VCIR Hangover


Some assorted notes from the past few days in Beaver Creek, as I reacclimate myself to Eastern Standard Time…

*** VC in the Rockies was not a “boondoggle.” I don’t write this in order to preempt corporate overlord questions about my pending expense report, but rather because this was the term used by almost every local (read: Boston-area) VC who knew I was planning to attend. They didn’t use the word maliciously, but rather to suggest that the event would be little more than an excuse to ski and drink. And I didn’t take it maliciously, as I was actually looking forward to a few days of S&D (with just a bit of writus interruptus).

But the reality is that VC in the Rockies had an enormous amount of value from a content perspective. In fact, more than a few out-of-towners mentioned to me on Wednesday that they were bailing on ski plans in order to keep attending company presentations. Perhaps next year’s slogan should be: “Come for the cocoa, stay for the content.”

I was one of those out-of-towners, and tried to attend as many of the company presentations as possible (but obviously failed, due to a multiple track setup). Like with all such events, the presenters were heavily skewed toward portfolio companies of conference organizers. My favorite was probably Adam Aircraft, which is in the process of securing between $100 million and $125 million in notes with warrants (already lined up a lead I-bank, but will look to syndicate). Not quite a typical VC play, of course, but CFO Chris Naro successfully demonstrated and defended his company’s competitive advantages over the current makers of small planes for the corporate, personal and taxi markets.

Naro’s only hiccup came when he compared price points between an Adam model and the cheaper Eclipse. He said: “If you can afford $1.7 million for a plane, you can afford $2.25 million.” The line got a laugh, but then an audience member asked about a pending Honda plane. After Naro responded that he wasn’t concerned because the Honda would run around $4 million, someone shouted out: “If you can afford $2.25 million for a plane, you can afford $4 million.”

*** Another notable moment came from NVCA president Mark Heesen, who gave a lunchtime keynote address. After railing against the Big 4 accounting firms for vociferously opposing SOX reform for small-cap companies, he suddenly realized that KPMG was one of the conference’s sponsors. A fleeting moment of sheepishness, before returning to his conviction that while accounting firm improprieties helped prompt SOX, they are among the legislation’s primary beneficiaries.

*** Everyone was obviously gung-ho for Colorado, but more than a few people were surprised that Infinite Power Solutions CEO Ray Johnson promoted the fact that his company’s inaugural battery manufacturing facility was in Golden. “Shouldn’t it be in China or India,” many people asked? Good question, but unfortunately not one that got asked during the Q&A (I raise my hand in blame).

*** Speaking of presenting companies, I’ve compiled a list of each presenting company that is currently in the market for new VC funding (about 2/3 of them).

*** There was a media roundtable on Tuesday to discuss various issues related to the Colorado market. Here’s the podcast (long, but interesting).

*** A reader used the anonymous tip button to ask the distinction between Mobius Venture Capital and Foundry Group. I assume it was a conference attendee, since both names were thrown around a bunch. The answer is that Foundry is a new spinout firm from five Mobius partners – Brad Feld, Seth Levine, Ryan McIntyre, Jason Mendelson and Chris Wand – and is currently in market with its inaugural fund. Mobius itself continues to wind down, although will continue to be operational for the next five years or so (including active portfolio company support).

*** I mentioned yesterday that Battery Ventures’ Mike Scanlin won the poker tournament, but not how proud of him I was. You see, both Mike and I were among several “ducks.” This meant we were handed yellow t-shirts when we walked in, and anyone who knocked us out would automatically win a nice bottle of wine. Glad to know that there was at least one bottle remaining at night’s end…