Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stupid Italy Pix

Well, after an extended break I’m back in the US, back in the US, back in the US of A. An anniversary trip to Italy (and reading Caesar’s biography) was just what the doctor ordered for pending world domination, er, building more great companies.

When I wasn’t saving the leaning tower of Pisa, I noticed some pretty interesting signs in Italy. I’ve included a couple below and hope a reader can chime in with explanations — seriously.

This one was in the back window of a car darting in and out of traffic — nothing unusual for Rome.

This one was on walls, buses and billboards throughout Italy.

Your Face, My Blog, What a Concept

With all the primary hype about Social Networks, and the secondary gripe about their transient nature, I’ve been waiting for an approach that infiltrates the whole net instead of the next hip domain like Friendster, FaceBook, MySpace, [insert next kewl name here]…

Imagine social networks you never leave and are with you throughout your surfing experience, showing friends that bought the same webcam you’re researching, visiting the same travel destination sites you’re using to plan a trip, or just hanging out at the same blogs you do. Although I see potential for a client-based (remember ThirdVoice) uber-social network that delivers a social network layer on top of everything you visit, the first logical step from site-based approaches is integrating code/APIs across popular sites. I think we’ll see more of this in the next generation of social network mashups, but early javascript approaches are already appearing.

Take MyBlogLog Communities for example, which launched beta in the last month or so. You can see my “Recent Readers” table on the left that shows community members who surfed by recently. If your picture isn’t in that table, you need to click and get with the program. This community overlay to blogging is overdue and should provide some cool new ways to explore the blogosphere. I’ve already found some interesting sites just by learning other blog communities my readers have joined. As this grows, I could see even smarter tables that filter based upon readers in your personal network — making interacting at a blog more personal and meaningful than just ranting to the world.

Then, if that personal network started showing up on other sites, not just blogs, I’d have a platform for more surfing value. If I was researching trips to Italy and saw that a friend was doing the same, I’ve got an immediate resource to compare notes with. Heck, if I was about to buy a car and saw that a few local friends were considering the same purchase, we might be able to leverage some buying power.

As usual, the possibilities are endless. It’s simply a matter of programming (and site adoption), right?

Anyway, check out MyBlogLog, signup for their Communities beta and if you’ve got your own blog try out their link tracking services.

A World of Biofuel (and then some)

This article from Jeff Schafer had some interesting data on biofuels. Schafer spends much of the article touting Biodiesel and the benefits of diesel generally, but many of his comments relate to bioethanol as well. Although he sounds excited about the prospects of biofuel, he also delivers a healthy dose of skepticism around biofuels replacing fossil fuels.

I haven’t corroborated elsewhere, but Schafer’s table below suggests that replacing crude oil with biofuel would require growing biofuel crops on 5X the world’s arable farmland. Even if 100% of the world’s farmland was devoted to biofuels, that would only replace 20% of our crude oil consumption.

Those numbers still suggest a sizeable biofuel opportunity, but it’s not the answer for fossil fuel reliance — especially with Chindia ramping up their consumption.

Schafer provides another table that piqued my curiosity on biofuel crops. What’s the deal with Oil Palms? Wherease Corn can deliver 196 barrels of biofuel per square mile of crop, and Coconut (the second highest producer) can deliver a whopping 3,131 barrels/sqm, Oil Palms can deliver 6,927 barrels/sqm — more than 30X that of Corn. With that level of production we’d at least have a shot at replacing crude oil prior to colonizing other planets…

The List

OK, you’re probably sick of posts about Web2.0, mashups and the like. Therefore, I thought I’d provide another and really test your loyalty.

Baris at ComVentures has posted a long list of Web2.0 companies, across multiple categories. The post is over a month old so I’m sure it’s doubled since then. However, it does provide a comprehensive look at what is happening to the fabric of the Net…enjoy!

Groovy Man

While reading some of the MashupCamp stories and planning a FL version, I ran across a Jacksonville BarCamp coming up June 17th. As decribed there and elsewhere:

“BarCamp is an ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees. Anyone with something to contribute or with the desire to learn is welcome and invited to join.”

In other words, it’s a geek Jam Session, jamming with their knowledge/laptops instead of jazz instruments. These things usually start pretty modest, but North Florida techies are due for some real-world social networking. Check it out…

Note, we still need a MashupCampSouth — ping me if interested…

2006 Venture Capital Report

For those of you investing or looking for venture investment, the 2006 Venture Capital Report is a rich source of venture data for 2005 and looking forward. I’ve been so locked into the MoneyTree/NVCA reports that I missed VentureOne’s deep offering until seeing Jason’s reference. Enjoy!

The "No Free Lunch" Story of Serial Entrepreneurs

One of the sayings that still surprises me with its applicability is “No Free Lunch“. It embodies a principal that it takes work or astute trading (another form of work) to get what you want in life. There are almost always hidden costs or risks you have to weigh when choosing a path that appears risk-free. That doesn’t mean all paths are equally risky and, thus, you should leave it to chance. Rather, it suggests you should at least look before you leap.

Venture funds take leaps every day and one of the cliches in the industry is “we like backing serial entrepreneurs.” Being largely a people-backer, I love building businesses with serial entrepreneurs. No education or engineering experience can replace what is learned founding a prior startup — not to mention, serial entrepreneur’s have learned how to have fun along the way. However, the crazy nuts that start a company knowing full-well the rollercoaster ride to come, also present another example of “No Free Lunch”.

Although I wouldn’t call it typical, the recent St. Pete Times profile on Hydrogen Media’s founder, Scott Gostyla, provides a taste of what can come with all that serial experience…

Angels or Icarii?

The first article of my VCFAQ column ran in TechJournalSouth this week. Although the paper-based column allows me to go deeper on topics I might just touch here, I hope VCFAQ, like FVB, can also be a place to share questions and answers from the venture game. Enjoy and let me know your comments/questions…

Florida Posts 2nd Fastest Tech Job Growth in the US

The AeA just announced the results of their Cyberstates 2006 report and Florida had an impressive showing. Some fun stats include:

  • 265,500 high-tech workers (4th nationwide)
  • 19,800 high-tech establishments (3rd nationwide)
  • $11B high-tech exports, 1/3 of all FL exports (3rd nationwide)
  • 3rd nationwide for telecom services, communications equipment and engineering services employment

I expect these numbers are heavily influenced by defense spending and LatAm tech exports, but that provides a nice foundation and hiring pool for our growing venture-backed tech sector. Early stage dollars continue to be a missing piece of that puzzle, but we’re moving in the right direction…

Dream Big

The Gators did it — going from unranked preseason to NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions. According to Sophomore star and sound-bite machine Joakim Noah, it feels so good he can smell it and taste it. Defensive whiz and my pick for future NBA scoring force Corey Brewer (and multiple teammates) commented that this is something they always dreamed about — winning it all.

That’s great for us Gator fans, but what’s in it for the rest of you…big dreams!

I’ve always believed that dreaming big is a key, yet rarely discussed talent of top entrepreneurs. I don’t just mean dreams/motivational speeches of a garage startup beating the competition, I mean personal dreams that allow an entrepreneur to smell and taste what success will make possible. Building a world-changing company is hard work and will test the smartest and most experienced management teams out there. The entrepreneurs that can visualize why they are putting in the crazy hours, enduring the board pressures and testing their family’s patience are the ones that will emerge from the startup crucible whole and victorious.

Although big dreams are often personal, a recent news tidbit makes good dream fodder. Hungarian-born billionaire, Charles Simonyi who helped Microsoft create Word and Excel is paying $20M and training for a flight to the space lab. He will be just the 5th private tourist to go into space. Although some people scoff at blowing $20M on such a voyage, I love it (and I’m not even a space nut)!

If you’re going to dream, don’t settle for a fast car or a beachfront condo with 1000 neighbors, dream big about buying the first XKE ever made or shooting the tubes off your own South Pacific island, and then keep fighting until you’re there.

Web 2.0, Old-school Style

Frank Gruber from Somewhat Frank posted a nice web-based feed reader comparison over at TechCrunch. The readers he reviewed included:

In summary, he declared Google Reader and FeedLounge the best for speed. He liked Bloglines and Rojo for best features. That said, he felt none of these web-based readers had the speed and agility(?) of the best desktop readers like NetNewsWire and FeedDemon.

I share this first for my readers trying different feed readers, but also to pose a dashboard question I’ve been wondering about. Given that we already have good tools for email, messaging and browsing, do we need a new desktop tool for feeds? I know it’s hard to resist new=good, but if the answer is no, then which of our existing tools is best for reading feeds? The ones reviewed above leverage your browser, but that’s not where I’m headed.

My inbox, and specifically Outlook, is the closest thing I have to a daily dashboard. I do significant research via browsing and, less frequently, instant message friends/colleagues, but spend an order of magnitude more time working with my inbox. Therefore, I have chosen the feeds-by-email provider FEEDblitz to deliver my feeds so that I can read/organize them as part of my ordinary email ritual.

It doesn’t hurt that I also use FEEDblitz to manage subscriptions to my blog and I’ve noticed that over half of my subscribers are choosing email instead of another feed reader (desktop or web combined). Admittedly, that may be due to my blog template having a big left-side button that says “Email Subscribe”, but I also have a text “Subscribe” link and the feed-linked orange logo for subscribing via other readers.

So, is the inbox a superior dashboard, am I abnormal, or is there substantial market for all reader forms? Before you answer that, especially you “RSS-rules!” digirati, try out my “Email Subscribe” and then tell me if FEEDblitz isn’t onto an interesting old-school play for Web2.0…

TechJournal Journeys South

One of my favorite publications when I was investing across North Carolina was the TriangleTechJournal and I was sad to lose it when launching Inflexion further South. In fact, I pushed a few folks to connect with TTJ about launching a Florida version.

Well, brighter days are here: TechJournal South recently launched coverage across North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. They even have state-specific sections.

I’d encourage everyone in our entrepreneurial ecosystem to check out TechJournal South and subscribe if you like it. The publication is good and my past experience with the people is even better.

Welcome TJS and keep up the great work!

Supreme Diagnosis

This week should be a fun one for diagnostic companies and the venture funds who back them. On Tuesday, March 21, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in LabCorp v. Metabolite (04-607). Dennis Crouch over at Patently-O has done a fine job documenting the issues to be considered, including links to briefs from big guys and small weighing in on this case (including one jointly submitted by Mohr-Davidow Ventures).

The case revolves around whether Metabolite’s claim 13 (U.S. Patent No. 4,940,658) is too broad to enforce:

13. A method for detecting a deficiency of cobalamin or folate in warm-blooded animals comprising the steps of:

assaying a body fluid for an elevated level of total homocysteine; and

correlating an elevated level of total homocysteine in said body fluid with a deficiency of cobalamin or folate.

Thus, the method comprises two steps, (i) assaying a body fluid and (ii) correlating the measure with a mineral deficiency. Metabolite has other, more specific claims for assaying a body fluid for an elevated level of total homocysteine, but those aren’t in dispute. LabCorp (and other briefs) contend that patenting the correlation step goes too far, stopping even doctors from mentally correlating a homocysteine test result to specific deficiencies. They claim that patenting that correlation is just patenting natural laws — a big no-no in patent caselaw.

I haven’t read all the briefs myself so I won’t venture to guess who should win here. I will, however, guess there are a lot of venture dollars riding on the outcome — particularly where diagnostic correlations and business methods drive value. A key hope, by both sides is that whatever result will be narrowly tailored to avoid whacking IP value across the spectrum of startup and conglomerate patent portfolios.

On a different note, Dennis also provides some great coverage on eBay v. MercExchange (05-130) coming before the Court later this month, and, specifically, whether an injunction should issue once a patent is found to be valid and infringed. On its face it sounds pretty simple, but there are significant equities to weigh — particularly when plaintiffs aren’t practicing their art anyway.

Put the Wow up Front! author and serial entrepreneur Tom Evslin has been posting a nice VC Primer from an Entrepreneur’s POV. He is on target with most of his thoughts and his recent post regarding VC presentations is a good read. Guy has also chimed in on VC presentations, such as his 10/20/30 rule. Although I have a host of thoughts/posts for that topic, I’ll share one right now that is near the top of my list: Put the Wow up Front!

It’s sad to say, but when a VC, or better yet, the whole partnership settles down to hear your 30 minute pitch, you have about 5 minutes to win or lose the whole battle. This is Presentation 101 to investors, customers, partners, management talent, but I’ve seen it especially pronounced in VC meetings. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing more than a thousand in-person entrepreneur presentations either solo or with my partners and have come to this conclusion: You create either excitement/curiosity or skepticism/boredom in those first 5 minutes and your audience spends the rest of your presentation justifying that initial impression.

I’ll go ahead and say for you “that sucks” and “how dare those arrogant VCs judge my baby in 5 minutes”, but it’s a message worth remembering. I’ve been on both sides of the table and try to remember this phenomenon so I might find opportunities the arrogant bastards miss. That said, I coach my portfolio CEOs to “Put the Wow up Front” (and revisit it throughout) because if that won’t get investor greed glands going, describing your company mission statement, history and round expectations sure as hell won’t.

Of course, the Wow for each company can be different. For one company, the serial entrepreneur team that has 3 big exits under their belt may be the key. For another, the bulging customer pipeline and revenue traction may be it. Whatever it is, say it early and with enthusiasm or you just might glimpse a partner texting someone to call his cell in 60 seconds…

Speed-Dating for Entrepreneurs

The MIT Enterprise Forum of South Florida is hosting a “Speed-Dating for Entrepreneurs” event March 16 and I’ve agreed to help out on the investor panel. BusinessWire just got the press release and event details are now finalized.

My last fund used to host one of these and they’re a great opportunity for committed entrepreneurs and fence-sitting entrepreneurs to share their ideas, make connections, get fast feedback, and improve their plans. Feedback can range from “don’t quit your day job” to “you’ve really got something here”, but the practice of pitching to investors and listening is valuable on its own.

I hope you’ll join us and, particularly those sitting on the fence, this could be the key next step in your journey

Do Good to Do Well

To be honest, I’ve heard various perspectives in my business on the topic of helping/networking entrepreneurs when there is no investment to be had. However, one of my DFJ alums, Matt McCall, captured my approach in his latest post: A Glass of Milk. OK, so the chain-mail story is kinda sappy, but the moral still holds and I’m not the only VC who agrees.

Whether as an investor or an entrepreneur, I’ve found that helping others pays dividends in the long run. Yes, there will be times when it feels like you spend time, effort or political capital and get nothing in return, but in the end it all works out. I’m not chalking it up to metaphysical payback, but I do believe there a near-term psychic rewards and long-term material rewards for helping other people succeed.

Whether it’s the golden rule of “Treating others as you would like to be treated” or my current favorite “Do Good to Do Well”, try to create as many successes as you can around you and odds are you will reap rewards from some of them. You’ll also make a lot of friends along the way…

A Little BS Can’t Hurt

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, and to completely confuse my readers, I thought you’d get a kick out of the BS site ValleyWag — focused on Silicon Valley gossip and entrepreneur antics. It’s heavy on S, but entertaining nonetheless. Enjoy…

No-BS Venture Thoughts for No-BS Entrepreneurs

OK, so nobody take it personally. Given that one of my goals with FVB was to add some non-Boston/Silicon valley balance to the VC blogosphere, I’ve adopted the tagline “No-BS Venture Thoughts for No-BS Entrepreneurs.” It’s a double entendre intended to quickly differentiate what you’ll find here and as a nod to my favorite entrepreneurs — the ones who know how to cut through the noise and build great businesses no matter where they’ve chosen to live and raise their families.

I’ve been lucky enough to build funds in the two largest venture networks focused on non-traditional venture markets (DFJ and VV). I grew up in the Draper system learning its Silicon valley (S) style and now manage a fund in the Village network with its Bain/Highland roots in Boston (B). However, all three of my funds have been in no-BS regions where great technology/entrepreneurs (“smart people”) outnumbered quality institutional funds (“smart money”). Many of the VC/entrepreneur lessons are the same everywhere, but I’ve learned there are some unique problems/opportunities in no-BS regions and hope to share some of that experience here.

So, I’ll try to keep the BS to a minimum and welcome questions/comments from those “smart people” building companies where “smart money” is in short supply…

AxoGen Strikes a Nerve

Gainesville-based AxoGen, Inc. has landed $7.75M to help people walk, write and maybe even smile like “Smiling Bob” again. AxoGen’s team of Jamie Grooms, John Engels, Marlo Walpole and Jerry Chang spun an exciting nerve regeneration technology out of UF with promise across peripheral nervous system injuries. Even for this talented team, which included RTI founder Grooms, it’s been no cakewalk to get this far, but their vision and entrepreneurial commitment has put them in a strong position to change the standard of care for nerve damage.

They are neighbors here at Gainesville’s tech incubator GTEC and good friends. Congratulations, enjoy the moment and make a difference in people’s lives…

Venture Capital Termsheets

A friend recently asked about the typical terms in a venture capital term sheet and I realized that a source I take for granted isn’t readily known in entrepreneur circles. The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) website is targeted at venture funds and partners, but there is plenty of candy for entrepreneurs there as well. In fact, one NVCA page includes model documents that have been blessed by some of the leading venture and legal firms (company and fund counsel). Those documents include:

The docs aren’t gospel and there was plenty of heated debate when “model” docs were being drafted. For example, east coast docs are typically “thicker” with rights/protections than west coast (having learned the business in a West coast system and now managing an East coast fund, I’ll leave the fingerpointing to others). That said, reviewing these docs can provide a thorough view of what to expect institutional venture deals to look like. A decent companion resource for deciphering some of the legal mumbo-jumbo is Alex Wilmerding’s Deal Terms book.

Some of the stuff is pretty dense so I wouldn’t recommend anyone running wild with these docs without experienced counsel at your side. Likewise, I wouldn’t look to these as the standard if your courting friends and family or angels. F&F/Angel deals should be much cleaner, often using a convertible debt structure to simplify negotiations and avoid significant mistakes (e.g. setting the wrong valuation/expectations) that could hamper your ability to raise institutional venture capital when you need it most. There are a host of resources/books on angel investing, some of which are collected in my Angel Investing Bible at Amazon.

I hope you find these model docs useful and take me up on reviewing them. If the VC is the only guy at the negotiating table who understands key deal terms, your deal and your company will likely suffer.

If you have (non-legal) questions after review, feel free to comment here or email me…