Forming an investment philosophy

I met with a young venture capitalist today who has been investing aggressively in consumer internet over the past 18 months. We discussed investment philosophies and it got me thinking about my own.  I began making angel investments in 1999 through Bayview Partners, the Robertson Stephens & Co. partners fund. Some went well. Most did not. After leaving Robbie Stephens, I made a few investments on my own. A higher percentage of these went well (Wayport, Cars Direct), but several went to zero or returned less than my invested capital.  Over the past two years, with New York City playing a more active role in the technology startup game, I’ve decided to take advantage of my front row seat and have resumed angel investing on a selective basis.  I feel my chances for success continue to improve with each successive investment made as my ability to recognize patterns grows.  Much has been written about venture investing theory, pattern recognition and the like, and I agree with most of it, but I think it takes some actual investing experience over several years (more…)

Why Facebook has crossed the canyon, changed the way we communicate… and should buy Twitter

Facebook has crossed the canyon.  If the “chasm” is the leap from early adopters to mainstream, then the “canyon” is the leap from mainstream to mass commercial appeal.  Facebook has taken that leap.  In the past few months, my dad, uncle, aunt and the mother of

a high school friend have all joined Facebook.  Facebook has become, as I explained to a hold-out friend of mine last week, the most fun and efficient way to keep in touch with the people in your life.  As recently as five years ago, I reserved most Sunday nights for catching up with people by telephone.  That was the way I maintained friendships, particularly with people living in other cities, who I didn’t see face-to-face on a regular basis.  I’d call them after dinner, speak for 20-30 mins, get an update on the past few weeks (or months in some cases) and then say goodbye, until the next time we called each other.  Today, telephone conversations of this sort are passe.  Why waste time on the telephone, a communication medium limited to audio, when we can peruse each others’ photo streams, see what events our friends have been attending, and most of all, from a single page, get a snapshot of their status’.  The feature with which Facebook offers the summary view of our friends’ updates is called the News Feed.  If we really care, we can review their historical status updates to get a more complete picture of how they’re doing.  When’s the last time you received as complete (more…)

Famous for a day….

Sphere_blog_statsThis chart graphs the traffic on Sphere’s blog in April.  As you can see, traffic chugs along fairly consistently at  150-300 visits per day, then spikes to more than 3,000 the day of our acquisition, which was covered by various high profile blogs and mainstream publishers.  What’s funny is that the influx of traffic only lasts two days before returning to previous levels.  In fact, over the past week, traffic has dipped down in the 100-150 range, which is lower than normal.  Perhaps, our ruby slippers are wearing thin:)  It just goes to show that fame is often fickle and short-lived….

User generated photos picking up steam on Bergen Carroll

When I put together Bergen Carroll a year or so ago, I setup a feature whereby readers could showcase their photos in a "featured photo" section by tagging them Bergen Carroll on Flickr. For the better part of 12 months, nobody noticed and the only photos rotating through the system were ones I uploaded myself.  Then, something happened and people figured it out, possibly prompted by a few Flickr messages sent to neighborhood residents.  Over the past two months, 80 neighborhood photos have been tagged Bergen Carroll on Flickr by 3-4 different photographers.   I love that this feature has been noticed and is being used as intended.  It shows that adoption can sometimes take time (and can require patience) before usage grows.  Though having that patience is often a necessity if you believe a product has real growth potential.  Another six months without adoption and I may have taken the feature down…..

in da AOL Sphere

Yesterday was the big day, we announced our acquisition by AOL:
TechCrunch Coverage
Sphere blog Coverage
NYT/The Deal Coverage
All Things D Coverage

This is a thrill and very exciting, but also a tad bittersweet.  Exciting because any time a small fledgling startup that you’re a part of building is acquired by one of the large Internet superstars, it signals that we’ve made it; that we’ve created something of value that others recognize and appreciate.  Based on our traction in the market and accelerating demand for partnership, we knew this internally, but an acquisition by a brand like AOL announces it through a bullhorn to the rest of the world.  It’s also exciting because AOL is giving us the opportunity to remain independent, which we love because the team has really gelled and is hitting on all cylinders right now.  It’s fantastic that we get to continue working together and building out what we started with the resources of AOL.  Of course, this is also where the bittersweetness comes in.  I’ve been involved with Sphere for 14 months.  For eight of those, we were engaged in a courtship ritual dance of sorts, that eventually resulted in me joining the team.  For the past six, we’ve been sprinting towards the finish line and fending off other competitors trying to take a piece of our pie.  Our pipeline is full with some of the biggest and most exciting brands and publishers.  Our business should continue to grow and naturally, there’s a part of me that would have loved to ride this one out a tad longer, especially since six months was just enough time to really get in a groove.   Though I imagine this is a sentiment that one feels whenever a sale of a business takes place, whether after six years or six months.  Now, time to focus on the great opportunities this brings and to finish what we started.  Onwards and upwards we go….


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