Posts Tagged ‘Foundry Group’

Creative Capital Makes Top VC’s Best Books of 2009 List

December 19, 2009

When I wrote my first book Creative Capital, I hoped that it would cross over into the mainstream AND appeal to the venture capital community.

This week, I got some proof that VCs are finding value in the book. Brad Feld, a founding managing director of the Foundry Group, a venture capital firm in Boulder, Colorado that has invested in Zynga, StockTwits and Topspin, posted his list of the Best Books of 2009. And I am honored to report that Creative Capital made the list along with some very distinguished company, including great books by Dave Eggers and Andrew Ross Sorkin.

This year, Feld read 72 books and he listed his top 5 non-fiction and top 5 fiction books. Thanks Brad!!!

Here they are:

Non-Fiction

Zeitoun: New Orleans + Katrina + Muslim American + Heavy Bad Stuff

How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else: Successful Ad Exec finds himself in the dumps later in life. Fixed by a job at Starbucks.

Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves: The Financial Crisis of 2008 unfolding in great detail.

Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska: Actually, in really remote Alaska.

Creative Capital: Georges Doriot and the Birth of Venture Capital: The story of General Georges Doriot and the start of the venture capital industry.

Fiction

The Scorpion’s Gate and Breakpoint: Brilliant contemporary spy vs. spy stories by Richard A Clarke. Yes – I realize this is two books – read them in order.

The Player of Games: An Ian Banks classic. Particularly interesting if you are addicted to Zynga games.

The Orpheus Deception and The Echelon Vendetta and The Venetian Judgment: David Stone is my favorite new mental floss writer. Three books – read them in order.

Daemon: Easily the best cyberthriller I’ve ever read.

Supreme Courtship: Anything by Christopher Buckley always makes the list. Especially poignant given my Supreme Court visit this year.

Is Twitter Worth a Billion Bucks?

September 25, 2009

Check out this story I worked on with my colleague Stephen Baker.

Is Twitter Worth a Billion Bucks?
Twitter’s latest funding round values the microblogging site at $1 billion. Can the company become profitable enough—or profitable at all—to justify that valuation?

By Stephen Baker with Spencer Ante

Twitter’s home crowd can be pretty tough. When reports emerged on Sept. 24 that the microblogging service was close to securing $100 million in funding that valued the company at $1 billion, flurries of 140-character jeers flooded the service. “Nutty valuation,” wrote @Nicklippis. “I’ve seen this movie before,” twittered @ericclovesbacon. “It starred eToys.com and ended in fail.”

True, a billion dollars for a company with virtually no revenue recalls the excesses of the dot-com era. The logic behind Twitter’s valuation comes straight from the very same school. It views Twitter less as a single company than as the base for a whole realm of communication and data. “It is an increasingly important platform for business and consumers,” says Seth Levine, managing director of Foundry Group.

Read the rest of the story here.

New Review: Venture Capitalist Brad Feld Gives Creative Capital Five Stars

March 25, 2009

Check out this review that Brad Feld, co-founder of the Colorado venture capital firm Foundry Group, recently posted on my Amazon page.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Fantastic History of the Venture Capital Business
March 16, 2009
By Bradley Feld (Eldorado Springs, CO USA)

Most people that have been involved in a VC-based tech startup have heard the parable of General Georges Doriot and his famous $70,000 investment in Digital Equipment Corporation. However, few people actually know the full (and very extensive) story of Doriot and the creation of the Venture Capital business.

Spencer Ante does an awesome job of telling this incredible history. As a former entrepreneur and now VC, I’ve read many books that touch on parts of the history and have heard many anecdotes. Spencer brings them all together in one concise, well-written, fast paced book.

Every entrepreneur and VC should, along with anyone that is involved in creating companies, should read this book.

Entrepreneurs + VCs = Goodness (And why it will help lift us out of the Great Recession)

March 19, 2009

Yesterday, venture capitalist Brad Feld published a candid post in which he made the argument that entrepreneurs played a much more important than financiers in the startup ecosystem. Even though I wrote a book highlighting the importance of VCs, I totally agree with him.

It’s the entrepreneurs that drive innovation. They are down in the trenches building the businesses every day. They create most of the value.

However, without risk capital, the startup system ecosystem would be far less powerful and effective at generating innovation. You simply can not build a business without capital–even in these capital efficient Web 2.0 days. Look at any survey of a small business and the top concern is always money–having enough of it to run your day-to-day operation and getting more to grow the operation.

One of the big reasons that America is the world’s engine of innovation is that we were the first country to develop a professional and robust venture capital market. Now, other countries are following us, but our risk capital market is still one of the nation’s competitive advantages.

It’s also one of the reasons why I think we will lift ourselves out of this recession more quickly than we did in the Great Depression. There was no venture capital market in the 1930s. We have one now and the capital being put to work in startups will create companies and markets that will help grow the economy and revive our animal spirits. In fact, as I detail in my book, the VC industry was born out of the Great Depression when a group of businessmen in New England in the late 1930s realized the U.S. had created a “risk-less economy” and needed to find new ways of creating new companies.

I struggled with this tension in writing my book. I was writing about a VC but I came to see that what I was really writing about was the birth of this startup ecosystem, the entrepreneurial economy. I was writing about the largely symbiotic relationship between the entrepreneur and the venture capitalist. You can’t talk about one without including the other.

Sure, there will always be tensions between owners of a business and the managers. And that’s OK. But instead of pitting entrepreneurs against VCs I think it’s better and more appropriate to view them as partners in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Did Anything Happen at CES?

January 12, 2009

2009 was going to be an off year at the Consumer Electronics Show no matter what. First, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who gave the keynote speech for many years, ended his reign of CES keynotes. Second, the damn economy dashed a lot of people’s hopes for attending the show.

I’ve never been to CES actually, and have never been a big fan of the show. But I always pay attention to what goes on, if for no other reason that it’s a good table setter that gets me thinking about the potentially big trends for the year.

So did anything of consequence happen this year? Nothing earth shattering. But it seems like there were a few things of note, according to this blog post by the folks at Colorado venture capital firm The Foundry Group. Most of the action seemed to be centered around TV innovation. It’s nice to see that a 60-year-old technology still has legs.

But 3D on TV? C’mon, people. It feels like the 1950s all over again when the industry gets excited about 3D.

# Don’t buy a television for the next 6 months. This is certainly counter to what retailers and producers would want us to say, especially given the current state of the economy, but all the major brands are introducing exciting technologies in the first half of 2009. The TVs are thinner (some less than 1mm!), brighter (LED backlighting rocks), faster (240mhz refresh rate) and offer superior contrast ratios (1,000,000 to 1 and even higher).

Next to the best of today’s generation of panels, there is no comparison. Having been to CES a few years in a row, this year seemed to demonstrate the biggest improvements on imaging. If you don’t buy a TV in this generation, hold on a couple of years until OLED TVs are commonplace and then sit a back and look at the best displays we’ve ever seen. For now, we’ll geek out on LED backlit generation two screens.

# Everyone is trying to make things easier on consumers. It only took 20 years or so, but consumer device manufactures, both large and small are finally focusing on the consumer experience. Maybe this is the effect of Apple’s entrance into the consumer device ecosystem, but this year, in particular, showed many instances of deep thinking about usability.

What was of particular interest to us were some of the startups that attended the show and instead of presenting groundbreaking technology, rather have executed on current technologies to bring the consumer a needed digital solution with the ease of use never seen before at an unexpectedly low price.

# 3D on TV. Full HD TVs and projectors that have incredible 3D-images (glasses needed) are now consumer available. Clearly the amount of content available will drive how popular these devices become, but the technology is really impressive to experience. We played a VW racing game in 3D and would have been happy to sit there all afternoon, or at least until the inevitable headaches set in. There was also a prototype of a 3D TV that didn’t require the viewer to wear glasses. It was pretty rough, but cool at the same time.

We have our doubts that the entire universe of content will ever go 3D, given how different the production tools and processes are for live-action movies and television. However, for media like video games and CG animated content which are largely “3D native” already, there should be less of a hurdle to create appropriate 3D content, and probably better justification from a user-experience perspective as well.

Read the rest of the post here.

Rocky Mountain High Tech

August 31, 2008

When you think of Colorado, startups and venture capital don’t come to mind. Snow-capped mountains, Birkenstock-clad hippies, and the Denver Broncos are more like it.

So it came as a pleasant surprise when I met Colorado-based venture capitalist Seth Levine during the Democratic National Convention. Patrick Ward, a New York transplant who founded tech PR firm 104 West Partners in Denver, was nice enough to set up a meeting with Levine and I at the swanky Capital Grille in the city’s attractive downtown district.

road
[Driving to Denver from the airport, a few miles outside of town.]

By the time lunch ended, I came away with the impression that Colorado had a lot more going on technology-wise than I realized, and I think it’s role will only grow in the future as the New West takes on an increasingly prominent role in the tech economy. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who was quite active during the DNC, is trying to position his state as a leader in developing a post-fossil-fuel economy. (Ryan Lizza’s feature in The New Yorker, “The Code of the West,” is required reading that nails why the West is becoming an growing force in green energy and Democratic politics.)

Last year, Levine and a few of his associates split off from Mobius Venture Capital (they are closing out the management of one Mobius fund, though) and launched Foundry Group from Boulder, Colorado. Yes, that Boulder. The rustic foothill town where poet Allan Ginsberg set up Buddhist-inspired Naropa University, and hippies ruled the earth. When I drove cross country in 1990 and stopped in Boulder I don’t recall seeing one computer in the whole patchouli-smelling town.

Now, Levine tells me that over the last 15 years Boulder has become a bit of a tech hotbed. His best argument: After acquiring @Last Software in 2006, a Boulder-based software company, Google recently set up an office in town with 200 people, Levine is proud to tell me.

“Entrepreneurs got their feet wet during the 1990s,” says Levine. “There were a few home runs. Today, there is a good and steady stream of solid technology assets coming out of the area.” Among the big wins: In 1999 Exodus Communications acquired Service Metrics for $280 million, and in 2004 IAC acquired ServiceMagic for reportedly several hundred million.

denvera
[Denver from the 50th floor of the Qwest building with the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field in the foreground.]

Foundry Ventures is one of a new breed of back-too-basics VC firms that are focused on funding early-stage tech startups. By the end of 2007, the firm had raised an impressive $225 million, $50 million more than its initial fund-raising target. Foundry’s strategy is to invest in certain themes. Its top themes are human computer interaction, gaming and infrastructure software.

In addition to Foundry, Boston-native Levine noted that Colorado boasts several area VC firms, including Boulder Ventures, Vista Ventures, High Country Venture and two older Denver-based firms, Centennial Ventures and Meritage Funds.

Besides a growing pool of venture capital, Colorado also enjoys some of the other key ingredients for creating a Silicon Valley-like economy: several good universities, a rising number of entrepreneurs, an appealing climate and lifestyle, and hub of larger established tech companies, including Qwest Communications, Echostar, Level III, and the former TCI.

To nurture the entrepreneurial community, last year Foundry helped launch TechStars, a Colorado-based tech incubator. Among the first class, says Levine, seven of the 10 companies that participated received some type of funding.

If you want to learn more about the Colorado venture scene, a good place to start is Venture Capital in the Rockies (VCIR), a conference that has been running for 26 years. Next spring, in the mountains at Beaver Creek, Colorado, about 20 startups will be there to tell their stories, along with a great cast of speakers and moderators. Not bad, eh?