Here’s a little taste from the latest Venture Capital Journal. Anybody or anything else you’d add to the list?
The 7 people and things we got tired of seeing over and over again in ’07
By VCJ staff
Used to be that Sequoia’s Don Valentine would sooner eat glass than speak with a reporter, but today there are many smart reasons for VCs to talk with reporters and otherwise reach out to the masses. For one thing, having a public face “allows people who are reading, including entrepreneurs, to get to know the person better,” says Jennifer Jones, a Bay Area marketing guru who has long worked with a number of firms, including Mayfield Fund and Scale Venture Partners, and who encourages VCs to speak with journalists whenever possible.
Don’t get us wrong; we appreciate that openness. But here’s the thing: we’re a little bit starting to miss the mystery.
Maybe it’s the more open way that the world is moving, with venture blogs and Valleywag and Facebook profiles that sometimes show too much (in one recent case, a pale, shirtless VC at Burning Man). Maybe we’re feeling a little abusive, inspired by the Don Rickles documentary we just watched. All we know is that we saw certain people and things way too often in the past year, and we think it’s time for the spotlight to shift elsewhere.
The biggest offenders of 2007 in no particular order:
John Doerr is an intellectual powerhouse with great hair, and he’s the face of one of the world’s best-known venture firms. We understand his allure. But if we see one more “green” story or conference featuring him, we’re going to hurl wheat grass. Particularly if during that story or event, he says of clean tech, “This could be the biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century.”
If those words sound familiar to you, you might have heard Doerr say them at the TED conference, where he cried, literally, about climate change earlier this year. Or perhaps you caught him saying them at this year’s “Top 10 Trends” event, hosted by the Churchill Club, or maybe at the Web 2.0 conference. You might also have read them verbatim in Portfolio, Forbes, BusinessWeek, USA Today, and again for good measure in Fortune, which, taking this global warming stuff very literally, photographed Doerr against a backdrop of scraggly tree branches and ominous clouds.
Doerr can be almost messianic in making the case for something, but frankly, this has gone too far. Are we being brainwashed? One more Doerr profile where the same things get said and we’re returning our Priuses.
No one has embraced investors’ open dialogue with the public quite as ardently or prolifically as Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures. We wish he were less enthusiastic.
The author of “A VC” blog writes about everything from tech trends to the rock concerts he attends, typically writing several hundred words a day while also penning many posts on Union Square’s blog.
We’ll commit hari-kari if we read another word about Gotham Girl (Wilson’s wife, to whom he fondly and often refers). There’s no question that his readers have grown to know Wilson far better through his musings, which really are, on occasion, thought provoking. Indeed, “A VC” has nearly managed to make him a celebrity in the world of VC—an accomplishment, considering that 3-year-old Union Square is still a gawky teenager in VC years.
Every investor profile in Fortune magazine
You’re glossy and fabulous and we envy your access to people, but Fortune, we’re beginning to feel embarrassed for you. High five for pointing out in a recent piece that “Doerr has on various other occasions credited his [green] conversion to his daughter Mary, Segway inventor Dean Kamen, Bill Joy, and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, a pal and cross-country ski partner.”
But could you be just a touch less hyperbolic when it comes to your investor profiles? We’re referring in part to your November piece on the PayPal mafia and pretty much everything you’ve written about Peter Thiel, to whom you seem prepared to propose marriage.
As for your photos, does everyone have to be featured on a grassy knoll? First there was Doerr. Next was that fawning profile of Greycroft Partners, starring “This Old Guy Sure Can Pick ‘Em” Alan Patricof and his “three MBA guns” in the middle of his estate in East Hampton. Not last, you featured Kleiner Perkins’ newest partner, VC Al Gore, rocking peacefully in a wooden chair somewhere in the midst of his sprawling Nashville property. We might have forgotten all about Gore’s work as an environmental activist if you showed him, say, in his living room.
Three years after its inception, someone reputable you know “added” you, then another and another, until Facebook suddenly lost the sophomoric feel of an undergraduate hookup site. You couldn’t help but actively use it, either, what with all your friends, business associates and co-workers logging in to add Facebook’s ever-expanding universe of new applications, which you keep getting invited to use.
Not only did the consumer press cover Facebook like snow, so did VCJ, thanks to the VCs who went gaga for the site’s open application platform. “What’s your Facebook strategy?” became the question de jour, and VCs were all too willing to answer. We heard the words “serious virality” and “ultra accelerator” excitedly tumble from the mouths of people we may never view in the same light again.
Operating below the radar to your startup from the prying eyes of would-be competitors makes sense. We get it.
What we don’t get is why so many VCs and entrepreneurs keep bragging about being in “stealth mode.” The phrase appeared in no fewer than 542 news stories in 2007, according to Factiva. So go ahead and be in stealth mode, but quit yappin’ about it.
TheFunded’s Adeo Ressi
TheFunded is a great site that demonstrates entrepreneurs’ acute interest in getting to know VCs they don’t know better, and to bitch about the ones they do.
More, its founder, Adeo Ressi, played the press brilliantly,scoring a big profile in Wired at the same time that Silicon Valley watchers were awaiting his coming party on tenterhooks. Now that we know who’s behind the curtain, we deeply regret missing our sister’s birthday party to go to his unveiling. It was a calculated gamble that didn’t pay off, as she keeps reminding us.
Draper Fisher anything
Tim Draper is a charismatic VC who falls into the category of nice people who return our calls, and for that we are thankful. Still, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t have our fill of both covering and reading about Draper Fisher Jurvetson in 2007. And we know at least a few of you feel the same. “Mention Tim Draper less often,” said one reader who was asked how VCJ could be improved.
Hey, we hear you, but we also can’t help it if DFJ is actually making news. Did you hear the latest? It has teamed up with talent powerhouse Creative Artists Agency to raise a digital media fund (see Fund Notes). That brings the total number of new funds launched in ’07 by DFJ and its affiliates to 11. DFJ itself raised a new core fund and a growth fund. Another eight were launched by its affiliates in Cambridge, Mass., Ho Chi Minh City, Los Angeles, London, Moscow, New York, Sacramento, Calif., Seoul and New York. Oh, and did we mention that the firm opened an office in Bangalore?
We know it’s our fault that the same people keep getting mentioned again and a gain. Part of the reason is that we become enamored with a handful of rich, attractive, game-changing characters. But the biggest reason is that we tend to call people who we know will talk to us. And that makes them targets for other reporters looking for a quick quote. “Certain people are quoted so often that it becomes a joke,” laments Rick Edmonds, a media analyst at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.
So, we’re sorry. And please accept an advance apology for every time we mention John Doerr and Tim Draper in 2008.