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Another Auld Lang Syne

December 31, 2014 - Author: admin

We’ve come to the end of 2014, another extraordinary year.  The year brought us the Olympics, another World Cup, an election in India, a major Ebola crisis, war in the Ukraine and Gaza and a World Series win by the San Francisco Giants.  On the tech side, we had exciting technology developments like the resurgence of Netflix and breakthrough companies like Stripe, as well as controversy around Uber, the Guardians of Peace Sony hack, the iCloud hack and the bending iPhone.

UW visitFor me, I started the year out as a visiting professor at the University of Washington.  I’ve always enjoyed mentoring entrepreneurs, but working with the clever and enthusiastic students at the University of Washington was one of the highlights of my year.  My stint at the UW ended in June, but I continue working with students whenever I can.  In November, a group of UW Foster School of Business students spent a couple of days in Silicon Valley, and I was happy to show them around and introduce them to some of Bay’s portfolio companies.

Their questions for me are common ones that I get from people in school and out – should I go with a big company, a start-up, or do my own thing?  My answer is it doesn’t matter. Don’t be afraid to do anything that you think is best for you.  No matter what, it will be ok.  You’ll either learn some valuable lessons or you’ll end up doing what you love.  Both are good outcomes. Let go of fear and just go do it! 

Mille Miglia endAnd along those lines, I got to fulfill a long-time personal dream this year when I drove the Mille Miglia in Italy.  Like any goal we set, reality is often more difficult than we envision.  And that was the case with my race through Italy.  The car we had spent months preparing for this race died on the first leg and we were almost done before we even got going.  But we were lucky that another couple dropped out and gave us their car.  Another good life lesson.  All kinds of unanticipated things can go wrong.  But good surprises can happen too.  While the car issue was a real struggle, we were also pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome and cheers from the Italians who lined up to greet us throughout the small country towns, all the way to the finish line.  Even with the unexpected twists, driving the Mille Miglia really was a dream come true.

The fall was unusually busy this year, but one highlight for me was the Web Summit event in Dublin.  Dubbed the “Davos of technology,” this conference was truly spectacular.  More than just a Web Summit, it was several summits in one, including the Music Summit, Sports Summit, Builders Summit and much more.  The conference was action-packed with many good speakers.  I think this format is the conference of the future, and I’m definitely going back next year.

As the year comes to an end, one of our early investments, Lending Club, had its IPO last week, which was the biggest US tech IPO of the year.  Bay is a somewhat small investor, but we’re very proud of the successful IPO.  We sold DropCam to Nest, which was another big win this year.  Fortune wrote a fantastic article on Bay Partners earlier this year, and Bay’s 2006 vintage fund was named the #2 top performing fund of 2014 by Pitch Book.  All in all, a fantastic year business wise.

Next year, I have some big surprises in store that I’m anxious to share with everyone.  We’re going to kick off 2015 right with an exciting new project that I think you’ll love.  Keep checking this blog, as you’ll see a fun new series happening in January.

Until then, I wish you all a happy holiday season and a fantastic new year!  May 2015 be your shining year!

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My Favorite Conference of 2014

December 30, 2014 - Author: admin

If you haven’t been to the Web Summit event in Dublin, you should get yourself there next year.  It’s one of the best conferences around, blending technology, sports, politics, education, marketing and music into one, fast-paced event.  These blended conferences that bring an assortment of industries to one event follow in the vein of SXSW, which focuses more on entertainment as the core with tech and the internet augmenting.  Web Summit is the opposite.  The center is tech, and music, sports and all the other mini-industry events all come with a tech flavor.

The conference keeps things interesting by switching out the booths each day, having multiple stages with various topics happening all day, and keeping the presentations to 10-12 minutes long.  It’s hard-hitting and fast-moving, just like today’s business world.

My favorite presentation at the event was Stripe, a payment infrastructure company.  I was impressed by the founder and entrepreneur, who was raised in Ireland and founded the company with his brother.  He seemed wise beyond his years, and frankly, wiser than some of the Silicon Valley CEOs that have at least 10 years on him.

I spent most of my time in the lounge areas having meetings with founders and entrepreneurs.  However, the talks on Centre stage pulled me away from time to time, and my colleagues raved about the Sports Summit and the Builders Summit talks.  There were so many good presentations that sometimes we had to make tough choices.  I didn’t get to stay for the final presentation with Bono, the CEO of Spotify, Dana Brunetti of House of Cards and the New York Times.  Next year, I’ll be sure to stay for the whole thing, as the show doesn’t lighten up, even at the end.

The hardest part was networking, as you’re unlikely to see the same people twice at such a large event.  However, even an event with 20,000 people, Web Summit has tried to facilitate private conversations with meeting lounges and the famous evening pub crawls.  The blended conference is the model for the next generation of conferences.  It was one of the best run events I’ve been to in a while.  I’m looking forward to next year.  If you’re going, reach out and let me know.  I’ll look for you there.



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