Mint.com: A Vindication of the Super-Angel VCs

Check out this follow-up story to the feature I wrote on super-angels back in May.

Mint.com: Nurtured by Super-Angel VCs
Intuit is acquiring a startup conceived by a “25-year-old kid” and funded by First Round Capital, a new breed of high-risk, early-stage venture capitalists

By Spencer E. Ante

Intuit’s purchase of Mint.com was a big win for Mint CEO Aaron Patzer and the rest of the 38-person staff he assembled to run the personal finance Web site. Yet the $170 million acquisition also vindicated a new breed of early-stage investor that is betting aggressively on startups while big-name venture capital firms conserve capital and shy away from risk. These so-called super angels are trying to reinvigorate venture capital by taking it back to its roots, when firms were smaller, nimbler, and more adept at helping to build companies from the ground up.

Mint.com owes much of its success to one such investor, First Round Capital, which opted to back the fledgling company at a time when other VCs demurred. Indeed, the Mint.com acquisition is First Round Capital’s largest exit, beating out the $100 million sale of portfolio company Powerset to Microsoft (MSFT). And although First Round Capital would not quantify the return on its investment, co-founder Josh Kopelman says the Mint.com deal generated the highest return of any deal the firm has done. Previously its best return came when eBay (EBAY) acquired StumbleUpon for $75 million, which generated more than 14 times First Round Capital’s original investment. “I don’t think this changes our strategy,” Kopelman says. “It is continued validation for our approach.”

Read the rest of my BusinessWeek story here.

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