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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I’m thrilled to announce the close of our newest fund, First Round V. We’re honored that every one of our institutional limited partners has recommitted to this fund, and so grateful for their support and belief in our vision.

That vision remains unchanged since First Round was founded a decade ago. We’ve always been laser-focused on being the world’s best partner for seed stage companies -- a commitment that shapes and directs everything we do.

In 2008, when we closed First Round II, I wrote:

We prefer to see and fund companies early – after all, we’re not Second Round Capital. We are comfortable with “Powerpoint Risk,” and are used to funding incomplete technologies, teams and business models.

I could say the same thing today. Back then, we were flooded with requests from later-stage companies who saw that we had raised a larger fund and were looking for Series A and Series B capital. We passed on those opportunities to stick to our seed-stage roots. And now, with First Round V, we’ll continue to serve the seed market with the same strategy and initial investment sizes. We believe in the power and purity of being specialists.

This new fund also gives us the opportunity to work with even more inspired and inspiring founders and companies. Our mission here at First Round is to build and serve the strongest community of entrepreneurs. That means every time we make a new investment, we have the chance to bring new talent into the fold to make the entire community stronger. This peer-to-peer approach is core to what we do and what we’re building, especially our effort to accelerate startups post-investment.

Since we announced First Round II, we’ve multiplied the resources we provide to our companies in this area tenfold. Our Platform Team is soon to be 12 people who are solely dedicated to helping startups succeed at the earliest stage. We’ve built a robust recruiting operation, ramped up to 80 annual knowledge-sharing events with the world’s best speakers and attendees, and brought engineering in-house to create software that better connects and serves the 180 companies in our community. Our Platform is now the largest team at First Round by a longshot -- a testament to how important it is for us to support companies in unique ways.

We’ve even taken our internal approach to mindshare and open-sourced it with the launch of First Round Review over a year ago. As the first publication of its kind, it’s just one example of how First Round innovates like a startup even as we continue to scale. Another example is Dorm Room Fund, which launched on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus two years ago to fund student enterprises, and has since expanded to four cities. (It just yielded its first acquisition a couple weeks ago!)

Going forward, we know that staying close to innovation on the ground is critical to our success, which is why we’ll keep investing in our offices in San Francisco, New York and Philadelphia. We’re especially thrilled to announce the addition of Wiley Cerilli as a Venture Partner in our New York Office. Wiley founded and led SinglePlatform, where we became his first investor before it was acquired by Constant Contact two years ago. He’s got one of the sharpest minds for sales that we’ve encountered, and we’ll be very lucky to have him join Chris and Howard as part of our investment team in New York. Sales continues to be a critical competency for building successful technology companies, and it’s great to have one of the best playing on our team. Don’t just take my word for it, Wiley wrote a must-read post for sales teams on the Review just last month.

And as Wiley sets up shop in the New York office, General Partner Phin Barnes will be joining the team in San Francisco. A Californian at heart, he’s excited to be headed back, and we’re even more excited to continue growing our Silicon Valley presence to better serve our thriving community there.

Raising a new fund always gives our team the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve built and all the opportunities we and our Founders still have in front of us. Looking ahead, we continue to believe it’s a special time in history to Be A Founder, and with Fund V closed, we’re in a position to do much more.

Now we just have to figure out what we’re doing for this year’s holiday video...

Graduation Day

From the moment he stepped on UPenn’s campus as a freshman, Dan Shipper knew that he wanted to learn how to build a real software business. Fast forward four short years. Today, he’s announcing the sale of his first company, Firefly, to Pegaystems.

Firefly was founded two years ago to enable “co-browsing,” allowing people to share and see only what is on someone else’s browser, not their entire screen. It’s become an indispensable collaboration tool for small businesses and large enterprises alike.

We couldn’t be more proud to work with Dan and his team. Both he and the company have played a meaningful role in our community from the start. In 2012, Firefly was the very first investment of our Dorm Room Fund, kicking off a program that has since expanded to four cities and funded dozens of other entrepreneurial students.  And they are now the Dorm Room Fund's first exit.  Personally, I've enjoyed the time I’ve gotten to spend with Dan as a thought partner, mentor and friend. With today’s news, I’m sure he’ll be in high demand as a mentor himself — he’s already a terrific example for students who want to shape technology and the world.

When I say this, I’m not just talking about Dan’s professional success. He’s a role model in many other ways. Even when he had his pick of job opportunities as early as his sophomore year, he committed to staying in school, and didn’t give up on the idea of building something as a student. As a former student entrepreneur myself, I know how challenging this decision can be, and what it’s like to choose the hard road.

Dan is one of those people who isn’t remotely interested in the easy road. He’d rather be learning — both by reading as much as he can, and soliciting input from everyone around him. When we’d meet up, he’d come prepared with a long list of topics and questions to discuss. He wasn’t just concerned with present needs and problems — he was already thinking several moves ahead. Actively seeking feedback is one of the most valuable qualities founders can have, especially young entrepreneurs who have yet to weather their own successes and failures. Dan never balked at declaring himself a beginner, and it became one of his strengths.

Whenever he did learn something new or discovered something that worked, Dan would share it with others. He started his blog in 2011 to chronicle his journey, and today it is filled with lessons, observations, experiments and findings that others can apply to build companies of their own. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re an entrepreneur at any age. You’ll find something helpful there.

With Firefly, it was great to see Dan surround himself with equally dedicated, growth-oriented people. His co-founder Justin Meltzer was literally always in the First Round Philadelphia office. Seriously. For a while, I thought he slept here. Together, they’ve made a formidable team, constantly improving the product and better serving their customers.  (And occasionally setting off our office alarm at 2 in the morning).

It’s always nice to see good things happen to good people.

While Dan and Justin both recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, the education that they’ve gotten building Firefly and navigating the M&A process with Pegasystems is truly enviable. In the past two years, they developed expertise in product development, marketing, sales, hiring, and fundraising that’s comparable to what most people learn over the course of a career.

Of course we’ll miss them around our Philly office — but we can’t wait for them to start their next company so we can work with them again.