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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Announcing FundingSleuth.com

Srvcfinancial_servicefinancial_we_2 About 10 years ago, I helped create a web service called Company Sleuth.  The basic premise was that as a company conducted its business activities, it would leave a "paper trail" online.  And Company Sleuth tried to find that trail by automatically searching a variety of public databases (such as the US patent database, trademark database, domain registrations, job listings, etc.) for "clues" about all US public companies activities.  Users would tell Company Sleuth the companies they cared about and receive a daily email containing a list of all new "clues" that were found.

The service found some interesting data.  For example, while in beta we saw that the domain name "daimlerchrysler.com" was registered by Skadden Arps (Daimler's law firm) days before the deal was announced.  And we also noticed that MCI Worldcom registered skytelworldcom.com just days before they announced their merger, causing their stock to jump 16% and  prompting an SEC investigation.   

Unfortunately, Company Sleuth is no longer around (although I found an old version of the site on archive.org).

Last month I blogged about the Reg D and stealth mode.  And after I wrote the post, I got to thinking:  Why not create a tool that checked the SEC database every night for changes on the companies I'm interested in?  While the SEC doesn't provide you the details on the financing (amount, investor, etc), at least I can know if financing activity took place.

So I went to Rentacoder.com, got connected with m4k3r (a developer in Australia).  A few days (and $200) later, I had a tool built that would check the SEC Database for me.  Rather than keep this to myself, I've decided to open up the site to anyone.  So today I'm announcing the launch of  FundingSleuth.com.

Read about an interesting new company on Techcrunch?  Want to see if your competitor raised money?  Add the company to your list at  FundingSleuth.com  and you'll receive an email whenever there is funding activity.

Let me know what you think...

VideoEgg

Videoegg_logo First Round Capital portfolio company, VideoEgg, today unveiled several cool new features to make  video and rich-media advertising far more engaging.  Take a firsthand look at some examples in VideoEgg's Ad Labs:

LIVE: Use real-time RSS feeds to continually update the ad experience
LOCAL: Deliver zip code-specific messaging
RICH: Easily deploy and track a rich multi-video ad experience to increase user interactivity
SHOP: Brings the browsing experience to the user, updated real time
SHARE: Viral capabilities help spread the message through virtually any communication or social channel

The Story of Francis Bates

MailboxI've spent some time the past few weeks researching the life of a little known Silicon Valley entrepreneur named Francis Bates.  Here's his story:

Francis Bates was born in 1847 in Rhode Island.  His mother, Amy Ann, passed away when he was just 11 days old.  During his childhood, young Francis needed to assume many of the household chores -- make his bed, take out the trash, and fetch the mail.  While making his bed and taking out the trash weren't that bad, Francis really hated fetching the mail.  You see, the Bates house was located off the beaten path -- and pretty far from the main road.  And since his Dad wanted to read the mail immediately after it was delivered, Francis was constantly checking to see if there was mail in his mailbox.  In fact, Francis spent most of his mornings walking back and forth to his mailbox.  Most of the time it was empty, but from time to time he would find something in it. 

During the Civil War, Francis joined the Army and was injured.  In pursuit of health, Mr. Bates came to California in 1896 and settled in San Jose.  Like his childhood home in Rhode Island, his house in California was also a great distance from the road.  Francis really disliked the wasted time (and effort) he spent checking for mail - especially due to his injuries.  And in 1899, he had an idea.  Why not invent a flag that can be put on the mailbox to indicate whether the mailbox was full or empty?  Thus, the birth of the mailbox flag.  As Francis wrote in his 1899 patent (USPTO #627,635):

If the carrier is obliged to inspect every box to know whether there is any mail-matter to be collected, or if the people for whom the box is placed are obliged to go to the box in order to find out whether any mail-matter has been deposited for them, there is considerable loss of time; but by arranging some signal which is displayed for the carrier when there is any matter to be collected from the box and another to be displayed for those using the box to show whether anything has been left for them it will not be necessary to go to the box except when there is something in it to be collected.


Thus the birth of the modern mailbox.  Francis Bates became one of the first Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and grew extremely wealthy off his novel mailboxes.  They couldn't manufacture enough of these mailboxes -- "For nine years this firm turned out some 10,000 boxes a month, and then the demand was greater than they could meet".

The Internet today, is a lot like mail delivery in the 1800's.  Surprisingly, web services don't have "flags".  Rather, applications are forced to "ping" Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, etc. every few minutes and ask "have any of our users done anything new?"  These applications are literally checking to see if each virtual mailbox is empty/full every couple of minutes.  Now that more and more services are aggregating more and more updates, the growing volume of pings has created real scaling challenges for services (such as Twitter) and consumes a rapidly growing amount of bandwidth and resources. 

That's why I'm so excited about our investment in Gnip.  Yesterday, Gnip unveiled it's plans to solve the "ping problem".  In layman's terms, Gnip hopes to be the mailbox flag for the 21st century.  Rather than having to check for updates from services like Flickr, Digg, and delicious, Gnip pushes all relevent updates to you.    Read more about it here and here.

I think that Eric Marcoulier and the team at Gnip are well on their way towards becoming the Francis Bates of the Internet...

(You can read more about Francis on page 1014 of the History of Santa Clara - pdf download)

Welcome Christine and Kent

While First Round Capital has investments located all over the United States, our portfolio (and dealflow) is heavily concentrated on the west coast.  That’s why we opened a West Coast office two years ago, with the addition of my partner Rob Hayes and later Mazen Araabi to our team.  It’s why I’m going to qualify for Chairman’s Preferred on US Airways after my three trips to California this month.  And it’s also why I’m super-excited to announce the addition of two Principals in our San Francisco office – Christine Herron and Kent Goldman

I first met Christine while she was part of the investment team at the Omidyar Network, where we had several overlapping deals.  And this past year, Christine began working with us part time as a Venture Advisor, helping us out with a number of our new investments.  Her prior experience includes a number of entrepreneurial ventures in various capacities (including CEO).  And she started her career in venture capital at Geocapital Partners where she discovered a little company called Netcom before most people knew how to spell “internet.”

Kent’s journey to First Round Capital is a unique one – we truly were brought together by the "news feed”.  While I’ve known Kent for some time, we got to know each other much better this year when he was (unintentionally) ensnared in my ill-fated experiment with Facebook’s Social Advertising.  And, in an ironic twist you couldn’t script if you wanted too, the news of Kent’s new role at First Round Capital was also unintentionally revealed by Facebook’s pesky news feeds, as Kent blogged about earlier today.  Kent joins us from Yahoo, where he was a member of their Corporate Development team focusing on M&A to support the company's user-facing properties.  He also led business strategy efforts for Yahoo’s Front Page, Communications and Community products which included Yahoo.com, My Yahoo and Yahoo Mail.  Before Yahoo, Kent spent some time in investment banking and early-stage venture investing.

My partners and I are thrilled to welcome Christine and Kent to the team