Robert Afshar: Angel Investor. Protagonist.

I just received a very funny press release about a new angel investment group founded by entrepreneur Rob Afshar, who in 1999 co-founded LeadClick Media, a San Francisco startup that generated online sales leads.

Afshar is a Berkeley graduate with a law degree from the University of San Francisco, but he’s not much of a name in Silicon Valley, because unlike some startup entrepreneurs, he never really sought the limelight. He also turned down numerous offers from VCs to fund the company. (He didn’t need an assist; LeadClick was practically minting money from the outset.) Afshar even sold out quietly in 2005, trading a 75 percent stake in LeadClick for $150 million to risk management conglomerate First Advantage Corp. and financial services company First American Corp. Most of that money went directly into Afshar’s pocket, and he’s probably made another $50 million, if not more, since. (First Advantage and First American have since acquired the rest of the company.) Not bad for six years’ work.

After LeadClick, Afshar moved to Las Vegas, where he tinkered with another startup called FBM Software, which makes anti-spyware software. But now he wants to become an active angel investor, which is where the press release about his firm, RAA Ventures, comes in.

Living in Vegas, Afshar apparently wondered how to attract attention to RAA, so he had his very sweet assistant put together press materials for me.

Because she advertised them to me as a work-in-progress, I can’t run the release in its entirety, but what follows here are a few excerpts, slightly condensed. I find the title particularly endearing: Is Money the Only Thing Preventing You from Becoming Rich? Maybe You Need an Angel

This chronicle of Afshar begins when he was fresh out of law school and looking for his first “real” job… [He] knew convincing interviewers to select him from the countless applicants wouldn’t be an easy task…He needed an edge.

So Robert used his Internet prowess to build a website for himself, a newly deemed California attorney, and he optimized that site so it would appear at the top of search engine results for “San Francisco Corporate Attorney.” He strolled into his interview knowing the Internet held his advantage.

The dialogue here is my favorite part

As he entered the office of one of the firm’s partners, his interrogator for the day, Robert peered over a large stack of papers to see the man. “You know what these are?” the man asked, “Resumes. Resumes of people just like you who want this job. Tell me, why should I hire you?”

Afshar smiled as he noticed the man’s computer and asked him to search the Internet for “San Francisco Corporate Attorney.” Suspiciously, the distinguished interviewer complied – only to find the website of Attorney Robert Afshar at the top of the search engine’s list, above the interviewing firm and the firm’s primary competition. Afshar was hired that day.”

I was hoping for a twist in the story. If Afshar had responded to the partner’s question by kissing him on the forehead before instructing him to do a search, I might have liked it better. At least there’s happy ending to the tale, as Afshar sticks it to pretty much everyone at the law firm by becoming superrich.

Still, I’m not writing about the release to embarrass Afshar’s assistant. (I credit her with being more inventive than many public relations professionals.) I bring up the release because it highlights the ballooning new class of wealthy young angels who early-stage venture investors are up against. Guys like Afshar might have less polished staff, but they’re making it more and more difficult for VCs to do their jobs because they can act quickly, invest in unpriced rounds, and more than ever, provide guidance based on recent, and often highly relevant, personal experiences. Most VCs simply can’t make the same claims.