Thank you buySAFE!

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Today, I am starting a new chapter in my entrepreneurial story. It is with both a bit of sadness and a lot of excitement that I share with you the news that I have left buySAFE to pursue other start-up and entrepreneurial interests. In addition, I have joined buySAFE’s Board of Advisors so that I can continue to assist the company in whatever fashion is necessary.  Click here to see buySAFE's announcement on the buySAFE blog.

After almost nine years of building buySAFE, I am leaving the Company in very capable hands, with fresh funding, and the brightest future that the Company has ever had. It has been a deeply satisfying experience to create something valuable, and I want to sincerely thank our customers, our partners, my colleagues and the many investors who made buySAFE possible. I am obviously looking forward to my next adventure, but I am also very much looking forward to buySAFE’s continued success over the coming months and years.

I founded buySAFE after getting burned in an online transaction on eBay. As a student, I didn’t have any extra money to lose to ecommerce fraudsters, and so I decided that there had to be a better way to buy and sell products online. buySAFE was born!

This adventure started for me while I was earning my MBA at Wharton in 2000, and as with all start-ups, there have been huge successes and great challenges. For me, both have proven to be invaluable learning experiences.

Developing buySAFE’s early business/technology plan, acquiring our major financial institution and strategic partners (including two major strategic partners to be announced in the coming months), and raising our $30 million in venture capital financing were all challenges that I ultimately found to be great learning experiences. Over time, I was able to lead almost every aspect of buySAFE’s business operations, and all of these experiences were amazing for me personally and professionally. I plan to share with you many of the lessons I learned at buySAFE over the coming months.

Perhaps the thing I am most proud of at buySAFE is our team. Early on, I recruited Jeff Grass, Tim Woda, and Hans Dreyer to buySAFE. Today, Jeff is buySAFE’s CEO, Tim is the VP – Sales, and Hans is the VP – Operations. They are the core of our team even to this day. The rest of our team is amazing as well, and it has been a pleasure working with each and every one of them.

I never intended to spend almost a decade working on my Wharton class project, but along the way, buySAFE provided me with an amazing opportunity to make great friends, to learn important new skills, and to see that anything is possible with persistence and creativity. It also taught me that you can’t build a company by yourself.

Although I could never hope to name all of the folks that deserve my thanks, I wish I could. A few folks in particular – my wife, my brother, and buySAFE’s employees, customers, investors, and advisors – have all obviously been invaluable to both me and buySAFE. To all of you, thank you! I sincerely appreciate your investments in time, capital, expertise, and support. There would be no buySAFE without you.

As far as the next chapter in my entrepreneurial story, I am not ready to share the details quite yet, but please stay tuned. I will share my adventures with you here on my blog, so if you are interested, please make sure to subscribe using the form below.

Thank you buySAFE!

Related posts:

"Steve Woda, Founder and Chairman of buySAFE, Pursues New Entrepreneurial Ventures" on the buySAFE blog

"Founder of buySAFE, Steve Woda, Steps Down" on AuctionBytes.com

Zenoss Closes 2008 with 100 New Enterprise Customers & $15M in Financing

Zenoss Inc., the leading provider of commercial open source systems and network monitoring, today announced tremendous momentum through the end of 2008. In addition to astounding growth in commercial enterprise sales throughout the year, the company raised an additional $15 million of financing, was recognized with many awards including being named a finalist for a Jolt Award in the Enterprise Tools category and secured twice as many downloads as its nearest competitor in commercial open source IT management for 2008.

Zenoss added 110 new enterprise customers during the year, including Carlson Travel, Tyco Electronics, Cap Gemini, Formica and iStockphoto. Others, such as UTStarcom, Medifast, OpSource, OmniPresence, Broadcom, Johns Hopkins and Rackspace, renewed their annual subscriptions. Zenoss has gained the most traction in financial services, federal government, and among leading managed service providers where Zenoss management solutions are now routinely replacing traditional products from the “Big 4” systems management vendors (IBM, HP, BMC and CA).

As a result of this significant growth, Zenoss secured an additional $4 million in new financing from Silicon Valley Bank in December bringing the total raised to $15 million for the year and over $20 million cumulative. Other funding partners include top-tier venture capital firms Grotech Ventures, Intersouth Partners and Boulder Ventures.

Read more >> Zenoss Closes 2008 with Over 100 New Enterprise Customers, $15M in New Financing, and Numerous Industry Honors

 

Dancing with First Round Capital

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First Round Capital's 2008 Holiday Card (video) proves once again why every early-stage entrepreneur wants to find a way to meet with this terrific investor group.  Check it out! 

These guys are creative; they have been in the trenches themselves (multiple times!); they have been successful (multiple times!); and most of all, they like working with entrepreneurs because they are entrepreneurs.

I have had the pleasure of working with and knowing lots of technology investors, and along the way, I have learned a thing or two about who you want to try and work with (and what you want to avoid).  These guys are good.  Period.  In addition, their holiday video is brilliant,
low-cost, and fun, and it highlights their strengths in an intangible,
yet powerful manner.

Let me share one quick story that illustrates why I like these guys so much.  Although they won't likely remember it, both Howard Morgan and Josh Kopelman provided me with a helping hand while I was trying to get buySAFE launched back in 2001.  I was introduced to Howard via a mutual friend, John Tedesco, and Howard offered to meet with me in NYC and provide me with feedback on my business plan.  At the time, the venture was called BondMyAuction.  I was not ready for primetime, and yet, Howard spent two hours listening to me and coaching me on how I could improve my plan.  Howard also introduced me to Josh Kopelman.  At the time, Josh was an executive at eBay because he had recently sold his business, Half.com, to the ecommerce giant.  For no reason other than to be helpful to me, Josh also spent almost two hours on the phone giving me feedback and advice on how to proceed. 

I will be forever grateful for their assistance since I was no more than an aspiring entrepreneur with a paper napkin business plan.  Their help was both gracious and inspiring.  In many ways, they (along with a few others like them) gave me the extra motivation and confidence that I needed to stick it out through the inevitable challenges of getting a business launched.  Since then, I have tried to return the favor with other aspiring entrepreneurs because of their good example (although I am quite sure that I could never be as helpful as they were for me).

Again, check out First Round Capital's holiday video, and I think you will agree with me.  These guys are authentic, and entrepreneurs clearly have good reason to want to work with them.

Nice job Howard and Josh!  For everyone else, enjoy!  http://holiday.firstround.com/

Does Your VC’s Fund Have the Capacity to Do Follow-on Rounds of Financing?

Another great post on TheFunded.com….

When considering a term sheet from a prospective VC, it is key to understand whether they have have the means to fund follow-on rounds. Most VCs will not do cross over funding and often startups find themselves in trouble when their VCs can not provide subsequent financing. So, it is key to determine…

If your VC’s fund is having problems (financial, political, hiring or retention, etc..) or if your VC’s fund is at the end of its lifecycle, you may ultimately experience artificial, unnecessary problems that you will have to navigate in the future while running your business.  For entrepreneurs, this is a very serious issue to consider before you allow an investment, not after an investment has already taken place.

Read the rest of this article at TheFunded.com: Fund Diligence Item in order to learn the three critical questions you should ask your prospective investors before taking their venture capital dollars.

Post Funding Advice for VC-backed Entrepreneurs

If you have ever raised venture capital, you know how important the post-funding relationship is with your venture capital investors.  Your pre-money valuation and financing terms are all important needless to say, but to be candid, the post-funding relationship you have (or are likely to have based on a VC’s previous track record) is probably the most important issue for you to consider as an entrepreneur.

An experienced entrepreneur posted a great article on the subject on TheFunded.com, and here is an excerpt of the article…

There are a lot of postings here about getting the initial term sheet and getting the VC on board. However, just like marriages, many of these courting periods can be quite different from the month to month evolving operations and business that we face a year or two down the road. Remember that often these VCs will sit on your board, and direct your business in different ways and depending on your dilution can dictate how operational decisions should be made. Thus, it is important to get an early feel from your VC dialogue, especially how they would respond if the actual business is less than the wonderful picture we sometimes paint in our pitches.

If I can give you piece of advice that you need to follow religiously in your quest for venture capital, it is that you MUST speak to the entrepreneurs and CEOs that have previously taken money from and worked with the VC firm and the VC partner that you are considering.  Do not limit your discussions to the entrepreneurs and CEOs of the successful deals, but rather, you should talk to the entrepreneurs and CEOs of the unsuccessful deals as well.  In my experience, the VCs play a critical role in both outcomes, and you need to make sure you get the full, unedited scoop before you take money from a VC.  This is absolutely critical to your success or failure as a startup.

Speaking of which, I am always happy to share my insights on this subject with folks that are interested, so don’t hesitate to email me with your questions.

You can read more of the original article here >> TheFunded.com: The post funding experience

Grotech Ventures Leads a $6.6 Million Series B Round of Funding for Collective Intellect

TechCrunch reported last week that Grotech Ventures has led another round of financing for Collective Intellect.  The following is an excerpt from TechCrunch.

Collective Intellect, a service that can be used to track what people are saying around the net about certain topics, has raised an additional $6.6M in a Series B round led by Grotech Capital Group with participation by Appian Ventures, Croghan Investments, and Crawley Hatfield Capital.

You can read more about the financing here >> More Money for Collective Intellect to Keep Fingers on Pulse of Internet

Daily Roundup for 2008-03-21

  • The Washington and Baltimore region was the nation’s fifth fastest-growing area for venture capital funding in the last decade, according to a report released Tuesday. In 2007, 180 Washington and Baltimore companies received nearly $1.3 billion in venture capital backing, the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Financial and the National Venture Capital Association said. That number is up 130 percent from $558.24 million put into 105 companies in 1997.  The report lists Timonium, Md.-based Grotech Capital Group and Chevy Chase-based New Enterprise Associates as the most active investors in the region. The top industries for investments around the region were software, life sciences and telecommunications.
  • The rate of affluent US Internet user participation in online social networks increased dramatically to 60% in January 2008, from 27% in January 2007, according to The Luxury Institute’s latest WealthSurvey "The Wealthy and Web 2.0."  "While some in the luxury industry are still debating e-commerce, search and banner ads, the majority of their customers have leaped into the online dialogue," said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute. "Luxury needs to catch up quickly."

Continue reading “Daily Roundup for 2008-03-21”