Dancing with First Round Capital

Firstroundcapital
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/

Daily Roundup for 2008-03-31

  • Most savvy SEOs know that Google is placing an increased weight on links from “authority” websites. Wikipedia, a free internet encyclopedia that can be edited by any user, is certainly one of the top authority websites in the eyes of Google and I´m certainly not the first SEO to observe that an awful lot of Wikipedia pages are currently ranking quite highly in the SERPS. Many of you likely have tried to place your website link on a Wikipedia page. What most probably happened is a zealous Wikipedia editor likely removed your link very quickly because the prevailing view is that appending your external link to the bottom of a previously created page adds little to the community and likely only benefits you.
  • The results are in: Wild Planet Toy Store (Shopwildplanet.com) has reported an increase of 10.4% in conversion rates since the site adopted the buySAFE Seal. Wild Planet Toy Store partnered with buySAFE, Inc. in early 2007 to test the effectiveness of the buySAFE Seal. The store has integrated the buySAFE trust solution into its ecommerce website so that all of its pages display the Seal. Its shoppers are able to guarantee their purchases with a buySAFE bond up to $25,000 . After testing for almost six months across a base of over 150,000 store transactions, Brian Almashie, CEO. of Wild Planet ssaid that “The results speak for themselves: Conversion and revenues are both up more than 10% … I can’t think of anything else I could have done so easily to have such an impact on my business.”

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Daily Roundup for 2008-03-15

  • HiveLive Inc., a Boulder-based company that integrates social and information networks, secured $5.6 million in venture financing from Grotech Capital Group and current private investors. Joseph Zell, a general partner with Grotech, will take a seat on HiveLive’s board of directors.
  • What’s most important to consumers when making a purchase online? Personal identity. Consumers are taking more notice of their individual online security after a string of recent identity theft cases made major headlines. According to a recent survey by the University of Southern California’s Center for the Digital Future, 61 percent of adult Americans said they were "very" or "extremely" concerned about the privacy of personal information when buying online, an increase from 47 percent in 2006. Prior to 2007, that number had been decreasing for the past six years.

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Daily Roundup for 2008-03-09

  • Silicon Valley is where most everyone’s goal is to be wildly successful in changing the world – creating a runaway success and being rewarded with a big payday. All know the odds, and the daily struggle of insatiable demands for the next big thing with the very least investment, and industry-wide contempt for those who have failed. Despite this, all are driven to grasp for the shiny brass ring that’s always, though sometimes barely, out of reach. It is an environment of soaring hopes, crashing defeats, and maddening near-misses. Despite this, entrepreneurs never lose their yearning to change the world and be entrepreneurs. While they love the perceived freedom, they live in the constant state of self-consciousness (they may deny it), feeling their entire worth as a human being is being judged by people who are risk averse, lack vision, and not technically one’s peers.
  • Bill Gust, like most venture capitalists, is an optimist. The managing general partner of Anthem Capital Management’s Baltimore office expects a tougher year for entrepreneurs looking for funding, but said opportunities still exist for the right ideas. Entrepreneurs seeking capital have become more confident and experienced, said Don Rainey, a general partner with GroTech Capital Group. He said the tech bubble burst and Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had a greater chilling effect on entrepreneurs than today’s economy. “The current credit crisis doesn’t cause the same kind of hesitancy,” Rainey said. “I think quality has been improving for a couple years; the management are more mature and experienced than they were a year ago.”

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Daily Roundup for 2008-03-01

  • Google is launching Web-based collaboration software that aims to make it easy for groups to share and edit materials such as documents, photos, video and spreadsheets on a single site. Easy enough, Google hopes, to make selling software applications to enterprises a bit harder for the likes of IBM and Microsoft.
  • It’s called "Google hacking" – a slick data-mining technique used by the Internet’s cops and crooks alike to unearth sensitive material mistakenly posted to public Web sites.  And it’s just gotten easier, thanks to a program that automates what has typically been painstaking manual labor. The program’s authors say they hope it will "screw a large Internet search engine and make the Web a safer place."

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Daily Roundup for 2008-01-25

  • From proof of privacy protection to effective testimonials to constructive follow up, here are 8 tips to make visitors feel more comfortable buying from your site. You know that moment when you’re thinking about buying something, but you’re just not sure if you should pull out your wallet? That’s "purchase anxiety." Most people feel it at some point, especially when they’re buying a big-ticket item. Or when they’re buying something over the internet. Online shoppers tend to suffer from purchase anxiety more than offline shoppers. After all, when you buy something over the internet, it’s often a product you’ve never seen before sold by a person you’ve never met before.
  • EBay Inc. said Chief Executive Meg Whitman will retire in March, capping a decade of running the global electronic-commerce pioneer. John Donahoe, president of eBay’s auction business, will succeed her as the CEO.

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Daily Roundup for 2008-01-15

  • Bob Greene, co-founder of Contour Venture Partners in New York, wants you to know that venture capitalists aren’t half as tough as their reputations would have you believe. "A lot of entrepreneurs think VCs are haughty or arrogant," says Greene, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School in 1982. "All the VCs I know, we do it because we love it. We want to see entrepreneurs succeed. If the wrong impressions get cast, it’s because we get inundated with requests for review and capital."
  • The most important advice Jeff Fluhr, W’96, Eng’96, got as a young entrepreneur was to go with his gut. Fluhr, founder of online ticket sales website StubHub, says he had to stay focused on his vision for the business even while others who became involved in the business advised differently. “I learned that it’s important to listen to what others have to say,” said Fluhr. “But you have an obligation to do what you think is right.” Fluhr co-founded StubHub in March of 2000 and was responsible for setting the overall strategic direction. As CEO, he led the company to its position as the fan’s top choice when looking for a safe and trusted way to purchase or sell event tickets online, attracting A-list investors and advisors including major league sports teams, NCAA universities and top performing artists. StubHub was sold to eBay in early 2007.

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