Changes and An Innovative Constant
This spring marks another anniversary of my time with First Round Capital. These milestones have always been an occasion for me to look back and reflect. In doing so, one thing was clear: the first half of 2008 was the beginning of a tectonic shift. Back then, Facebook Beacon was feeling some growing pains, you could “fan” companies, and Facebook Connect did not exist. The iPhone 3G had not been launched. The iOS SDK was in it’s infancy. The App Store hadn’t been turned on. The original iPad was still two years away. If you focused only on the then current capabilities and uses of these products (or suffered from financial calamity myopia), it was difficult to imagine the landscape that would shortly emerge.
Today, there is the Facebook Open Graph, “Likes” are the attention currency, and Facebook is the de facto online identity. Every company has an iOS plan. Some businesses are built entirely on mobile users. Companies like Path, Uber, Square, Task Rabbit, Hotel Tonight, Flurry and so many others were difficult to conceive of in Spring 2008. Back then, it was easy to think of BazaarVoice as a nice, little reviews company rather than one of the earliest social commerce companies. Today it trades on the Nasdaq.
As these changes were taking root, Phin Barnes and I joined First Round as Principals. The team had just raised their first institutional fund. There was an office outside Philadelphia and a small space in San Francisco. Our Platform effort was led by a single summer intern. Folks in the industry thought our smallish $135m fund was “cute.” We had never held Office Hours nor had we released a holiday video. Super Angels were still just the domain of Christmas pageants.
Things look different now. We have national offices in San Francisco, New York and Philadelphia. Our Platform Team is now 6 people. We’ve raised some more capital. We’ve danced, sung, showered and auto-tuned. We’ve been called Super Angels. And today, Phin and I are now joining Josh, Howard, Chris and Rob as Partners.
Amidst the changes and growth at First Round, it is a constant that I find most innovative. We remain solely focused on building the world’s best seed fund and working with the greatest Founders. We seek people who build their business for the long-term, as we do with our firm. We challenge ourselves to innovate and rethink the ways in which we can assist Founders. We’re passionate about starting companies and think of our ourselves as entrepreneurs. We are a start-up. We just happen to be a fund too.
I still pinch myself everyday that I get to do what I do with the people I do it with, colleagues, founders and co-investors alike. Congratulations to Phin. Thank you Josh, Howard, Chris and Rob. I’m thrilled to be working with you and our community of Founders for years to come.