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September 08, 2004

Sand Hill Road gets blogging

By Arun Natarajan

"Man has Venture Blogging come a long way since we started VentureBlog a year and a half ago. At that time, the only way that there would be robust discussion and debate about venture capital related topics in the blogsphere would be if Andrew and I took different sides of an issue and duked it out on VentureBlog. Now folks like Brad Feld from Mobius Venture Capital and Fred Wilson from Flatiron Partners are discussing and debating VC issues of real interest and import. While Venture Capital still remains quite individualistic and, at times, enigmatic, VC bloggers have gone a long way to help demystify what has for years been a bit of a black art"

- David Hornik of August Capital in VentureBlog (August 27, 2004)

Venture Capitalists in the US are taking a strong liking for blogging. As Hornik has pointed out, from just a couple of active VC bloggers two year ago, there are now well over a dozen VCs who blog regularly. Not stopping there, VCs have also started to invest in blogging-related companies.

More accurately, VC money is flowing into companies focusing on "Really Simple Syndication" or RSS technology, which while closely related to blogging, is set to impact the entire world of online publishing. (RSS allows any web user with a "reader" software/tool to receive headlines and summaries from blogs - and other web sites that put out a XML feed - as and when they are published.)

The list of blogging/RSS related companies that have attracted VC funding recently include Newsgator (Mobius Venture Capita), Technorati (Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Mobius Venture Capital), FeedBurner (Portage Ventures) and Pheedo (Fastlane Ventures).

"In many of the market segments that I invest in (such as IT infrastructure software products) I can't actually use the software in a sustained way. Sure - I can look at demos - but I'm not the target customer or user - so any real use case is contrived. In the RSS / blog universe I could set up a blog, read blogs, use RSS syndication, explore the tools, look at and think about my stats, and play with new search and advertising technologies as they appeared," says Brad Feld, a Managing Director at Mobius Venture Capital, in a blog posting (what else?) on why his firm invested in Newsgator. "We hope NewsGator is the first of several investments we make in the RSS / blog world," he added.

In fact, Feld is one of the best bloggers from the VC sphere. His erudite, interesting and simple explanations for VC industry terms - like "Participating Preferences", "Liquidation Preferences", etc. - have earned his blog a large following. (Thankfully, unlike some of his industry colleagues, Feld does not go overboard in describing how he spent his holiday, his kids' birthday parties, and other such personal matters.)

The blogging VCs are generating some excellent online PR/branding for their firms. I had never heard about August Capital until they launched VentureBlog. Ditto, Dawntreader Ventures until Ed Sim, Pacifica Fund until Tim Oren, Vulcan Capital until Steve Hall.

(Before blogging arrived, Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital was the coolest VC on the planet in my books. Why? Since Gurley used to write a great column in Fortune magazine. The column was later delivered as an email newsletter via CNET Unfortunately, Gurley has not taken the next "logical step" in publishing his thoughts - i.e., start a blog/RSS feed. Yet.)

Want even more evidence that VCs are serious about blogging? How about a VC who decided not to be a VC any longer and joined a blogging-related company instead? Andrew Anker, former General Partner at August Capital, did exactly that when he joined SixApart (the company which provides the Movable Type and Typepad blogging tools) as its as EVP of Corporate Development!

Sample List of VC Blogs

Brad Feld
Mobius Venture Capital

Ed Sim
Dawntreader Ventures

Tim Oren
Pacifica Fund

Fred Wilson
Flatiron Partners

Steve Hall
Vulcan Capital

Steve Jurvetson
Draper Fisher Jurvetson

Jeff Nolan
SAP Ventures

Ignition Partners (Group blog)

August Capital (Group blog)