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August 26 2012

19:40
VC Transparency Is The New Black
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When Instagram was bought by Facebook earlier this spring for $1 billion, one question lingering on everyone's minds was how much VC firm Andreessen Horowitz made on the deal. The firm had made an early investment in the photo sharing startup but then bet against it after Instagram's pivot by later by supporting a rival. A few days after the Facebook-Instagram acquisition was announced, the firm's partner Ben Horowitz took to his blog to not only reveal the back story of the investment in Instagram, but also how much the firm had made off the deal under the terms of the acquisition—$78 million off of a $250,000 investment

July 26 2011

20:05

Nodeable, The Twitter For Machines, Raises $2 Million From True Ventures

Nodeable, a startup building a cloud-based social platform for systems data, announced today that it has raised $2 million in series A financing, led by True Ventures. The startup will use this infusion of capital to ramp up hiring efforts and continue building its platform, as it moves into private beta.

But what is it about this young startup that has True Ventures excited? Cloud computing and various sources of big data are becoming more and more popular as on-demand resources for businesses, but at the same time, the management of clouds on the back-end is becoming increasingly challenging and messy.

And though no one is asking the cloud to disappear, developers, IT staff, and admins are still largely compelled to interact with these systems on a case-per-case basis. Essentially, each problem requires an ad hoc solution, and really the way these cloud and data systems are managed, and interacted with, has not added the modern look, feel, or approach of newer communication media, like social networks, for example.

Thus, Nodeable is attempting to apply social mechanics to systems data in such a way as to enable developers, IT staffs, and more to interact with cloud infrastructure and data just as they would on social networks.

Put another way, Nodeable is Like a Twitter for machines, in that it aggregates systems data from a broad array of sources — co-founder and CEO Dave Rosenberg cites Amazon AMI as an example at the infrastructural level and Github at the data source level — then processes that data, adds metadata or defined messages, before presenting the data in a UI or via an API.

Users, he says, can interact with the platform itself by employing social networking mechanics, like tagging, both in messages sent to systems (like @webserver1 restart, for example) or to other users. Much in the same way communication tools like Yammer or Twitter function. Though this does not mean Nodeable is a “scripted automation tool like Rightscale or Opscode’s Chef“, he says, instead the approach is meant to provide a simple way for users to communicate with cloud services — to allow IT staffs to make better decisions, faster.

“Ultimately, we are building a platform that sits in the middle of data streams and allows the data to be manipulated”, the CEO told me. “We are trying to apply what Okta does for authentication to system data streams”.

Nodeable wants to combine big data analytics, systems management and social communications in such a way that a social layer is added to an analytics platform to give users an interface that feels like a social networking site, but still allows businesses to manage the complexities of data management.



March 10 2011

20:44

Social Analytics Platform BackType Raises a Cool Million in Funding

Today, San Francisco-based marketing intelligence company, BackType, announced that it has closed a seed funding round of just over $1 million, led by a group of Silicon Valley investors, including lead investor True Ventures as well as Manu Kumar’s K9 Ventures, Freestyle Capital, Chris Sacca’s Lowercase Capital, Dave McClure’s 500 Startups, Founder Collective, Raymond Tonsing, and more.

BackType adds to the previous cumulative $315,000 of seed funding it raised in July 2008 and January 2009, from Y Combinator and True Ventures, respectively. It also recently added one of the co-founders of Palantir Technologies as an advisor.

BackType’s free analytics dashboard, which is currently in private beta, aims to help brands and agencies understand the business impact of social media in order to make more intelligent marketing decisions. The company has already amassed 30 terabytes (one terabyte is roughly equivalent to the entire contents of a large library) of social data (Tweets, Facebook comments and likes, blog comments, etc.) and assists more than 100 companies with their social media analytics, from The New York Times and Edelman to startups like Bitly, HubSpot, Hunch and SlideShare.

Making sense of terabytes of social data in realtime is no easy feat. BackType uses a high tech stream processing system, akin to Hadoop but for real-time processing, which they claim goes beyond what Facebook and Twitter have developed for their analytics. You can read more about the big data processor here. BackType CEO Christopher Golda told me that, thanks to this backend tech, the company was able to build and release influence profiles for every active Twitter user in under 24 hours.

The company provided TechCrunch with statistics for the viral hashtag #LessAmbitiousMovies as well as a snapshot of the number of mentions “Tunisia” received on Twitter after the fall of Tunisian president Ben Ali.

Golda said that BackType will be using this new round of seed funding to grow the team and launch its new paid analytics product, which he said will debut later this year. In the meantime, you can find its paid Twitter-only product here or use its free product here.



February 23 2011

17:43

Should Entrepreneurs Trust a VC Who Is Also Founding a Company? (TCTV)

There’s an age-old debate in Silicon Valley over whether or not you have to have started a company before to be a great VC. While many of the best VCs in Valley history weren’t entrepreneurs, the bias is heavily on investors who know firsthand what entrepreneurs are going through. But what about VCs who are building companies at the same time they are backing them?

It’s a growing trend as serial entrepreneurs want to invest, but not go quite all the way over to the dark side. There have always been angel investors who dabble in deals while they keep their day jobs, but being a partner at an institutional venture fund while doing what’s considered more than a full time job of building a company is something new. And it’s interesting that this is happening as most prominent angels are making being an angel their only job. We’re definitely in a period of redefining all the normal venture capital rules and roles.

But are there inherent conflicts entrepreneurs should be aware of? One of the more successful at this balancing act is Tony Conrad of True Ventures. He was hanging around TechCrunch yesterday, so we decided to grill him on how doing two more than full time jobs well is humanly possible.



January 16 2011

19:38

True Ventures’ Entrepreneur Force Pays It Forward To Budding Tech Leaders

In the midst of the implosion of the financial markets in 2008, True Ventures raised its second fund. Founder and partner Phil Black tells us that shortly after this raise in early 2009 (which he calls the “dark days in the financial world”), the fund’s partners were sitting at a meeting looking for innovative ways they could help jump start the tech economy. Inspired by President Obama’s 2009 inaugural address, True Ventures decided to launch their own program to encourage college students to work at early-stage startups, and to help inspire and educate the “entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”

Called the True Entrepreneurs Corps (TEC), the program places 12 undergraduate students in the fund’s early-stage portfolio companies. The internships take place during the summer in the San Francisco area and range in terms of focus, from technical coding to finance to marketing to business development. And TEC offers students a $3000 stipend for the summer.

In addition to the experience at the startups, the students also go through a weekly core curriculum from True Ventures that involves the financial components of founding and running a startup as well as guest lectures from seasoned entrepreneurs. Last summer, the intern class heard from SGN’s Shervin Pishevar, Kwedit’s Danny Shader, David Kirkpatrick and others. Students were asked to read and discuss Jessica Livingston’s Founders at Work, Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, and other relevant publications, to name a few.

After speaking to a few TEC alums, it’s easy to determine that these internships aren’t the average fetching coffee, making copies type of internships that most college students experience. Ali Shah, an engineering student at NYU, worked at video publishing site VodPod for summer and actually developed the company’s iPhone app. Shah says that after his experience at VodPod he either wants to work at an early-stage startup or start his own company following school.

University of Texas student Amelia Lin worked at payments startup PayNearMe,mainly focusing on sales and marketing efforts at the company. Lin actually developed marketing cartoon videos explaining how PayNearMe’s technology works for consumers (you can see them here). SHe also helped develop the startup’s social media strategy. Like Shah, she’s inspired to work at a startup following graduation or start her own company.

What sets TEC apart is that the model is unique for venture firms, who generally offer in-house internship programs but don’t necessarily fund and coordinate internships and educational opportunities within portfolio companies.

For True Ventures, TEC, which is now accepting applications for its third summer program; is a way to pay it forward for both its portfolio startups and potential entrepreneurs and tech leaders. The benefits of the program is two fold. First, TEC offers college students a way to do substantial work at early stage startups while still being able to earn a few bucks over a summer. And True Ventures’ portfolio companies start building relationships with potential talent. Many of these startups would not be able to afford to recruit at colleges and/or compete with large companies like Google, Microsoft or even Facebook for talent.

As Black tells us, “we have a powerful platform and want to effect the startup ecosystem in a positive way.”



September 29 2010

11:59

Jaiku Founder Raises Seed Funding For New Venture, Pingpin, Wastes My Time

Looks like Jaiku founder and former Googler Jyri Engeström is up to something new. According to an SEC filing, a startup listing Engeström as chief executive officer called Pingpin has just raised $775,000 in financing.

Backers are BetaWorks (the startup’s address matches that of the early-stage investment firm) and True Ventures, as founder and managing partner Jon Callaghan is listed as a director as well.

I’ve tried to contact Engeström to learn more about what Pingpin is, but have so far not received a response (according to his Twitter feed, he’s attending TechCrunch Disrupt SF so he’s likely still asleep).

When I signed up to be notified when it launches, I did get this message:

You’ll be notified at robinwauters@gmail.com when Pingpin becomes available on the App Store.

Which means they’re building an iOS application, evidently.

Another indication that it concerns something in the mobile space is the fact that the third director listed is a man named Teemu Ikonen.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Ikonen spent years at mobile messaging infrastructure company Airwide Solutions after it bought the company he was working for since January 2001 (First Hop).

Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess what Pingpin is, but we’re keeping a close eye on it. Engestrom famously sold Twitter rival Jaiku to Google back in October 2007. Two years later, he left the Internet giant to pursue new things.

Oh, and if you’re looking for some time to kill, enter your email on the Pingpin website to know when they launch. I just wasted 15 minutes trying to land that damn balloon (obviously, I’m really bad at casual online games).



August 25 2010

11:36

Resonant Plants New Seed Fund in Michigan

A new seed fund called Resonant Venture Partners opened its office doors in Ann Arbor, Michigan today.

Founded by Michael Godwin and Jason Townsend (pictured above), Resonant aims to raise $10 million within the next 18 months, and to invest up to $500,000 per seed round in regional firms across a variety of high-tech sectors: IT, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, alternative energy and defense.

Though still in the midst of subscribing, Resonant closed its first deal late last week. It was part of a $1 million investment in Scio Security, a mobile software security startup.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based True Ventures led that round (as reported last week by Xconomy). With Resonant’s previously undisclosed involvement, Scio agreed to maintain its headquarters in Ann Arbor.

Godwin and Townsend are recent graduates of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. As students there, they managed the $5.5 million Wolverine Venture Fund at The Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies growing it from $3.5 million to $5.5 million within two years, with a couple of successful exits.

Jason Townsend says there are no other seed funds in the state of Michigan at this time, and that the 17 venture funds he knows about in the state will be happy Resonant has formed and can help companies get to the stage where they’re ready for a bigger, series B investment.

Another reason it’s a good time to be an investor in Michigan, Townsend explains: “The Midwest garners 45% lower valuations for companies compared to coastal startups and investments. You have a lot of money chasing a few deals out there. And even if the exits are higher on the coast, there’s still a 25% premium.”

The fund is co-located within the offices of EDF Ventures in Ann Arbor.



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