Thursday, March 12, 2009

General Catalyst Invests in the Cloud

The ink is almost dry on General Catalyst's latest investment: what they're calling a "seed preferred" round of several million dollars for Good Data, a SaaS/cloud computing-oriented company focused on business intelligence and analytics. Larry Bohn is the GC partner on the deal, and angel investor John Landry is also putting in some dough.

Good Data founder and CEO Roman Stanek earlier started NetBeans (acquired by Sun) and Systinet (acquired by Mercury Interactive and HP.) The company's engineering will take place in Prague, but the business HQ will be in San Francisco.

Around the time that Good collected $2 million last year (in an earlier seed round), the company was described as being based in Cambridge (they had space at the Cambridge Innovation Center), but alas... Good Data marketing veep Sam Boonin told me that "our business model is primarily going to be working together with other SaaS companies, so we wanted to be in the Bay area." (Systinet, an earlier Stanek start-up, had a presence in Cambridge.)

Good Data was founded in mid-2007, but they acquired another Czech company that provided the core analytics engine they're using. They're building atop Amazon's EC2 cloud infrastructure. "We've got about 500 people in our [free] beta program right now," says Boonin. A commercial version should be available around May.

With regard to investing related to cloud computing, Bohn said from Prague, "You try to be early, bet on the right people, and try to get a head start." He said he'd been seeing lots of potential investments in the cloud space, but most were apps that "may not be defensible enough."

This is the second cloud-connected deal I've seen in 2009 from Boston venture capitalists. The first was CloudSwitch, which involved Atlas Venture and Matrix Partners.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Morning at Matrix Partners

I had a chance to sit down with David Skok and Nick Beim this morning at Matrix Partners in Waltham. We covered a lot of ground...but I was especially interested in some of the higher-level perspectives that David and Nick served up.

David says that when people think about disruption, they often think about technology disruption: cell phones replacing land-lines, or minicomputers replacing mainframes. "But what's more often happening now," he says, "are business model disruptions." He mentioned two in particular: companies offering software as a service are gnawing into the revenues of companies that sell software by-the-seat, and companies built on open source technology are taking share from companies with proprietary technology. David, of course, is investing in open source, and he says he has investments in two new SaaS companies that are still in stealth mode.

Nick, whom I bumped into yesterday at the Y Combinator Demo Day, is an investor in, based in NYC, and in Waltham.

"There has been lots of attention given to viral sites that work, like YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and Flickr," Nick says. But how many sites are out there with plans to "go viral" that no one has ever heard of?

If you look at who's actually making money, Nick says, some of the more interesting businesses are being built around lead-gen, product comparison sites, and online subscriptions. (He's especially a fan of TripAdvisor, the Needham site that is basically a lead-gen engine for online travel agencies.) As examples of the last category, he mentioned a few companies I hadn't heard Bag Borrow or Steal and Steve Case's Revolution Places, as well as a few I had, like Zipcar, Netflix, and

Before I left, I tweaked Matrix a bit for not having a partner who blogs. There's a disruption happening here, too: not a technology or business model disruption, but a networking disruption.

I think the old model of venture capitalist, which I'm sure can still be successful, waits for the entrepreneur to figure out how to network her way to them: who can introduce me, how do I make the connection and get that meeting? The new model was on display Thursday at Y Combinator: VCs like David Hornik and Fred Wilson (of CA and NY, respectively), whose blogging helps weave them into the entrepreneurial community and makes them more accessible. People know what they're thinking about because they blog it -- and that gives them an opening to say, 'I know you've been blogging about X, and we're building a company in that space.'

I wonder if, over time, that may give them access to more deals of the Facebook type, where a founder is in college or just out, has no connections to the Waltham VC community, may not know any entrepreneurs who can make introductions, but happens to bump into one of these blogging VCs at an event.

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