Exit This Way
Earlier today, serial entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon made it official. The cofounder of SiteAdvisor (acquired by McAfee) and Hunch (acquired by eBay), who invests both personally and through Founder Collective, will be decamping our fair city for sunnier shores to join Andreessen Horowitz as the Sand Hill Road powerhouse’s seventh general partner. We spoke with Mr. Dixon by phone shortly after the announcement was made to find out what it means for the many ventures he’s involved in here (like eBay’s massive new Flatiron R&D lab, which is slated to house 200 developers and data scientists).
Don’t hold your breath for an East Coast outpost, as cofounder Marc Andreessen emphasized earlier, his is a “single office firm.” In fact, based on the tenor of our questions, Amy Grady, a representative from Andreessen Horowitz who was also on the call, wanted to assure us Mr. Dixon’s hire was about more than just geography. “We didn’t hire Chris just because of New York. It’s a huge bonus, he’s obviously really tapped in, but if we find an entrepreneur with a great idea in Idaho, we’ll invest!”
Silicon Prairie, start your pitch decks.
I’ll Take Stingy for $5, Alex We’ve heard of venture capitalists who drive a hard bargain when it comes to their term sheets, but not so much when they drive off Sand Hill Road. So we were dismayed to learn that a VC at a very prominent 36-year-old venture capital firm asked the non-profit(!) meetup group Hacks/Hackers, which brings together journalists and technologists, to waive a $5 attendance fee for an event. To put that number in context: the firm has more than $400 million under management.
Hacks/Hackers has a very welcoming attendance policy and routinely waives fees for students so that no one gets shut out. But if your portfolio’s aggregate revenue teeters up into the billions, just pry your hands off the fiver, dude.
Teach Me How to Startup
Visitors who search for Harlem rapper Azealia Banks’s breakout hit “212,” on Rap Genius, an online platform that crowdsources explanations of hip-hop lyrics, will find nearly every verse annotated by the site’s users, who clocked more than 2 million monthly uniques in August, according to comScore. Click on the line “Now she wanna lick my plum in the evening/ And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in,” and a pop-up immediately appears explaining that Ms. Banks is employing a metaphor for cunnilingus and that “She stutters the words tongue and deep to mimic the stuttering that occurs when one receives such a gift.” That exegesis received 11 upvotes, earning the contributor jamima-j, a female “slam poetry writer,” a healthy bump in “Rap IQ” points on the site.
Readers might find her analysis either amusing or unnecessary. But the reigning kings of Sand Hill Road, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, view Rap Genius as “one of the most important things we’ve ever funded,” co-founder Ben Horowitz told Betabeat last week. The prominent VC firm, which clawed its way into the Silicon Valley firmament in just three years by aggressively plowing millions into fast-growth tech startups like Facebook, Pinterest, foursquare and Airbnb, often at towering valuations, were the sole investors behind the site’s $15 million Series A.
First Round Capital has built a brand-new platform for startups seeking press coverage: HackPR, designed to connect them with journalists. The firm is hoping to replicate the same kind of buzz that made Warby Parker an e-commerce darling after an early profile in GQ. [TechCrunch]
Kids from Cornell got a tour of the New York startup scene yesterday. [New York Daily News]
Kleiner Perkins, Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures are all backing a startup called LendUp, which’ll make small loans (think $300) to people with poor credit. Basically, it’s an alternative to the traditional payday loan, with friendlier customer service. Good luck and God bless. [AllThingsD]
No, you’re not just imagining it: There are Meetups everywhere, all the time, for everything. You’re going to need to be strategic in your selection. [WYNC]
Please enjoy this cri de coeur against Instagram filters, which are basically photography training wheels. [Wired]
Rap Genius, the Brooklyn-based site that lets the hive mind take a stab at explaining hip hop lyrics, announced today that they have received $15 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz. The powerful venture capital firm is run by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and rap fanatic Ben Horowitz, notorious for starting his business-minded blog posts with a hip-hop epigraph. Read More
There must be a whole lot of you noodling around with an inventive notion in the back of your noggin. Two major VC firms have just made a bet to that effect, investing a whopping $68 million in social product development startup Quirky. Andreessen Horowitz led the series C, with Kleiner Perkins participating. Mary Meeker Read More
Goooood Morning Silicon Alley!
This is a guest post from Gary Sharma (aka “The Guy with the Red Tie”), founder and CEO of GarysGuide and proud owner of a whole bunch of black suits, white shirts and, at last count, over 40 red ties. You can reach him at gary [at] garysguide.com.
I’m a big fan of organizations and groups that encourage more women to get involved in the traditionally male-dominated worlds of tech and entrepreneurship, by creating community and providing guidance and support. And this week, we have a ton of these women-focused events.
There is the Ladies Who Code hacknight, where they encourage you to bring your brilliant self, your laptop, and your beloved text-editor of choice! There is Celebrating Extraordinary Female Founders at Levo League (a site for Gen Y female professionals), as well as the launch party for PlumAlley (a new site supporting female-founded companies). There is the Go Connect – Ignite Your Ambition event organized by NY Tech Women and The White House Project. There is JumpStart Your Dreams, organized by She Creates Change (a community supporting women as they make their professional dreams a reality). And finally there’s Women 2.0 Founder Friday, with guest hosts Alexis Tryon (cofounder, Artsicle) and Anagha Nadkarni (cofounder, AppGuppy).
What’s a good publicity stunt without a stable of pretty women? Apparently even Y Combinator startups fall prey to that age-old logic. DNAInfo reports that Shoptiques, a fashion marketplace for local boutiques, has planned an elaborate jaunt around Manhattan today to dole out free hugs in exchange for some brand recognition. And judging from their Facebook page, looks like they’ll also have a ton of hot pink swag in tow.
Starting at 11 a.m., five models will begin giving free hugs out in SoHo, then travel up through Washington Square Park, Union Square, Times Square and end at Columbus Circle. The whole schtick is so well-planned that you can even track the models’ location on a sweetly-drawn map on Shoptiques’ website.
A scant seven months after Andreessen Horowitz “plowed” $40 million into Fab at a $200 million valuation, the pivot-happy flash sales site for design items just announced a massive Series C. The company closed a $105 million round led by Atomico, an international investment firm out of London run by Skype cofounder Niklas Zennström. The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news, says the new round values Fab at $600 million.
Yes, folks, that’s a 200 percent jump in valuation in seven months. We bet even Fab doesn’t sell a sleek-enough vessel to hold all that (theoretical) dough.
In a press release, Fab said ru-Net Technology Partners (RTP), the international fund backed by Russian billionaire Leonid Boguslavsky–with an office in New York City!–also participated. As did Palo Alto’s Pinnacle Ventures and DoCoMo Capital and Mayfield Fund. (It’s worth noting that Mayfield previously backed another flash sales venture, the troubled startup BuyWithMe, which was acquired by Gilt Groupe, the mother of flash sales sites, after major layoffs. Gilt Groupe, of course, later faced its own brutal round of layoffs.) Existing investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, Menlo Ventures, and Baroda Ventures also participated.
Ladies and gentleman, there is a shadow stalking the tech scene. First Google, then Facebook, and now a whole raft of up and comers. Yes, it is the founder-controlled company (typically achieved by the arcane means of a dual-class stock structure; don’t worry about it), and today the Wall Street Journal is on it: “There’s a power struggle underway in Silicon Valley. At stake: Power itself.” (Pause for Bezosian cackle.)
The Journal even singles out one firm in particular as the ultimate advocate of the trend: