Breaking the seal on 2011

Ouch! My last post here was more than two months ago. I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions but I’ve just decided that mine should be to post more often. Turns out there’s a direct, inverse correlation between my workload and blog post velocity…

2010 was a great year for me personally – I’ve never felt more engaged and excited about work than I am now at Founders Co-op – but so much of what we’re up to isn’t (yet) public information that a big chunk of my usual blog fodder is off-limits. I’ll just stick to the broad themes for now and fill in some of the details as we go…

  • We’re fixing a hole. When we started the fund we didn’t really know how large the local market for seed-stage capital would be. With such a small first fund we just figured there’d be at least enough for us to get in business and figure it out. Over the past two years we’ve come to believe that the Pacific Northwest has the biggest imbalance of talented software entrepreneurs in need of seed funding of any major market in the U.S.  With the help of our extended network of limited partners and mentors we’ve sprinted into that market gap and now have a great offering for every level of early-stage company, from TechStars Seattle for founders at at the earliest stages, to Founders Co-op for seed- and early-stage deals, all the way up to RevenueLoan at the top end.
  • We’re community-powered. When we started Cooler Planet – our first post-Judy’s Book investment – Founders Co-op was just me and Andy running around and waving our hands. But with each successive investment – by our LPs in the fund, or by the fund into a portfolio company – we’ve added incredible new people to our extended community. Af first we didn’t really know how to harness all that talent and brainpower, but eventually we figured out that by cross-linking everyone in our community with everyone else – with liberal pours of Makers Mark to keep the conversation flowing – we were actually building an entrepreneurial family that was much stronger and more effective than we could ever have been on our own. Not only do founders and LPs now know each other and feel comfortable connecting directly with each other, the community has also become our best source of introductions to new people and companies who might want to join up.
  • We’re learning all the time.  Investing in emerging technologies is a license to feed your brain 24×7. First there’s the constant, global firehose of new companies, ideas, core technologies and applications all jockeying for customers, money and market share. Crystallizing that flow into a point of view about the future and mapping it against the fascinating array of individuals and teams seeking help with their entrepreneurial journey. The discipline of investing itself – raising money, evaluating deals, making bets and managing upstream financing risk. And – most important of all – staying connected with your growing family of founders, investors and operating companies so you know where and how to help.
With these themes in mind, I’m incredibly excited about 2011. If all I get to do is more of the same stuff I did in 2010 it’s going to be a very good year indeed.
Happy New Year!