Wednesday, May 20, 2009

June Forecast: Cloudiness

Two free events coming up, related to cloud computing...

On June 4th, Branko Gerovac and David Carver have put together a panel on The State of Startups Using Cloud Computing. It takes place at the Vilna Shul on Beacon Hill.

The limited tix to the second will vanish in a flash: Intuit founder Scott Cook, local GM Bill Lucchini, and VCs like Jeff Bussgang, Jeffrey Beir, and Todd Hixon will be speakers at Startups and the Cloud, coming up June 11th at Bentley. A CEO panel will feature chief execs from Pixily, DimDim, and ClickFuel.

(There's also a cloud session on June 22nd as part of the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.)

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Tomorrow at the State House: Event on Education, Entrepreneurship & Mentoring

MassEntrepreneurship 2009, taking place Feb 10th at the State House in Boston, focuses on how universities can better support entrepreneurship -- a really important topic. After the requisite intro from the Governor, there are two panels: one on running mentorship programs that connect students with experienced businessfolk, and another on supporting young entrepreneurs. The event is free, but you need to register here.

And while we're on the topic of supporting young entrepreneurs, Jeffrey Bussgang of Flybridge Capital sends an update about the Stay in MA program, which helps cover the cost when students attend industry networking events and conferences. Bussgang writes:

    ...[I]n the first month of the program, we have granted over a dozen student scholarships for students from Babson, BU, MIT, Harvard, UMass Boston and even one high school. We are actively marketing the program on campuses throughout the state and have developed partnerships with nearly every local business association. The breadth of the associations supporting it are awesome – check it out at The website attracts over 1000 visitors per month.

    The feedback has been terrific. ...The Governor has been super-supportive as well – he’s asked for direct updates from us and enlisted his Secretary of Economic Development to assist in promoting.

Lots of organizations are involved, and are doing a better job of promoting Stay in MA on their Web sites to let students know about the program.... the only notable non-participants are the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Massachusetts Biotech Council.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Competitiveness in the New Search Economy

A provocative post this morning from Jeff Bussgang at Flybridge: is our region deficient in search engine marketing and optimization talent?

The opening:

    Ask any consumer start-up what their biggest obstacle to growth is and it's likely you'll get a consistent but surprising answer: I simply can't find enough SEM/SEO talent. It's not a shortage of programmers that are hindering start-up growth (much of the coding talent is being provided by offshore developers anyway), but rather the talent pool hasn't adjusted quickly enough to support the new Search Economy.

Jeff also offers some thoughts on how we might remedy things...

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

IDG's Jeff Bussgang on the Exit Window

I was wondering back in November about some of the things that could make the Web 2.0 investing bubble go 'pop.'

Jeff Bussgang at IDG Ventures looks at that question again, in light of a possible combination of Microsoft and Yahoo. What'll be the impact on venture-backed start-ups, which are more often bought than taken public?

(I have to wonder whether the Microsoft take-over offer is already stalling one possible Web 2.0 deal -- Yahoo's rumored acquisition of Maven Networks.)

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Today's Globe column: Why VCs Do (or Don't) Blog

Today's Globe column deals with the ways that blogging is changing the relationship between entrepreneurs and VCs. From the piece:

    There's a bifurcation happening in the Boston venture capital world: Some firms blog, and some don't. And the divide isn't just about being hip to the latest trend. It signifies an important shift in the way VC firms interact with entrepreneurs.

The video is below (it features Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital, Jon Radoff of GuildCafe, MIT Sloan student Sim Blaustein, and Mike Feinstein)... and after it, some additional thoughts e-mailed to me by VC bloggers Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and Jeffrey Bussgang of IDG Ventures.

From Fred Wilson:

    [Blogging is] a huge benefit to our business. Of course it brings incremental deal flow, but it also filters the deal flow and makes it more targeted and more relevant

    Its also a great way to bring needed attention to the companies we invest in

    And its a way to do research on new sectors and learn about other companies that compete with our companies

    And its a great way to learn about emerging technologies. Check out the comments to my andreessen post yesterday or my post on AIR last week. You can't buy that kind of education and I get it every day for free

    I could go on and on. Its the best tool for vc investing that I've ever seen and I've been in this business for more than 20 yrs

From Jeffrey Bussgang:

    - Definitely less about deal flow and more about transparency and providing accessibility, humanizing the VC process
    - Open dialog helps me keep in touch with entrepreneur’s latest issues and hot buttons
    - Provides sense of accountability to the entrepreneur community
    - Helps me understand social networking, community, blogging, and many other Web 2.0 phenomenon from a practical standpoint as a practioner, not theoretical

Interestingly, one thing I didn't mention in my column... at least one Boston firm, North Bridge Venture Partners, has an internal blog that's visible only to their partners and entrepreneurs.

(In my blogroll at right, I think I have a comprehensive list of all the Boston-area VC blogs.)

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Friday, August 24, 2007 Scuttlebut on New England VCs

I'm just getting a chance to spend some time reading, a site where entrepreneurs discuss the venture capital firms they've dealt with. They present Zagat-like ratings of each firm (on criteria like "track record" and "favorable deal terms"), along with short reviews from entrepreneurs.

There are ratings for most of the major New England VC firms, including Highland Capital, Polaris, Longworth, General Catalyst, Greylock, IDG Ventures, Spark Capital, and Fidelity Ventures.

Some of the common complaints: VC firms that blow off scheduled meetings; firms that invite start-ups in, only to collect intelligence for another company in the same space that they're funding (or planning to fund); schizophrenic, hot-and-cold feedback; and, of course, firms that fire the founders and bring in new CEOs.

(Jeff Bussgang of IDG has a post about TheFunded, which touches on the issue of VC arrogance.)

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Dirty Little Secrets About VCs

After covering venture capitalists for about ten years, I've finally learned two things (I'm a slow learner):

    1. They need to hear about companies before their competition. (As a journalist, I can relate.)
    2. They compete fervently with other VCs to get their money into the best start-ups at the right valuation

Though they like to portray themselves as omniscient and omnipotent, they're actually quite anxious about missing the next big deal.

Blogging is still a new phenomenon among VCs here in Boston. (Jeff Bussgang at IDG Ventures has been at it the longest, as far as I can tell.)

One major purpose that blogging serves for the less-established VCs who do it is to raise their profile among entrepreneurs, to show entrepreneurs that they understand a particular space, that they are totally in sync. Older, more established VCs have a reputation, and entrepreneurs are magnetically pulled to them because of their track record, or because successful entrepreneurs make an introduction -- go see Mr. Greybeard, who's a partner at Established Venture Partners at the Bay Colony Center. They don't have to blog. (Yet.)

But the less-established VCs blog, and I suspect that is going to make them appealing to a new generation of not-yet-proven entrepreneurs with compelling ideas...and help them hear about these ideas first. On the West Coast, David Hornik of August Capital is the best example of a VC who has built his reputation atop his blog. Entrepreneurs know who he is.

I think the same is beginning to happen out here with the VC-bloggers (there's a list of them at right). The Rolodex and schmoozing and personal connections are still going to be important, but a blog is a great way to broadcast that you understand what's changing in the tech world -- both to entrepreneurs in New England and elsewhere.

What got me thinking about this was David Beisel's great post on "Seven Coming Digital Uber-trends which are Ripe for Startup Opportunities." This kind of stuff is flypaper for entrepreneurs; I know David's going to get e-mails from a bunch of start-ups saying, "Hey, I'm working on trend #2, can we set up a meeting?"

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