Monday, March 30, 2009

Charles River Ventures' New Fund (and the Twitter Back-Story)

Charles River Ventures just closed a new $320 million fund, its fourteenth. The firm has had some big liquidity events over the past two years, generating about $600 million in returns, including the IPOs of local start-ups Virtusa and Netezza, and acquisitions of EqualLogic,, and Acopia Networks.

Among CRV's more recent investments they list in the official press release are Nantero, Scribd, Vlingo, and Twitter.

Curious story about Twitter... CRV only has about $250K in that company, which has raised $55 million in total. CRV had invested in Twitter founder Evan Williams' earlier venture, Odeo, which didn't take off. Williams decided to repay the investors and go off and do Twitter. (The technology for it had been an offshoot of Odeo.) When Twitter started raising funds, Charles River put in that quarter-million early on, but hasn't participated in any rounds since, and doesn't have a board seat. (But Twitter is listed as one of CRV partner George Zachary's investments.)

Also interesting that TechCrunch lists CRV as a Menlo Park firm. While a lot of its activity has been out West, five of the eight investing partners for this new fund are based in Waltham, Mass. (all but Bill Tai, George Zachary and Saar Gur.)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Living in Ponzi's Old Digs

I bumped into Izhar Armony of Charles River Ventures at a panel last month, and somehow the Jack Madoff scandal came up...

... which led to a discussion about Charles Ponzi, the Bostonian who invented the Ponzi scheme.

Armony asked me if I knew who was living in the old Ponzi mansion in Lexington. I said I had no idea. Armony replied that Ofer Gneezy, CEO of the VOIP services firm iBasis, bought it in 2000, right after the company's IPO. Just some interesting trivia...

Gneezy told me that he was simply looking for a house, and only later did he discover who the previous owner was. Makes for good stories at parties, he said.

The mansion was worth about $40,000 in 1921 when Ponzi's estate was liquidated. Gneezy bought it for $2.8 million. Here's the Zillow listing.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, November 5, 2007

Did EMC Drop Out of the Bidding for EqualLogic?

Dell is paying $1.4 billion in cash for Nashua, NH-based EqualLogic. Company is run by Lotus alum Don Bulens, and backed by Charles River Ventures, Sigma Partners, Focus Ventures, and TD Capital. This is a big exit for all involved, since only about $52 million had been invested in EqualLogic. (Earlier this year, Bulens had touted the company as an IPO prospect.)

I had lunch today with a storage industry entrepreneur who suggested that EMC had likely been in the bidding, but dropped out before the price reached $1.4 billion. He also speculated that this could mean the end of EMC's partnership with Dell; Dell's reseller arrangement with EMC accounts for about 16 percent of EMC's storage revenue. The official word from EMC is that there will be no changes to the Dell partnerhship.

Goldman Sachs just downgraded EMC from a "Buy" to "Neutral."

EMC chief executive Joe Tucci gave this interview in October in which he vowed to catch up to the competition by early 2008. Which is coming soon.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

As the Times notes the 'graying of the Web,' Jeff Taylor's cuts staff

This NY Times piece today observes that several sites are angling to be "Facebook with wrinkles," targeting older Internet users. The first example they mention is Charlestown-based Eons, started by founder Jeff Taylor. From the piece:

    The advertisers on Eons include Humana health care insurance, Fidelity Investments and the pharmacy chain CVS. Lee Goss, president and chief operating officer of Eons Inc., which received backing from the venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and General Catalyst, said that the sites aimed at an older audience may not grow as quickly as MySpace, but could have longevity.

    “Our audience, while it is harder to attract, is more durable and sticky over time,” he said.

Good timing for some good publicity for Eons. Mass High Tech reported yesterday that Eons has laid off 35 percent of its staff in a restructuring. The operative quote from Rodney Brown's piece: "The cost structure was just too expensive for where we are in doing business," according to Taylor.

Eons has raised $32 million thus far, some of it from General Catalyst in Cambridge and Charles River Ventures in Waltham.

Taylor, 46, told the Herald that his start-up still has $15 million in the bank. The Globe notes that this is the second cutback this year. And Xconomy has some inside details from an Eons employee.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Seattle's F5 Networks Buys Lowell-based Acopia Networks

Acopia Networks has cashed out. Though the company was touting itself last year as a potential IPO candidate, an offer of $210 million in cash was apparently impossible to resist. (About $85 million had been invested in the company by VCs, including Charles River Ventures and Accel Partners.) Let's be generous and call this a three-bagger for the VCs involved.

The company virtualizes file-storage systems, making them sub-dividable and accessible from anywhere, as long as they're attached to a network. From eWeek's coverage of the acquisition:

    Acopia, which has about 100 customers, provides appliances that can virtualize heterogeneous network-attached storage devices and file servers. "Anything that serves files using [Common Internet File System] or [Network File System protocols] can be virtualized using file virtualization technology. We do for file systems and file storage what VMware does for servers: We federate existing infrastructure and create a single pool of resources that can be carved up, shared and moved to make provisioning changes or move data without disrupting users during the day," said Kirby Wadsworth, senior vice president of marketing and business development at Acopia, in Lowell, Mass.

Here's Hiawatha's coverage in the Globe.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Interview with George Zachary of Charles River Ventures

Charles River Ventures is a 37-year old venture capital firm headquartered in Waltham, MA. The firm has a west coast office in Silicon Valley, on the same street where all the big VC firms huddle: Sand Hill Road. And one of their portfolio companies, Netezza, just went public on Friday.

On June 28, I sat down with George Zachary, a partner who works in the firm's Silicon Valley office. Many of his investments, like GoTV and Areae, are consumer-oriented Internet plays -- the topic of my first "Innovation Economy" column this Sunday. Here's a video excerpt from our conversation -- followed by a list of five things Boston could do to help foster more consumer-oriented tech companies.

Five Things Boston Could Do to Encourage More Consumer-Oriented Tech Activity

1. Fly a banner over the Bay Colony Center in Waltham (home to most of New England's VC firms) that says, "Stop investing in the tried-and-true 50-year old alumni of DEC, Wang, and Lotus." VCs need to stop equating experience in the world of enterprise technology with bankability.

2. More people interested in consumer-oriented concepts ought to know about and attend gatherings like Web Innovators Group, OpenCoffee, Mobile Mondays, and tastybytes -- and start events of their own.

3. We need more blogs about consumer tech and Web 2.0, located all around New England.

4. We need more visibility from the few execs here with consumer experience -- they need to serve as poster children. Jeff Taylor, founder of (and now of Eons), already does a great job of this. Bob Davis, back when he was CEO of Lycos and when Lycos was a standalone company, did well, too. And I never thought I'd sing this, but "Where have you gone, David Wetherell?"

(Avid Technology has a number of consumer products...but its recently-departed CEO, David Krall, lived on the west coast (even though the firm is headquartered in Tewksbury.) Privately-held Bose Corp. is a big consumer tech player, but its founder, Amar Bose, doesn't often show up anywhere other than Framingham -- and doesn't allow any of the company's younger execs to do much speaking or schmoozing at local tech events.)

5. We need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. Not all technology needs to solve a business problem or address a pain point.

James Currier, the founder of Tickle, told me a great story this week. His company was founded in Cambridge, and later moved to San Francisco. He raised $9 million in funding, and later sold the company, which focuses on online tests and quizzes, to for $100 million. Here's what he said:

    We started Emode [Tickle's original name] seriously. We had tests about depression and anxiety, which had been vetted by the American Psychological Association. But no one cared. The APA thought we were doing it right, and the people at Harvard respected it, but it wasn’t until we launched totally superficial quizzes like "what breed of dog are you?" and "who is your celebrity match?" that the site took off. It was totally flippant. But we had gotten to the point where we were off salary and about to go out of business. So we said, "What the hell, let’s try this. Maybe people will respond to fun." And they did.

Currier's new venture is called Ooga Labs -- and it is working on several start-up ideas simultaneously (the sort of thing people used to call an incubator). His first new site is GoodTree.

"Business in Boston is professional and trustworthy," Currier says. "People are deep technologists, and when it comes to building a new kind of networking switch, that's great. But all this digital media or consumer Internet stuff tends to be more creative and optimistic. You have to believe that people are going to want to do all this crazy stuff online."

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,