursue a dual MBA/JD degree from UNC Chapel Hill during the day — fulfilling my operating responsibilities at night. I focused on entrepreneurship and new media at UNC, dove into venture capital topics pretty heavily and helped found/build some local startups. Via the Kauffmann Fellowship program I got introduced to Draper Fisher Jurvetson and was invited to help launch their first east coast fund. After building two funds with DFJ, I founded Inflexion with my current partners and Village Ventures. Breaking into VC was a combination of unique Engineering/MBA/JD education, technology operating experience, passion for startups/VC and a boatload of luck.

How does your experience as a developer help you with your current career?
Being a passionated developer taught me a crazy work ethic, especially on things I enjoyed working on. My VC efforts benefit from that drive. I also believe my background provides a unique view into technology investments and future strategy — especially when initial prototypes don’t show all that’s possible and I can riff with entrepreneurs about what’s possible. Last, I think developers (or engineers generally) learn the benefits of fixing problems once with well-thought solutions rather than applying patches. You’d be surprised how many times that perspective pays dividends in company building — when quick fixes feel so easy.

If you were to go back to programming, would you want to go back to doing the networking research type stuff you did at IBM, or something new?
I still dabble in programming and have a blast with open source offerings — makes it so easy to build something substantial quickly. I’ve got a notebook full of ideas and no time to pursue them. If I jumped back to the operator side, I’d focus more on quick-to-prototype applications with minimal adoption friction, simple/clean design and maximum viral potential — with the potential for changing the world (e.g. not another bookmarking service)

What emerging technology excites you the most?
There are tons, but a couple I’ve been spending cycles on lately are open-source search (e.g. Nutch, Hadoop) and wireless power (e.g. WiPower, Witricity). Search feels like something that will eventually be open-source supplied with a combination of solid search algos, grid storage/computing and self-perfecting AI (to improve algos based upon user/community feedback). Wireless power has been a long-term obsession of mine and we’re getting closer.

I hope these answers were helpful. If anyone else has questions for my VC FAQ, try out my Spark and I’ll answer any here that make sense for FVB readers!