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Main article: Ff venture capital

All topics: 5

These new data sources are creating high-impact tools for investors

22:39 | 4 December

David Teten Contributor
David Teten is an advisor to emerging investment managers and a Venture Partner with HOF Capital. He was previously a partner for 8 years with HOF Capital and ff Venture Capital. David writes regularly at teten.com and @dteten.

Venture capitalists tout themselves as frontier technology investors, but most of us are using the same infrastructure tools we’ve used for the past 20+ years — Excel and recent college grads searching Google .

We’ve seen some modest progress in people upgrading from Excel to Google Sheets, along with the use of CRM and cloud-based storage services, but according to Sebastian Soler, who oversees data science at Lux Capital, less than 5% of American VCs have a full-time team member who’s focused on technology.

“While the arguments for adopting the latest technology are now too compelling to ignore, finding the required budget for specialized tools can often prove to be a major challenge, especially for smaller managers,” said Tim Friedman, founder of PEStack. “Comprehensive market data can cost upwards of $25k for a leading service, portfolio monitoring can be double that, add in front office tools and you’re quickly into six-figure sums. My advice is: there are now more products than ever which focus on quick implementation and offer a lot of functionality at a fraction of the cost of some of the larger legacy providers.

TotemVC* is one example of a high-quality solution that offers a powerful platform with a transparent, affordable monthly rate. One piece of advice would be to use a service like [PEStack’s] free Vendor Profiles platform to identify viable providers and build up a shortlist. We also track sample clients so that our users can see what their peers are using. I would always advise managers to talk to other professionals to get the real inside scoop on which products work well, how painful the implementation was, and how good the ongoing support is.”

Jonathan Balkin, founder of Lionpoint Group, observed that the highest-impact technology initiative for a new PE/VC fund is typically to configure and enforce usage of a CRM system. The next most impactful initiative is usually to create an easy-to-use LP portal.

 


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Use agile budgeting to manage your cash

01:33 | 27 November

David Teten Contributor
David Teten is an advisor to emerging investment managers and a Venture Partner with HOF Capital. He was previously a partner for 8 years with HOF Capital and ff Venture Capital. David writes regularly at teten.com and @dteten.

How should a growth company manage its budget? Does an annual budget approval process even make sense in a fast-moving firm?

My friends who are executives at large, established companies complain about how fixed budgets lead to gamesmanship. An executive who wastefully spends down their travel and expense budget at year-end to justify an equal or larger budget next year may also fail to take advantage of a great marketing opportunity with a December 31 deadline — because they spent their budget on T&E.

However, in a startup, the most common scenario is that projections get missed. Paul Bianco, CEO of Graphite Financial*, says “entrepreneurs are characteristically optimistic by nature and often present their board best-case-scenario budgets and projections. Inevitably, things cost more and take longer than expected. I encourage entrepreneurs to correct course with a re-forecast early and often. The worst thing you can do is dig in your heels and hope things will miraculously get better. Being transparent enough to say ‘look, we expected X to happen, but now we expect Y to happen, this is why, and this is what we’re doing about it’ is an admirable trait.”  

Here’s the solution I have recommended to some of my portfolio companies: “agile budgeting,” i.e., monitoring a few key variables, while giving managers significant flexibility. Entrepreneur Jeff Magnusson provides a sample agile budgeting workbook. Sean Colrock, Director of Client Partnerships at Wiss & Company, suggests at a minimum you track: cash on hand; fume date, and burn rate. The next most important set of metrics are sales by category; working capital (cash and other current assets, less current liabilities); EBITA and gross margin. Ben Horowitz writes that you can ruin your company with a bad budgeting process and recommends a similar approach.

Regardless of whether you take a traditional or agile budgeting approach, Robert A. Howell, Professor of Business Administration at Tuck, writes that you should turn your budgeting process upside down by “reformat[ting] planning and budgeting templates to highlight cash rather than accounting net income.”

This agile approach is not restricted to small startups. In Stop Budgeting, Start Improving, Brad Power writes:

 


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Apply now for Include Office Hours with Pejman Mar Ventures and ffVC!

20:30 | 1 June

TechCrunch Include Office Hours are happening on June 16th! Pejman Nozad, Mar Hershenson, Ajay Kamat and Neda Blocho from Pejman Mar Ventures, along with Adam Plotkin from ffVC, will join TechCrunch to provide valuable advice and feedback to startups.

Launched in 2014, Include is TechCrunch’s diversity program, aimed at facilitating opportunities for underrepresented groups in tech to take their startups to the next level.

The Office Hours program is part of that effort. Once monthly, TechCrunch works with VC partners to provide feedback and advice to early-stage companies. To be considered for a meeting in our June session with Pejman Mar in San Francisco or ffVC in New York City, fill out the application here by Friday, June 10th at 9am PT.

Underrepresented groups in tech include, but are not limited to, Black, Latino, Native American, LGBT and female founders. Preference will be given to teams that can meet in person. Startups should at least be at the prototype stage.

Let’s learn more about our co-hosts.

Pejman Nozad, Managing Partner Pejman Mar

Pejman Nozad is a co-founder and a managing partner of Pejman Mar Ventures. Pejman has been named by Forbes as “one of the most successful angel investors,” with over 15 years of experience investing in early-stage high-tech startups. He’s invested in over 100 startups and has seeded several multi-billion dollar companies, such as Dropbox, Lending Club, SoundHound and Gusto (formally Zenpayroll). He is also an investor in industry defying emerging startups, such as Doordash, Guardant Health and Branchmetrics. Pejman was a 2014 Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award recipient, given by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO), an award that pays homage to the immigrant experience and the contribution made to America by immigrants.

Mar Hershenson, Managing Partner Pejman Mar
Mar Hershenson has over 13 years of founder experience, having co-founded three startups in the mobile, e-commerce, enterprise software and semiconductor industries. Mar’s deep technical expertise led her to becoming an Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University for almost nine years. Mar holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University with a combined hardware/software focus. Mar is currently the co-founder and a managing partner at Pejman Mar Ventures.
Ajay Kamat, Partner Pejman Mar
Ajay is a partner at Pejman Mar ventures, focusing on pre-seed and seed-stage investments. He currently sits on the boards of their portfolio companies Skyfit and Instaread. Prior to this role he was the founder and CEO of Wedding Party (another PMV portfolio company) where he raised capital, built a team and ultimately sold the company.
Neda Blocho, Partner Pejman Mar
Neda’s passion for education led her to the Stanford entrepreneurship ecosystem, where she helped develop programs and resources for student and alumni entrepreneurs working to build impactful companies. Neda is currently a partner at Pejman Mar Ventures, where she strives to partner with incredible founders to help them disrupt their industries using technology. Neda also serves on the Board of Directors for the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES). Neda has her MBA from Notre Dame De Namur University, with a concentration in Finance.
Adam Plotkin, Partner ffVC
Adam Plotkin is a partner at ff Venture Capital. In this capacity he provides targeted strategic counsel to a range of ffVC investments, with a focus on technological innovation in logistics and manufacturing, insurance, e-commerce, financial services and media. Adam has experience serving on the boards of CardFlight, Drop Loyalty, Four Mine and Sure, to name a few. Prior to ffVC, Adam spent several years in business development, advisory and operational roles with several startups in New York and Los Angeles.

If you’re interested in attending Office Hours with Pejman Mar or ffVC, apply here by Friday June 10th.

 


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New York’s ff Venture Capital has raised a new, $54 million fund

06:10 | 6 May

New York-based venture firm ff Venture Capital, has raised $53.8 million for its fourth seed-stage venture fund, according to an SEC filing that shows fundraising began in the fall of 2014.

The firm had closed its third seed-stage fund fund in January 2014 with $52 million. Since then, ff Venture Capital has hired two new partners, including Adam Plotkin, who was formerly one of its entrepreneurs-in-residence, and Michael Faber, who’d spent nearly two decades as a general partner with NextPoint VC.

Earlier (and remaining) partners with the firm include its founder, John Frankel; Alex Katz, who does double duty as the firm’s CFO; and David Teten, who previously cofounded a short-lived data mining and analytics company called Navon Partners.

Some of ff Venture’s biggest exits in recent years include the learning software maker Cornerstone OnDemand, which went public in 2011; ThinkNear, a hyper-local mobile ad company that sold to Telenav in 2012 for undisclosed terms; and Omek Interactive, which sold to Intel for $40 million in 2013.

The firm has also seen two of its portfolio companies sell this year. In February, the car service app Whisk sold to the cloud and mobile commerce company Deem, and last week, Livefyre, a portfolio company focused on brand engagement, was acquired by Adobe. Terms of both deals weren’t disclosed publicly.

ff Venture Capital (the “ff” stands for founder friendly) employs 30 people, including recruiting, PR, and investor relations staff to assist its portfolio companies. Some of those that remain privately held are Indiegogo, Plated, Distil Networks, Ionic Security, and Skycatch.

Indeed, according to a source familiar with the firm’s plans, ff Venture Capital is still in the fundraising market, with plans to raise a separate “opportunities” fund to invest in the best-performing companies in its existing portfolio. The idea is to invest in 15 of the roughly 85 startups the firm has funded to date across its four early-stage funds.

(In above photo, from left to right: David Teten, Adam Plotkin, John Frankel, and Alex Katz. Not pictured is Michael Faber.)

 


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GreatHorn raises $2.25 million for its young cloud security platform

20:22 | 21 March

GreatHorn, a cloud security platform focused on stopping phishing attacks, has raised $2.25 million in seed funding led by ff Venture Capital and SoftTech VC, with participation from Techstars Ventures, RRE Ventures, Zelkova Ventures, V1.VC and investor Walter Winshall.

The Belmont, Ma.-based company came together last year, as a kind of bet that CEO Kevin O’Brien and his cofounder, Ray Wallace, made on two trends converging: the rapid adoption of cloud infrastructure for core business services like email, and a commensurate increase in the number of data breaches which began through those channels.

Both are coming true. A fast-growing percentage of enterprises have begun to embrace both Google Apps and (for much larger companies) Office 365 for email. Meanwhile, almost all data breaches start via highly targeted phishing attacks.

GreatHorn says it’s tackling the problem two ways. First, it’s built directly into the core email platforms themselves. For example, it can be natively integrated into Office 365 via the Azure marketplace and O365 APIs; that means no email delays when an attack is in process.

According to O’Brien, GreatHorn also prides itself on not trying to change user behavior as an enforcement strategy. “There’s a reason why humans are the weakest link in any security system,” he says. “They’re a ‘soft’ target, easy to trick, and often have commercial priorities that drive different behaviors from those of the security organization’s.” With that in mind, the company says it provides “active defense,” meaning it’s removing attacks where and when they happen, not simply reporting on them.

Bigger picture, O’Brien — whose previous gigs include product marketing director at the cloud security company CloudLock — says that GreatHorn — which charges on a per-mailbox, per-month basis — has ambitions beyond being an email security startup.

Given cloud computing forecasts, that’s not surprising.

“Cloud is changing how people and businesses communicate,” he says. “Email is simply a medium for exchanging ideas, and wherever a medium exists, exploits will soon follow.”

 


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