Today, I’m proud to officially announce that Founder Collective has opened an office in the Bay Area. We’ve been investing here since our start in 2009, and nearly 1/3rd of our 200+ investments, including companies like Uber, Cruise, and Periscope, are based in the Bay Area. This is a big milestone for our fund, and for me personally.
I’ve been founding or funding startups since 1998, but have never lived in the epicenter of tech, and couldn’t be more excited about joining this ecosystem. Judging by the number of cranes in the sky, and the accents I hear as I walk down the street, I’m not alone. (I also wanted to get a grill, one of those big ones with lots of burners, and a food warmer, an impossibility in NYC.)
My friends and colleagues have asked me why I moved to San Francisco. I moved here so I could live in the future. Literally. I’ve seen self-driving cars from at least six different manufacturers. Robots change car batteries and valets can be summoned to fill your gas. I, like my fellow SoMa workers, squint to read the names of the company on the hoodies I see each day — it is the earliest statistical sign of breakout startup success, after all.
I’ve been asked for reflections on the differences between the NY and Bay Area tech scene. They’re hard to compare, but there are some interesting differences, especially as it relates to geography.
Stacks vs. Networks
It has been explained to me that Silicon Valley is a stack. San Jose is where the chips are made, Mountain View builds the key services, and San Francisco polishes the application layer.
In the Bay Area, I’ve visited companies from Palo Alto to the East Bay. In NY parlance, that would be like visiting companies from Westchester to New Jersey. There are literally tech companies spread between a span of greater than 70 miles. All have different cultures and workforce demographics, but all are equally charged up about their mission to change the way things are done in their respective industries.
Conversely, NY has a certain amount of density that enabled it to become the financial capital of the world, and I suspect it will be this density that will continue to foster the fast-growing tech ecosystem there.
In the Bay Area, there are so many pockets, so many communities. There are enterprise software pockets (not to be confused with the SaaS ones), an analytical fintech crew, the Googlers, hardware zealots with large labs, and many of these folks hang together and tend to cluster in different geographies that suit their industries and profiles.
And these differences end up shaping the design of VC funds. There are many investors whom I’ve come to meet who focus on a very specific set of companies — say Series A/B SaaS companies with over $250K MRR. Back East, this was much more the exception than the rule, most NYC VCs tend to be generalists.
Introducing Founder Collective
For those of you who haven’t met us, here are a few of the ideas we hold most dear:
We believe the the goal of a company is NOT to raise the next round of capital, but rather to generate income and build an asset. While some in our industry have become fixated on capital aggregation, we’ll continue to help our companies raise the capital they need while maintaining ownership for themselves and investors. Remember, venture capital is a hell of drug.
A Love of the Weird and Wonderful
It’s been said that San Francisco is the only place you’ll hear multiple conversations about machine learning while walking down the street, but we deliberately avoid hot themes like that when investing. Our focus is on use cases — no matter if they take the form of real-time dev tools, a sumptuous reimagining of Sanka, or a clever solution for type II diabetes (as well as the occasional AI innovator).
Empathy for Founders
When I worked in Hollywood in the late 90s, I found that agents and producers lost their empathy for the talent (writers, actors, etc) and to them making movies and TV was simply a business. As a three time founder, with successes and failures, I will continue to live the value of bringing empathy to our founders who live on a rollercoaster of emotions, day in and day out.
I was recently in an Uber Pool from SFO to my office. The car was full and everyone went around and told what they did for a living. I went last and mentioned that I was an investor. The rest of the slog down the 101, I got pitched by the driver. The Googler who got out first patted me on the shoulder and said, “rookie mistake — next time you lie about your job!”
Some might find impromptu pitches annoying, but I’ll take them. Maybe I’m just in the honeymoon phase and enjoying the natural beauty, and unnatural vibrancy of the tech industry here, but if you’ve got a pitch, give me a shout @MicahJay1 or at Contact@FounderCollective.com. Also, remind me to remember my sweatshirt in August.