Skip navigation
Help

Founders Fund

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /var/www/vhosts/sayforward.com/subdomains/recorder/httpdocs/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.
Original author: 
Liz Gannes

A platform for investing in young people to help them pursue entrepreneurship and other opportunities is not a Google-like business. And a company called Upstart, founded by a team of former Googlers to arrange these investments, is not yet having Google-like success. (Not to set the bar high or anything.)

UpstartIn its first year, Upstart has arranged just over $1 million in funding to 83 participants from 135 backers, and repayments have already begun.

But Upstart says its ambitions, and the potential for the idea of “human capital,” are much bigger than that.

“The productive abilities of people represent all the potential of the economy. If we allow people to start investing in income potential, that’s the mother of all asset classes,” said Upstart CEO Dave Girouard in a recent interview.

(Girouard, 47, was formerly president of Google Enterprise and VP of Google Apps; and Upstart co-founder Anna Mongayt, 32, ran Google’s enterprise customer programs and Gmail Consumer Operations. A third co-founder, 22-year-old Paul Gu, was part of Peter Thiel’s 20under20 drop-out-of-college program.)

Having judged its early trials as successful, Upstart has now raised $5.9 million from new investors including Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Eric Schmidt, Marc Benioff and Scott Banister, after raising $1.75 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, NEA, Google Ventures, First Round Capital, CrunchFund and Mark Cuban last year.

The company currently hand-reviews applications, rejecting about half of them so far, and running income-potential analysis to determine each person’s investment terms (for instance, $4,000 upfront might promise a return of 1 percent of a person’s income over the next decade). Almost everyone who made it through that process so far has raised a minimum of $10,000, according to Upstart.

So how does Upstart turbocharge its own growth? Girouard said he hopes to fund thousands of applicants within the next year, and that it would take a combination of getting the word out, product improvements like better mentorship communication, and U.S. law changes like the yet-to-be-implemented JOBS Act that would make it easier to publicly solicit investment.

0
Your rating: None

Eric Jonas

A couple of MIT PhDs have created an amazing new kind of database called Veritable.

Prior Knowledge, a startup, launched Veritable on Tuesday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, and while it only made it to the finals at the show, it was the real winner for us.

Veritable doesn't just store information and spit it back out at you. It uses complicated math to predict things based on the data.

"We're aware of a company called Oracle," CEO Eric Jonas said. "But their products only tell us what you already know."

A key feature of Veritable is that it doesn't require special knowledge to use, as some new database alternatives do. It is geared toward the millions of programmers, business analysts, and other users who use SQL, a specialized programming language used to tap into databases.

To give some perspective on that, Jonas said he looked up Yahoo on LinkedIn and found there were 2,500 employees at that company who know SQL. (Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was on stage as a judge.)

Veritable wouldn't replace existing databases from Oracle and the like. Rather, it would run alongside them, much as data-warehouse software does, and generate insights.

Companies could use Veritable to discover hidden relationships in data they already have. For instance, it can sift through a medical database to predict a public-health threat. Dating sites could predict the perfect love match.

Prior Knowledge, which launched in January, last month raised $1.4 million in seed money from Peter Thiel's Founders Fund.

Please follow SAI: Enterprise on Twitter and Facebook.

Join the conversation about this story »

0
Your rating: None

mark zuckerberg dustin moskovitz

SAN FRANCISCO -- All eyes are on Facebook Inc., which is on the verge of a $100-billion initial public stock offering.

But the people to watch are an elite group of former company insiders. Already loaded, or soon to be, thanks to the looming Wall Street payday, these Facebook pals are furiously building the next generation of Silicon Valley companies.

And they're doing it together.

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, the world's youngest billionaire at 27, has teamed with Facebook alumnus Justin Rosenstein on Asana, which makes online software that helps people work together more effectively.

Adam D'Angelo, Facebook's first chief technology officer, is working with Facebook pal Charlie Cheever on Quora, a website whose aim is to connect people to information.

Former Facebook executive Matt Cohler is now a venture capitalist bankrolling his old co-workers, including Dave Morin, who runs a mobile social network called Path.

"Very few people get to change the world with their friends. Now we are setting out to do it again," said Kevin Colleran, 31, Facebook's first ad sales guy, who's now an investor handing out money and advice.

Whether these Facebook friends, most still in their 20s, can deliver on these youthful ambitions remains to be seen. Silicon Valley is littered with the wreckage of onetime meteors that burned through all their hype and cash.

What's clear is that it pays to have friends like these in Silicon Valley, where it's all about whom you know and whom you work with.

Innovation, researchers have found, is an inherently social act, owing as much to these tightknit networks as the garage tinkering of individual entrepreneurs.

"The basic unit of innovation in Silicon Valley is the team," Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo said. "Innovation is an irrational act, and the only way to get through that irrationality is to surround yourself with other people as crazy and obsessed with changing the world as you are."

For decades, these networks have seeded Silicon Valley with breakthrough ideas and ventures. It all began with Frederick Terman, who, as a young Stanford faculty member in the 1930s, encouraged his engineering students William Hewlett and David Packard to start a company. Terman brought together young entrepreneurs and local industry, giving rise to a powerful and wealthy high-tech community to rival the East Coast.

Interlocking social networks were forged in cubicles across Silicon Valley. In the 1960s the "traitorous eight" defected from Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory to start a competing company. Fairchild Semiconductor quickly surpassed Shockley and became a training ground for engineers. When it began to stumble, the original eight founders moved on to new ventures. Eugene Kleiner became one of the region's most important venture capitalists. Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce co-foundedIntel Corp.

The most famous social network is the "PayPal mafia," a high-profile band of executives who sold the payments company to EBay Inc. They then built and backed some of the hottest companies in Silicon Valley, including Yelp, YouTube and Facebook. Facebook's first Silicon Valley investor was Peter Thiel of Founders Fund, who was PayPal's chief executive and co-founder.

Now it's the Facebook pals' turn. With social networking wired into their brains, who better to out-friend the PayPal mafia?

"We have all been through the experience of building something that had a massive, massive impact on the world. Going out a second time and starting a new company, nothing short of that is very interesting," Moskovitz said in an interview in Asana's San Francisco headquarters. "Everyone is mission-oriented. They want to do something that will touch everyone on Earth."

He and Rosenstein are building software that breaks down communication barriers so that people can collaborate more effectively. It's a labor of love that dates back to their days at Facebook. As the company grew, it became harder for Moskovitz to keep tabs on what various teams were doing.

So he built a tool to help Facebook employees organize and discuss tasks. He and Rosenstein bonded over their shared desire to create ways to work more efficiently. In 2008, they left Facebook to concentrate on building a tool to help any group of people be more productive and stay on track.

"We are focused on building a company that will last. We expect to be a $100-billion company," said Rosenstein, 28. "We run the company with the intent and the expectation to be the next in that lineage."

D'Angelo, 27, and Cheever, 30, have similarly lofty goals. Over Chinese food in Facebook's offices in the fall of 2008, they began discussing Q&A sites that enabled users to answer one another's questions. The services were wildly popular. But the answers were often wrong or useless.

D'Angelo and Cheever decided they could do better, so they started work on Quora in 2009. They rented cramped offices over an art supply store in an old building in Palo Alto, hired programming and design prodigies, and got experts to weigh in with thoughtful, authoritative answers to hundreds of thousands of questions.

Traffic grew quickly as Quora won over fans with answers that were not only smart but entertaining:

"What's the best way to escape the police in a high-speed car chase?" A former Missouri police officer responded that it's easy if you pick a jurisdiction where authorities are bound by strict pursuit guidelines to avoid liability.

"If you injure a bug, should you kill it or let it live?" An entomologist responded that insects don't feel pain the way that vertebrates do, so there's no need to put them out of their misery.

Quora landed $11 million in funding and an $86-million valuation via Benchmark Capital's Cohler and now has 33 employees.

Like others in the Facebook network, D'Angelo and Cheever seem to read each other's thoughts and finish each other's sentences. The depth of these friendships is unusual even in Silicon Valley. These Facebook pals don't just call on one another for money and advice, start companies together and sit on each other's boards. They also hook up to celebrate life's big moments.

Ruchi Sanghvi was Facebook's first female engineer and one of the first 10 hired at the company. She and her husband, Aditya Agarwal, were Carnegie Mellon graduates who came to Facebook as a couple in 2004. In 2010 when they wed on a beach in Goa, India, dozens of their Facebook friends joined them for a weeklong family celebration. Among them was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a long silk sherwani jacket.

"With this network, you are never lonely," said Sanghvi, who with Agarwal last month sold their start-up Cove to San Francisco's Dropbox. "It's not just a work fabric. It's our life fabric."

Each winter a couple of dozen of them pile into a house at a Colorado ski resort that belongs to the family of Facebook executive Sam Lessin. This snowy retreat hundreds of miles from Silicon Valley is the gathering place for the "Lothlorien Life Conference," or LLC for short. Named after the forest realm in "The Lord of the Rings," LLC is the event no one misses, a time for friends to slice down the mountain and swap advice.

That's where Morin, 31, decided to turn down a $125-million offer fromGoogle Inc.for Path. It was 2010, and he had just launched Path and didn't want to sell it, nor did he want to help Google take on Facebook. But he was under pressure from investors and employees.

Morin huddled in a quiet corner of the living room with Moskovitz and Founders Fund's Brian Singerman, both investors in Path. They talked late into the night and all the next day. Moskovitz reminded Morin about how Zuckerberg wrestled with the $1-billion buyout offer fromYahoo Inc.in the early days of Facebook.

"I told Dave he simply didn't need to do it and, even if he subsequently failed, that would be OK," Moskovitz said. "After that it was clear that a huge weight had been lifted."

Morin said he couldn't get by without that kind of help from his friends. Path has raised a new round of funding that values the company at $250 million, and it has more than 2 million users, including Britney Spears.

"We built Facebook, and it's ingrained in how we think. I think in networks now," Morin said. "It would be hard for me to think any other way."

No one in the Facebook network has any intention of cashing in his or her chips any time soon, Colleran said. Facebook's employee No. 7 left the company in July. He just signed on to a new gig as a venture partner with General Catalyst Partners in Boston.

"I believe after Asana, after Path, after Quora, there will be another company, and then another one, and another one," Colleran said.

"If we are all going to be hanging out anyway, why not be productive and change the world? It's a whole lot better than sitting around and saying, 'Remember that time at Facebook?' We're all way too young for that."

jessica.guynn@latimes.com

Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.

Join the conversation about this story »

See Also:

0
Your rating: None

Nikki Durkin

The Bay Area tech scene is all about startups. But which ones are worth your attention?

We looked at the startups trending on AngelList, asked entrepreneurs in the valley what all their friends are talking about, and ran down the most buzzed-about companies from recent demo days and conferences to put together this list of companies you should be paying attention to.

Karma is a social mobile gifting service.

Startup: Karma

Date Founded: June 2011

Founder: Lee Linden and Ben Lewis

Concept: Give your friends gifts via your iOS and Android devices

Location: San Francisco, CA

Funding: Under $5 million.

Why You Should Care: Karma lets you send gifts to your friends and family right from your phone without needing to know their mailing address.  

It has already partnered with the likes of Domaine Chandon, Kate Spade, and Magnolia Cupcakes.

99Dresses lets women use virtual currency to trade clothing and accessories.

Startup: 99Dresses

Date Founded: 2010

Founder: Nikki Durkin

Concept: An infinite wardrobe for women. It lets women trade clothing online.

Location: Mountain View, CA during Y Combinator program.

Funding: Unknown. This Y Combinator company just launched this week.

Why You Should Care: It did a test run in Australia: 4,500 dresses were uploaded and 3,500 of them were sold. It has already gotten the praises of tech gatekeepers Ben Parr and Robert Scoble.

Getaround lets you rent cars near you.

Startup: Getaround

Date Founded: 2009

Founder: Jessica Scorpio, Elliot Kroo, and Sam Zaid.

Concept: Rent cars when their owners aren't using them.

Location: San Francisco, CA

Funding: Raised $5.13 million from Redpoint Ventures, Crunchfund, and others.

Why You Should Care: They've expanded to three cities, but they have many more to go. They have just gotten started.

It's part of the sharing economy, which puts value on accessing a car, rather than owning it. If it takes off, it could take millions of cars off the road. 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.

See Also:

0
Your rating: None