Feb 23 2007

Venture Capital at Altitude

Every year the Colorado Venture Capital Association (soon to morph into the Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association after combining with similar associations in a few neighboring states) puts on the “it” conference for Colorado venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and the lawyers, bankers, search firms, etc. that support us – Venture Capital in the Rockies. I love this event – it’s a great chance to see the best of Colorado deal flow and it concentrates pretty much everyone in the region who has anything to do with venture in one place for the better part of two days with plenty of opportunities to connect, catch up, share ideas, gossip, etc (oh – and did I mention that the conference is in Beaver Creek?). The goal of the conference is to draw out of state venture capitalists and show off the best companies in the area that are currently raising capital.

This year was outstanding. We had 30 presenting companies and attendance maxed out at around 250 people. I’ve been on the selection committee for the conference for the past 5 years and I can tell you that this year clearly stands apart from the rest in terms of the overall quality of the companies that submitted. We’ve always had an excellent group of presenting companies, but this year the bar was raised (as I described to someone at the conference, this year we had both the best overall group of presenting companies and also the best group of companies that didn’t make the cut that we’ve had in my time with the conference – there were a bunch of really interesting businesses that we just didn’t have room for).

You can see a full list of the presenting companies here. Three of these – NewsGator, Rally and Oxlo – were from the Mobius portfolio. David Cohen from ColoradoStartups has a nice presenting company recap. Also, you might want to check out what Dan Primack from PE Wire had to say about his experience at VCIR here.


I thought I’d highlight a few of the company presentation that I attended:

  • Indicative Software – Indicative is an app management company that was spun out of HP a few years ago. I have to admit that after investments in Dante Group, Cyanea and Xaffire (all application management businesses), I have a warm spot in my heart for Indicative. They actually bought some technology from Xaffire a few years ago and I was glad to see that they were starting to put this to good use in their product. Sounds like the business is doing extremely well – revenue of $5m last year which more than doubled from the previous year and a great list of customers.
  • Me.dium – I love Me.dium and have been on their private beta since it started. They’re about to roll out more broadly – be sure to watch for it. Me.dium gives context to your browsing by allowing you to see the behavior of other people (‘friends’ and otherwise) who have similar search behaviors. You can use the service to discover new relevant web pages, surf in a group and to see what your circle of friends is doing on-line. Very slick.
  • Adam Aircraft – So I have to admit that I feel a little bad that I blew off the Rally presentation to go see Adam Aircraft (then again, I know the Rally business extremely well and how many times do you get to hear a pitch from a company building a new kind of jet airplane…). I don’t understand much about the Adam Aircraft business other than 1) it’s incredibly capital intensive (they’ve raised $180m in equity to date and are about to close another $125m in debt on top of that) and 2) planes are cool. For me the presentation went something like “Bla bla bla bla . . . [picture of really cool plane] . . . bla bla …” and so on. Actually what Adam Air is working on is pretty amazing (a very cheap, very light jet plane) and given the smart people around the table (not to mention the backlog slide they put up), I suspect they’ll be pretty successful.
  • OpenLogic – OpenLogic has a platform for deploying and managing open source projects. They’ve “certified” 250 open source projects and their software allows companies to more safely implement open source stacks (OL takes care of ensuring the latest versions of each project is available and tests new versions for problems and adverse interactions with other programs). I’ve been following this business for a while – I looked at the Series A a couple of years ago and have been testing out some ideas on open source investing for a while. It can be a difficult area to map out venture type returns, but for those that are successful (such as GlueCode was with a very similar business model) there’s definitely money to be made.
  • Outlast – Ok – this was pretty high on the cool factor as well. Outlast produces temperature regulating yarns and fabricks. These were originally developed for NASA but are in relatively wide use in outdoor gear and other clothing (while the company generated $15m in revenue last year they indicated that this translated to their yarn being used in about $750m worth of finished product). Their technology is apparently very efficient at regulating temperature and as a result keeps the wearer or Outlast based garments in a tighter temperature zone. This is one of two local companies with groundbreaking technology in the yarn/fabric business (the other is Cocona which also has groundbreaking technology but did not present). I guess you’d expect to find these businesses in Boulder given the area’s strong affinity for outdoor recreation.
  • ThoughtEquity Motion – ThoughtEquity is one of those companies that took a while to figure out what it was going to be when it grew up but once it did, really started to take off. I’ve known the founder/CEO Kevin Schaff since well before he came up with the original idea behind THM and then watched for several years as he morphed his original idea behind the company into the leading distributor of stock video footage in the country (the Getty Images of video). They didn’t completely invent this market, but came pretty close and while there are few other companies that license stock video footage, THM is far and away the market leader. Kevin is one of those entrepreneurs who is going to keep at it until he’s got it right – he’s clearly done this with THM – it was one of the most exciting growth stories at the conference.

So mark your calendars for next year (sometime in late February – the exact date hasn’t been set yet) and come join us – I promise it will be worthwhile.