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Posts Tagged ‘Andreessen Horowitz’

Article from NYTimes.

MENLO PARK, Calif. — New York, London and Hong Kong are common addresses for blue-chip multinationals. Now Silicon Valley is, too.

From downtown San Francisco to Palo Alto, companies like American Express and Ford are opening offices and investing millions of dollars in local start-ups. This year, American Express opened a venture capital office in Facebook’s old headquarters in downtown Palo Alto. Less than three miles away, General Motors’ research lab houses full-time investment professionals, recent transplants from Detroit.

“American Express is a 162-year-old company, and this is a moment of transformation,” said Harshul Sanghi, a managing partner at American Express Ventures, the venture capital arm of the financial company. “We’re here to be a part of the fabric of innovation.”

The companies are raising their profiles in Silicon Valley at a shaky time for the broader venture capital industry. While top players like Andreessen Horowitz and Accel Partners have grown bigger, most venture capital firms are struggling with anemic returns.

The market for start-ups has also dimmed, in the wake of the sharp stock declines of Facebook, Zynga and Groupon, the once high-flying threesome that was supposed to lead the next Internet boom.

But unlike traditional venture capitalists, multinationals are less interested in profits. They are here to buy innovation — or at least get a peek at the next wave of emerging technologies.

In August, Starbucks invested $25 million in Square, the mobile payments company based in San Francisco, which will be used in the coffee chain’s stores. This year, Citi Ventures, a unit of Citigroup, invested in Plastic Jungle, an online exchange for gift cards, and Jumio, an online credit card scanner.

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, the large Spanish banking group, opened an office in San Francisco last year. The team, which has about $100 million to fund local start-ups, is looking for consumer applications that will help the bank create new businesses and better understand its customers.

“We are in one of the most regulated and risk-averse industries in the world, so innovation doesn’t come naturally to us,” said Jay Reinemann, the head of the BBVA office. “We want to avoid the video-rental model. We want to evolve alongside our consumers.”

The companies are hoping to tap into the entrepreneurial mind-set. Multinationals, with their huge payrolls and sprawling operations, are not as nimble as the younger upstarts. While they are rich in resources, big companies tend to be more gun-shy and usually require more time to bring a product to market.

“Companies cannot innovate as fast as start-ups; increasingly they realize they have to look outside,” said Gerald Brady, a managing director at Silicon Valley Bank, who previously led the early-stage venture arm of Siemens. “We think it’s happening a lot more than people recognize or acknowledge.”

Of the 750 corporate venture units, roughly 200 were established in the last two years, according to Global Corporate Venturing, a publication that tracks the market. In the last year, corporations participated in more than $20 billion of start-up investments.

Big business has played the role of venture capitalist before, with limited success. During the waning days of the dot-com boom, financial, media and telecommunications companies sank billions of dollars into start-ups.

The collapse was devastating. Although some managed to make money, far more burned through their cash. In 2002, Accenture, the consulting firm, scrapped its venture capital unit after taking more than $200 million in write-downs. The previous year, Wells Fargo reported $1.6 billion in losses on its venture capital investments. Dell, the computer maker, closed its venture arm in 2004 and sold its portfolio to an investment firm. (It resurrected the unit last year).

Companies say they are taking a different approach this time. Rather than making big bets across the Internet sector, investments are smaller and more selective.

“We invest with the idea that we’re a potential customer for a company,” Jon Lauckner, G.M.’s chief technology officer said. “We’re not looking to make several $5 million investments and make $10 million on each. That would be nice, but it’s not important.”

As they try to find the right start-ups, some are forging tight bonds with local firms. BBVA, for example, is an investor in 500 Startups, a venture firm that specializes in early-stage start-ups and is run by Dave McClure, a former PayPal executive.

Unilever and PepsiCo are limited partners in Physic Ventures, a venture capital firm designed to help corporate investors build commercial partnerships with portfolio companies. Both Unilever and PepsiCo have installed full-time employees in Physic’s downtown San Francisco offices.

American Express has stacked its investment team with technology veterans. Mr. Sanghi, the head of the office, has spent roughly three decades in Silicon Valley and formerly led Motorola Mobility’s venture arm. Through its network of relationships, the office has met with roughly 300 start-ups in the last six months.

The connections have started to pay off. Vinod Khosla, the head of Khosla Ventures and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, introduced the American Express team to the executives at Ness Computing, a mobile start-up. In August, American Express partnered with Singtel, the Singapore wireless company, to invest $15 million in Ness.

Mr. Sanghi says Ness is a logical investment and a potential partner. The start-up’s application connects users to local businesses through customized search results.

“It’s trying to bring consumers and merchants together in meaningful ways,” he said. “And we’re always trying to find new ways to build value for our merchant and consumer network.”

For start-ups, a big corporate benefactor can bring resources and an established platform to promote and distribute products. Envia Systems, an electric car battery maker, picked General Motors to lead its last financing round because it wanted to have a close relationship with a major automaker, its “absolute end customer,” said Atul Kapadia, Envia’s chief executive.

Although the company received higher offers from other potential corporate investors, Envia wanted G.M.’s advice on how to build the battery so that one day it could be a standard in the company’s electric cars. After the investment, G.M. offered the start-up access to its experts and facilities in Detroit, which Envia is using.

“You want to listen to your end customer because they will help you figure out what specifications you need to get into the final product,” said Mr. Kapadia.

A marriage with corporate investors can be complicated. Besides G.M., Asahi Kasei and Asahi Glass, the Japanese auto-part makers, are also investors in Envia. They both build rival battery products for Japanese car companies.

Mr. Kapadia, who prizes their insights into Japan’s market, says his company is careful about what intellectual property information it shares with its investors. At board meetings, confidential data about Envia’s customers is discussed only at the end, so that conflicted corporate investors can easily excuse themselves.

“In our marriage, there has not been a single ethics concern, because all the expectations were hashed out in the beginning,” Mr. Kapadia said. “But I can see how this could be a land mine.”

For the big corporations, start-up investing is fraught with the same risk as traditional venture investing. Their bets might be modest, but blowups can be embarrassing and can rankle shareholders, who may see venture investing as a distraction from the core business.

OnLive, an online gaming service, offers a recent reminder.

The company was once a darling of corporate investors, with financing from the likes of Time Warner, AutoDesk, HTC and AT&T. At one point, it was valued north of $1 billion.

Despite its early promise, the start-up crashed in August, taking many in Silicon Valley by surprise. The company laid off its employees, announced a reorganization and in the process slashed the value of the shares to zero.

“It can be painful when a deal goes sour,” James Mawson, the founder of Global Corporate Venturing, said.

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Article from GigaOm.

Meteor Development, the startup behind a hot, new real-time JavaScript framework, has scored $9 million in initial funding from Andreessen Horowitz, sources said. Company co-founder Matt DeBergalis had no comment on the funding news.

Meteor’s framework, as GigaOM reported in April, allows developers building web apps to work in “pure” JavaScript, and use the same APIs on both client- and server-side devices. The Meteor API works everywhere but development occurs on the local laptop with Meteor taking care of data updates and server synchronization. Developers commenting on Github and Hacker News really liked Meteor’s ability to perform “hot pushes,” which update code to users without interrupting their work.

Initial excitement about the framework was soon tempered by Meteor’s use of the General Public License (GPL) but in response to developer pushback on Github and StackOverflow, Meteor turned around and issued the code under the less restrictive MIT public license. That allows development of both open-source and commercial products.

Meteor, based in San Francisco, was co-founded by Geoff Schmidt, a co-author of the Miro web TV platform and co-founder of MixApp; DeBergalis, founder of the ActBlue fundraising platform; Nick Martin, another MixApp co-founder; and David Greenspan, author of Etherpad. The website features rave blurbs by luminaries including Posterous founder Gary Tan and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskowitz.

Clearly, as evidenced by this funding, Meteor also has new fans among Silicon Valley investors as well.

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Article from GigaOM

“Foursquare has raised $50 million in a new funding round led by venture capital firm Andreessen-Horowitz, the company announced Friday. This latest batch of funding brings Foursquare’s total venture capital investment to just over $70 million.

The New York City-based startup, which provides a service that allows users to share their current location with friends, plans to put the money toward hiring more engineers, developing more offerings for merchants, and expanding internationally, co-founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai wrote in a company blog post announcing the new funding. The blog post reads: “The opportunity to build something meaningful in the location space is HUGE [emphasis theirs], and we feel well-positioned to capitalize on it.”

Foursquare has grown by leaps and bounds since its launch in March 2009. The company, which is set to open a new San Francisco office this month, says it currently has more than 10 million users and more than 70 employees. With a growing list of solid competitors in the location-based social networking space — think Facebook and Google, as well as an ever-expanding list of smaller apps such as Trover — the new backing will certainly come in handy as Foursquare works to keep its edge.”

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Here is some news from Techcrunch.

“Google has quietly (secretly, one might say) invested somewhere between $100 million and $200 million in social gaming behemoth Zynga, we’ve confirmed from multiple sources. The company has raised somewhere around half a billion dollars in venture capital in the last year alone, including $150 million from Softbank Capital last month and $180 million late last year from Digital Sky Technologies, Tiger Global, Institutional Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz. The Softbank announcement was never officially confirmed by the company, however, and the Google investment was likely part of that deal as well.

The investment part of the deal closed a month ago or so. A larger strategic partnership is still in process.

The investment was made by Google itself, not Google Ventures, say our sources, and it’s a highly strategic deal. Zynga will be the cornerstone of a new Google Games to launch later this year, say multiple sources. Not only will Zynga’s games give Google Games a solid base of social games to build on, but it will also give Google the beginning of a true social graph as users log into Google to play the games. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see PayPal being replaced with Google Checkout as the primary payment option. Zynga is supposedly PayPal’s biggest single customer, and Google is always looking for ways to make Google Checkout relevant.

And there’s more. These same sources are saying that Zynga’s revenues for the first half of 2010 will be a stunning $350 million, half of which is operating profit. Zynga is projecting at least $1.0 billion in revenue in 2011, say our sources. This blows previous estimates out of the water.

Zynga continues to work on high level strategic business development deals. The reason these deals are so attractive to companies like Yahoo and now Google is this – Zynga allows them to rebuild the massive social graph, currently controlled by Facebook. For whatever reason people love to play these games and get passionately addicted to them, coming back day after day. That’s helped Facebook become what it is today. Google, Yahoo and others want some of that magic to rub off on them, too.”

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Here is a good Techcrunch article about Foursquare.

“A months long fundraising process for Foursquare is in its last stages, we’ve heard from multiple sources, and Andreessen Horowitz looks to be preparing to check-in to Foursquare to take an investor badge.

The company has delayed committing to new venture capital as they considered buyout offers – negotiations went deep with both Yahoo and Facebook, and possibly Microsoft. The Yahoo discussions ended weeks ago, and Facebook passed on an acquisition earlier this week, we’ve heard.

That means the company is raising that big new round of financing. And a slew of venture capitalists, including Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Spark Capital and First Round Capital were all rumored to competing heavily for inclusion despite the $80 million or so valuation, say our sources.

Andreessen Horowitz, despite rumors that they were pulling out of discussions with the company weeks ago over concerns that too much information was leaking to the press, is the last venture capitalist standing. The fact that founding partner Marc Andreessen is on the board of directors of Facebook, a key partner or competitor of Foursquare, may be the factor that put them over the top.

Existing investors OATV and Union Square Ventures will also participate heavily in the new round, we’ve heard. In the meantime they’ve likely already loaned additional capital to the company.”

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Here is some not-so-exciting news from Businessinsider.

“The third quarter was rough for VCs, with 17 firms raising just $1.6 billion. That’s the fewest firms to raise money since 1994, and it’s the smallest amount of money raised since Q1 2003, says the NVCA and Thomson Reuters.

It’s an 81% drop from a year ago, and a second quarter of declines.

There were three big raises–Andreessen Horowitz with $58.5 million, Vinod Khosla’s fund raised $750 million, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson raised $196 million. Without those funds, it would be a nightmare.”

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