When it comes to keeping track of and referring potential deals, some VCs will never give up their coffee meetings, phones, or good old-fashioned spreadsheets.
But CapLinked, an eight-month-old platform startup based in Santa Monica, is betting that a younger generation of investors will want to use new tools that allow them to more easily exchange information and transact their business in a safe, “regulatory complaint,” permissions-based way.
Maybe the company is right. Since holding its “soft beta launch” last October, more than 1,000 investors have registered for the free-for-now service to look at pitches, upload documents, and store and share deal information with others who’ve they’ve invited into the service via email.
And much more is in the works. Eric Jackson, CapLinked’s 35-year-old founder, says the company is integrating with LinkedIn next month, for example, so users can more easily reach out to their professional contacts. Soon after that, says Jackson, expect to see tools capable of collecting digital signatures, so users can finalize shareholder rights agreements and the numerous other documents related to funding transactions.
Though everything is proprietary to date, CapLinked is also hoping to integrate “down the road” with Google Docs and Dropbox, whose software also makes it easy to securely share files with other people.
Whether the world needs the service remains to be seen. Asked whether he would use it, one VC laughed, telling me that he’d use Excel until 2050 if he lives that long.
Still, the company seems very complementary to the wildly popular online matchmaking service AngelList, which invites entrepreneurs and investors to find each other. And some high-profile investors are already committed to giving the company a shot, including Peter Thiel, who gave Jackson one of his first jobs out of Stanford, as a senior marketing director at PayPal in 1999. Last month, the company announced that it has closed on $900,000 in seed financing, including $525,000 from Thiel and Dave McClure among others.
As an aside: Because Jackson went on to write a book about his experience at PayPal, I asked him earlier this week if he expected Facebook employees to prove as adept at launching startups as the infamous PayPal Mafia. He told me:
“If you look at the magic ingredients [behind former PayPalers’ success], they include the caliber of the people who were hired into the company; the company’s entrepreneurial culture – people were encouraged to take real ownership of each aspect of the business in which they were involved, and the battle-hardened process that everyone went through.
You have to remember that PayPal had a few near-death experiences, from stolen credit card numbers to regulators coming after us to eBay, our biggest customer turned competitor. PayPal was also operating around a very difficult business model, so the people who came out of it were comfortable with complexity and tackling difficult problems. They liked to solve bigger, more aggressive problems than faced by many entrepreneurs today.
I think Facebook will have a ton of angels and entrepreneurs who come out of it because of the size and scope of its technology, as well as the size and scope of its exit. But because of how rich many of [its employees will become], a lot of them may not want to do another startup. It’s also the case that because Facebook [only had] a pretty competitive environment early on versus PayPal, we’re not talking about the same set of variables [that shaped the PayPal mafia].”
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