As readers of this blog know, I’m a huge fan of the startup and venture capital world but also a sometimes critic of how the venture capital industry works. For a long time I’ve wanted to do more than talk about this and actually start a new kind of venture firm, designed the right way from the ground up.
Last year two friends of mine who are both very successful, serial entrepreneurs — Eric Paley and Dave Frankel — were brainstorming ideas for what to do next when the thought occurred: why not make their next startup a new kind of venture firm, the kind we had wished existed back when we started our first companies?
So this is what we, along with a bunch of other serial entrepreneurs, decided to do. We call our new firm Founder Collective. Joining us are Mark Gerson (founder of Gerson Lehrman Group), Zach Klein (co-founder of Vimeo/Connected Ventures), Bill Trenchard (co-founder of LiveOps), and Micah Rosenbloom (co-founder of Brontes). We expect to add more founders over time.
We think of ourselves as part of a new wave venture firms led by Y Combinator, First Round, Maples, Ron Conway/Baseline, and Betaworks, among others, that have adapted to a world where venture capital is abundant but authentic seed capital and, more importantly, mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs, is scarce. We have many similarities to these firms and also some differences:
1) We have a small fund – approximately $40M – and intend to keep it that way. This means seed investments are our entire business — they are not options on future financings. Hence our interests and the founders’ interests are aligned. This also means we are happy with smaller exits if that’s what the entrepreneur wants to do.
2) Each person involved in Founder Collective is an entrepreneur, most of them currently running startups full time (my full-time job is CEO/co-founder of Hunch).
3) We believe the best people to predict the future — and create it — are fellow entrepreneurs, not former bankers drawing graphs and developing abstract theses.
4) We try to be respectful. We’ve all sat in countless meetings where VCs show up late, email while you are presenting, and generally act arrogant and dismissive. We try really hard not to be like that.
5) We’ll make investments anywhere in the world but tend to favor our home turf – New York City and Cambridge, MA. New York is a hotbed for online media and advertising startups. In Cambridge, there is a constant flow of ideas coming out of places like MIT that just need a little capital and guidance.
We realize the word “Collective” sounds a bit radical, even socialist. This is deliberate. While we have an actual fund — we are not just a group of angel investors — we also have a unique structure where active entrepreneurs lead investments, work hard to help their investments succeed, and share in the profits when they do.
Think of it as peer-to-peer venture capital.