Redeye VC

Josh Kopelman

Managing Director of First Round Capital.

espite being coastally challenged (currently living in Philadelphia), Josh has been an active entrepreneur and investor in the Internet industry since its commercialization. In 1992, while he was a student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Josh co-founded Infonautics Corporation – an Internet information company. In 1996, Infonautics went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

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Monthly Archives for 2010

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How smart are you?

Think you're pretty smart?  Prove it.

Tomorrow night, Playcafe.com (a First Round Capital portfolio company) will be hosting Ken Jennings.  Ken is the guy who won 74 games in a row (and over $3 million) on Jeopardy.  But on Jeopardy Ken only had to beat two other players a night.  On Monday night, Ken will be playing against the world.

Playcafe is a recent First Round Capital investment that is creating the first online game show network. Traditional game shows such as "Deal or No Deal" and "One vs. 100" are among the most popular programs on TV (nine of the top 20 shows, 200 million viewers) but they weakly implement a game's two most important traits - interactivity and socialness.  PlayCafe is creating a platform to stream in-house and user-generated game shows that let every viewer be a contestant.

While I've previously written about the importance of admitting what you don't know, tomorrow night is all about proving what you do know.  Give PlayCafe.com a try tomorrow night, this Monday, April 28th from 6:00-8:00 pm (PDT).   Who knows, you might beat Ken.

Kenjennings_2

On Age...

Pg_41e___man__showing_progressive_aI've been thinking a lot about age recently.  As my age catches up to my rapidly graying hair, I'm realizing that I'm no longer the youngest guy in the room...

Today, Business Week released their list of "Tech's Best Young Entrepreneurs", where they highlight eleven "of the tech industry's most promising players aged 30 and under...whose ideas and innovations are likely to make the biggest impact on technology in the coming years." 

While I have always said that my fund, First Round Capital, seeks to invest in incredible entrepreneurs, I was amazed to learn that we had funded 4 of the 11 finalists.  So, while I'm still coping with the fact that I'm too old to make any "young" list myself, I can take comfort in the fact that we had backed more than a third of the finalists.

Congratulations to:

1-800-FREE-411 and Pennsylvania politics

Free411logo As a Pennsylvania resident, I was really surprised by today's announcement from portfolio company, Jingle Networks.  The company, which operates the country's largest free 411 service (1-800-FREE-411), recently conducted a political poll.

Now this was not your typical poll.  Typical polls contact just 500 - 1,000 people.  Because Jingle gets calls from almost 20 million callers a month, they were quickly able to poll 24,000 likely voters in Pennsylvania.  This makes it one of the largest samples ever used in a political poll -- with an error level of less than one percent.

And the results were pretty surprising.  Among those making a choice, the results show Barack Obama leading Hillary Clinton by 57 percent vs 43 percent.  These results are strikingly different from traditional polls (for example, a recent LA Times / Bloomberg poll shows Clinton ahead in PA by 5%).

George Garrick, Jingle's CEO, comments that "a key factor contributing to error in poll predictions is the undecided voter sector. In Pennsylvania, 25 percent of voters are still saying they are "undecided" and that could easily produce a last minute turnaround from one candidate to the other since the undecided sector is larger than the differences being cited in any of the polls. If the small sample size used in a typical poll does not perfectly represent the larger population, it's possible to see a very different result in the actual vote. That's why using a significantly larger than normal sample size is interesting."

It's always neat to see new technologies used in unanticipated ways...

The UNfunded

April_foolOver the last several years, April Fool's Day has been moving online – and although we’ve seen online pranks from startups, bloggers, and large Internet companies, I’ve noticed relatively few from venture capitalists.  (Insert sarcastic comment about VC’s lack of sense of humor here).  So, I thought I’d try to join in this year. 

One of the investment themes we’ve been following this past year is the rapid growth of user-generated content.  And a creative example of user-generated content in the venture industry is TheFunded.com – a site where entrepreneurs can leave anonymous feedback about their experiences with venture capitalists.  So, I thought it would be fitting to launch TheUNFunded.com for April Fools – a site for VC’s to provide anonymous feedback on entrepreneurs.  I intentionally wrote such outlandish reviews of fake entrepreneurs, and I expected everyone to immediately realize it was a joke. 

Michael Arrington “broke the story” about TheUnFunded.com yesterday on Techcrunch, and the site quickly benefited from the Techcrunch Bump.   And while my little prank surely won’t make the 100 Top April Fools Day Hoaxes of all time, the responses provided an interesting perspective on people’s attitudes (and predispositions) towards the venture industry.  While there were several people who recognized the April Fool's Day satire, I was surprised to see that many people assumed the site was real.  And their reactions on Techcrunch and blog posts were very revealing.  Heck, even VentureBeat (which covers the venture industry professionally) fell for it.  My favorite reaction comes from a del.icio.us user who tagged the site as “Funding, VC, Douchebags”.

The fact that so many smart people actually believed that such an outlandish site could be legitimate speaks volumes about the state of the relationship between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.  Today's New York Times has a story which notes that "...recent research suggests that the experience of being duped can stir self-reflection in a way few other experiences can..."  And while I don’t want to read too much into a silly April Fool’s Day joke, I think it does shine a little light on the level of mistrust and ignorance within the VC/entrepreneur ecosystem.  I don’t know if I am more surprised by the fact that entrepreneurs fell for the hoax – or that the site received over thirty membership requests from legitimate VCs.   (Don’t worry guys, I won’t publish your submissions – just make sure you mark up my next hot deal;-)

Just to be clear, TheUnFunded was a joke.  A parody.  No actual entrepreneurs or companies were reviewed on the site.  I genuinely like TheFunded.com – and think it provides some much needed transparency in the venture industry.  No hidden message here -- just a recognition that sometimes everyone takes themselves a little too seriously...

Now that April Fools is past, I’ll be shutting down TheUnFunded.com later this week, and giving the domain to Adeo at TheFunded to use as he sees fit.  Thanks to both Michael and Adeo for playing along…