It’s been a working Sunday for me, and it’s time for my first of many to come VC interviews. I am proud to present Jason Mendelson a co-founder and Managing Director at Foundry Group an early-stage technology venture capital firm. Yes, he is a venture capitalist. Previously, he was an attorney at a large San Francisco Bay Area Law firm and prior to that, a software engineer at Accenture. And before that he was a drummer. Yes, drummer.
Foundry group invests in a range from $100,000, up to series A – up to $10 million. So far, they have invested in: attachments.me, www.admeld.com (that was acquired by Google), www.seomoz.org and www.trada.com, www.yesware.com (my three personal favorites) and www.zynga.com (perhaps you’ve heard of them). All together 49 startups, you can see there portfolio on their website. Not bad for a drummers portfolio.
Jason Mendelson Talks About Startup Failure
Goran: Jason, thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. As you may know, there are a lot of startups looking for funding, looking to become great entrepreneurs. What is the most common pattern you see in someone who just doesn’t have what it takes to get the investment, to bring that startup to the next level, to succeed?
Jason: Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses are key. Not only will this allow the person to scale into different roles with the company, but also build out a great management team. While the founder may be the CEO from start to finish, the actual job changes greatly over time, as the company matures.
Having self-awareness to be able to constantly monitor one’s own performance is key. Aside from that, have a maniacal focus on the product and customer is a must. Release product often and be deep into analytical thinking to gauge success.
Goran: As you already know, I interviewed Ben Coe, the co-founder of attachments.me. He certainly doesn’t fall into the previous category, but what was the sexiest thing him and Jesse did in order to get Foundry group to invest? Back than, they were in Toronto, how did that affect the negotiations?
Jason: I thought both Ben and Jesse were super smart, had a ton of passion for what they were doing and identified a real problem in the market. Personally, I’ve wasted way too much time dealing with the problems that their solution fixes. Also, I just really liked the guys. They are the type of people that you want to spend a lot of time with and that is a good quality for a VC investment.
Goran: Was moving them to Silicon Valley a part of the deal? Do you remember Ben’s and Jesse’s reaction when you told them you want to go through with the investment?
Jason: Not part of the deal – they put that on the table the first time that I spoke to them. As for their reaction, they were excited. So was I.
Goran: What does your every day look like, what is your passion? Is there something that you think about every day?
Jason: Best part of being a VC is that I don’t have an “every day.” It’s always different and that is what I’m passionate about – change. I love thinking about how quickly technology is changing the complex and simple things we do every day. I appreciate every day the great entrepreneurs that we get to work with.
Jason: Wow, that’s a good one. I think I’m essentially the same guy who grew up in Detroit, Michigan, but with more grey hair. I really love helping, in any small way, folks who have a good head on their shoulders and are trying to do the right thing.
Goran: Can you recommend a book, speaker, or something else for those who are knowledge hungry?
Jason: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my partner Brad Feld and I have a book out called “Venture Deals, how to be smarter than your lawyer and VC”. It’s a book that teaches folks how to get a VC funding done correctly and removes all the secrets of the process.
Goran: Is there something you wish to say that is important to your portfolio, is someone hiring, did someone reach a huge milestone? What’s the biggest news currently around Foundry group?
Jason:There is always so much going on that news will be stale by the time your readers get this article. I’d say that I’m tremendously proud of our portfolio’s success and even more proud of the great relations between the Foundry Group partners, the entrepreneurs we get to work with and our investors.
It’s really important to us that everything we do is done in an open and transparent manner. It is really important to me that being a VC means you can do well by doing good.
You can find out more about Jason on his website JasonMendelson.com.