Both prior to (and, obviously, during) his interview at Buyouts Texas earlier today, I had an opportunity to speak with Phil Siegel, general partner with Austin Ventures on a fairly wide range of topics. Here’s a quick summation of what I learned.
Despite WhaleShark raising a behemoth $150 million round recently, Siegel wasn’t quick to acknowledge that the next step for Austin’s early-stage investment and whether it is turning the gears on an IPO. “There are a lot of tools in the market [for financing] and we always have to consider how we can put them to use,” he said.
During his on-stage interview, Siegel said it’s likely that with its mega-war chest, WhaleShark will make more acquisitions in 2012. No word on whether the company’s identity could shift, into WhaleSharkDolphinBassMinnow, or something to that effect.
While on stage, I prodded Phil to disclose his stock pick of 2012, but told him he couldn’t hype HomeAway, the vacation rental property service, in which Austin still has a substantial stake. He agreed, and said Demand Media was his guess for a top performer. He said it was trading at an almost-hilarious four times earnings (we’ll keep an eye on it, since the Hub can’t buy in). Other questions included how he felt about Warren Buffett’s attempt to re-writing of the US tax code (he was not in favor) and whether he thinks America is out of the recession (it’s complicated, he said). What about investments the VC likes in the energy industry? Austin backs fracking and natural gas services, but nothing else.
Prior to our going on stage, Siegel discussed the rapidly evolving VC funding industry. He said VCs like Austin, and many startups, have sought to keep most secondary market exits from taking place, when it comes to founders and employees selling shares. The idea is to keep hype to a minimum and promote stability within respective organizations. Unlike other VCs, who privately have dismissed seed and angel investors, Siegel appeared to welcome them, as well as the prospect that crowdfunding could gain real traction in the US in 2012.