Tag Archives: Venture

If Elon Musk Had Lived 500 Years Ago, This Is The Audacious (and Profitable) Venture He Probably Would Have Launched
May 31, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

In the early 1500s, England faced an existential economic crisis: Demand for their most lucrative export, woolen cloth, was plunging in Europe. They needed to find new markets for their product –and fast.

So a group of merchants set their sights on the vast market of Cathay –the word used at the time to refer to China –then the largest economy in the world, with nearly 30 percent of global GDP. (By comparison, India during this period produced roughly 20-25 percent of global GDP. England was peripheral to the world economy, producing an inconsequential 1 percent of global GDP.)

These English merchants sent expeditions in search of a new overland sea route that, they hoped, would take them over the European continent to China, enabling them to avoid having to sail through waters controlled by the Spanish and the Portuguese, their arch rivals.

After failing to reach Cathay (though they did make it as far as Moscow), they decided to turn westward, eventually reaching the shores of America, where they established small trading outposts and, eventually, full-fledged colonies. 

This is how the tale begins in a captivating new book by Simon Targett and John Butman, New World, Inc.: The Making of America by England’s Merchant Adventurers. Through meticulous research and a flair for bringing a colorful cast of long-deceased characters back to life, Targett and Butman tell the story of the founding of one of history’s most successful startups: America.

“It’s the ‘prequel’ to the Pilgrims,” Targett told me in a recent podcast conversation. “You can’t really understand America today if you only go as far back as the Pilgrims. Of course they are an important part of the founding. But there were many trips for 70 years before the Pilgrims, who eventually arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. As we delved further, we tracked and traced an unbroken chain of voyages. And we felt the story of these merchant adventurers –what we call the ‘forgotten founders’ – provide a better narrative.”

Targett and Butman relate the fascinating and largely untold story of the earliest days of globalization, of innovation and entrepreneurial risk-taking, and of the creation of some of the earliest venture-financed companies in the world.

“What they did initially was to setup a company,” explains Targett. “This we think of as perhaps the forefrunner of all modern corporations. It was called ‘The Mysterie, Company, and Fellowship of Merchant Adventurers for the Discovery of Regions, Dominions, Islands, and Places Unknown.'”

This was a period when the newly-coined word, “company,” was just starting to become a part of the English language. In a fascinating bit of etymology, Targett explains how the word was formed through the conjunction of the Latin words, “com,” meaning “together,” and “panis,” meaning, “bread.” Together, the word loosely means, “the breaking of bread together.”

Of course, English merchants had supported and funded voyages for decades, and these had often been funded either by private individuals or private syndicates. “But the idea of going across the world required a higher level of organization and financing, so they set up this company which not only allowed them to pool their resources, but also allowed them to attract their resources from people who didn’t want to get involved in the mundane running of company.”

Like the startups of today, most of which are statistically prone to flop, failure was very much a part of the story. “It’s remarkable how many setbacks these people experienced and yet they continued to believe there was a pot of gold or a fortune to be made at the end of it,” observes Targett. “And, in a way, that driving spirit was key to these people. It’s another feature of a modern America that we feel needs to be traced back to before the Pilgrims.” 

Targett compares these risk-taking, adventurous ‘forgotten founders’ of 16th and 17th-century England to one of the boldest entrepreneurs of our era, Elon Musk. “To some extent the people that we write about, these ‘forgotten founders,’ were venture capitalists. They were very much the Elon Musks of their day. Just as he is dreaming of new worlds, in his case Mars, their new world was America. And he’s pulling together some of the best minds to help him design some of the rockets and the spaceships that will be needed. Likewise, the merchants pulled together the very best minds of their days, the scientists, the navigators, the buccaneers, the marketers.”

“These ‘forgotten founders’ and the people they sent across were the first people to really experience and live the American dream. These were the people that often went across with nothing but made their place and made their home. They didn’t all make fortunes but they found a life, they found a place in society.”

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Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian Thinks Software Will Dominate Venture Capital
February 8, 2018 6:02 pm|Comments (0)

This article originally ran in Term Sheet, Fortune’s newsletter about deals and dealmakers. Sign up here.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian announced Wednesday that he would be stepping down from his daily role at the company (he will continue to serve on Reddit’s board).

Ohanian said he will return to Initialized Capital, an early-stage VC firm he co-founded with Garry Tan, as a full-time general partner. The firm has more than $ 250 million in assets under management, and its investments include Coinbase, Instacart, Zenefits, Opendoor, Soylent, and Cruise Automation.

Now, he plans to double down on investment opportunities in emerging technologies such as blockchain, and says the firm will participate in upcoming initial coin offerings.

“The threat that ICOs pose long-term are to VC firms that aren’t very good because the onus will be on investors to justify why founders should take their money and not use other ways to get it,” he told Term Sheet. “We’re up for that challenge.”

How do they plan to do this? Ohanian says his focus for 2018 is to roll out software that will automate some investment decisions. This may also increase deal flow diversity and help founders gain access to the firm’s network more efficiently.

“It’s a challenge for all of venture,” he said about investing in non-white-male founders. “We have to get it right. Believe me, I used to think about this before I had a black daughter, and I really think about this now on another level because it’s so personal to me.”

As we’ve seen with Social Capital’s “capital-as-a-service” platform, diversity improves when human bias is taken out of investment decision-making. For context, Social Capital evaluated nearly 3,000 companies during its private beta and committed to funding several dozen across 12 countries. CEO demographics skewed 42% female and majority non-white.

Though Ohanian wasn’t familiar with Social Capital’s data-focused investment platform, his response to the findings was, “hell yeah.” So why aren’t more firms fully embracing the data?

“It’s ironic because venture capital firms talk about investing in founders who are building the future and replacing file cabinets with software and yet venture is so technologically backwards,” he said. “That’s because very, very few people running these firms are product people.”

It looks like data-driven venture investing will only accelerate in the future. It remains to be seen how well quantitative recommendations are accepted in a world of big personalities and a strong belief in “the pickers.”

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Former FireEye CEO joins cyber venture fund Allegis
October 27, 2017 12:00 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Technology executive Dave DeWalt has joined early-stage cyber-security venture capital firm Allegis Capital as a managing director, the fund said on Thursday, as it looks to invest more in companies closer to going public.

With the appointment DeWalt, a former CEO of FireEye Inc and McAfee before it was acquired by Intel Corp, is moving directly into the world of venture capital after years of running companies.

“His experience, and the networks that come with it, will be a tremendous asset to our firm and our portfolio companies as they grow from solution innovators to market leaders,” Allegis founder Bob Ackerman said in a statement.

Allegis is looking to raise between $ 200 million and $ 400 million to invest in series C funding rounds, a source with knowledge of the plans said. Such rounds typically involve the last private cash injected into a company before it goes public.

San Francisco-based Allegis also said it would change its name to AllegisCyber and open an office in the Washington area to tap into the region’s high density of cyber engineers and robust investment opportunities.

Allegis said that DeWalt had previously consulted on several investments, including a stake they took in Callsign, where DeWalt sits on the board.

DeWalt has this year joined the boards of a string of cyber security companies including ForgeRock, Optiv, Phantom and Claroty. He has sat on the board of Delta Air Lines Inc since late 2011.

Allegis’ existing cyber security investments include Area 1, Bracket Computing, CyberGRX, E8 Security, Shape Security, Signifyd, Synack, tCell.io and vArmour.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Jim Finkle and Diane Craft

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Silicon Valley’s Hottest Startup Incubator Takes On This Indian Venture
January 12, 2016 3:35 pm|Comments (0)

Just one year ago, Indian e-coupon aggregator LafaLafa.com was barely a blip in the mind of, well, anyone. It’s been quite the year though – testament to the booming tech environment in India, they’re one of the privileged few to be on their way to be accelerated by one of Silicon Valley’s hottest startup incubators.


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Cisco strengthens China operations with Inspur joint venture
November 30, 2015 1:55 am|Comments (0)

Cisco corporateCisco Systems is to form a joint venture with Chinese server maker Inspur, selling networking and cloud computing products in China. Cisco and Inspur will jointly invest $ 100 million in the project.

The partnership comes in the face of mutual suspicion between the US and Chinese government amid claims and counter claims of state sponsored cyber security threats.

In June Cisco was forced to remove several of its senior executives in China, amid reports of falling sales slide and Chinese government fears about the foreign ownership of networking equipment.

Cisco’s China sales fell 20 per cent on the previous year in the quarter ending on April 25 at a time when its global revenue gained 5.1 per cent. As its share of the Chinese router market fell from 21.2 per cent to 9.4 per cent the lost sales went to local rival Huawei Technologies, according to Bernstein Research.

Direct selling became more challenging, The Wall Street Journal has reported, after US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden said the NSA put surveillance tools in US technology products sold overseas.

US-Chinese technology company partnerships are growing in number and Microsoft announced on Thursday an alliance with Baidu and the Chinese state-owned private investment firm Tsinghua Unigroup on cloud technology. Last week Dell unveiled plans to invest $ 125 billion over five years in China. Earlier this year, IBM pledged to help develop China’s advanced chip industry with a ‘Made with China’ strategy, while chipmakers Intel and Qualcomm are developing chips with smaller Chinese companies.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s arrived in Seattle this morning on a state visit to the US.

Chinese officials have said the partnerships will follow the pattern of car manufacturing agreements in the past, with foreign technology firms granted market access in return for shared technology and co-operation with Chinese industry.


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Cisco strengthens China operations with Inspur joint venture
November 19, 2015 1:15 am|Comments (0)

Cisco corporate Cisco Systems is to form a joint venture with Chinese server maker Inspur, selling networking and cloud computing products in China.


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Investor confidence is highest in cloud computing say venture capitalists
September 21, 2015 2:15 pm|Comments (0)

Money cloudCloud computing has been hailed as the strongest technology investment sector for the third time in a row in a survey that gauges confidence among capital, private and growth equity speculators.

The cloud sector came out strongest in the 2015 Global Venture Capital Confidence Survey compiled by Deloitte and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). The study quizzes 200 speculators on the general venture capital environment as well as other market factors such as conditions in industries and across regions.

While biopharmaceuticals and robotics reported the highest levels of confidence growth, and the Internet of Things (IoT) was recognised for the first time by the study, cloud computing was the top tech trend for the third year in a row. When the survey group was asked to gauge their levels of confidence in a technology, cloud was the most convincing quantity in which investors would put their faith, with a confidence rating of 4.18 out of 5. Mobile came in second place with a rating of 4.05, while new category the IoT came third with a score of 3.95. Software was a close fourth with a rating of 3.82 on the confidence range.

Investors are most confident in companies based in Silicon Valley and San Francisco with $ 15.2bn being invested in these regions. Next in the investment league came New York with $ 4.5bn and Boston, which received $ 3.2bn from speculators. Confidence in investing in UK-based companies varies, with four of the eight countries questioned saying they have increased confidence in the UK’s tech startup economy and four saying their confidence has fallen.

Interest in investing in Israel was rated highly (a 3.9 out of 5) while Canada (3.60) continued to rise from previous years’ survey results. Confidence in emerging markets has declined among global investors, with rating Brazil at 2.70, down 43 basis points from 2014.

In the cloud computing industry there is much for venture investors to feel excited about, according to Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of NVCA. “The fundraising environment continues to improve, the IPO market is gaining strength and there is no shortage of innovative, game-changing start up companies to take to the next level,” said Franklin.


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