You may have noticed a significant decay in my blogging activity recently. My excuse is that over the last few months Jason Whitmire and I have started a new venture firm called BlueYard Capital and that took up a fair amount of attention and time. With the help of our entrepreneurs, our co-investors and a whole bunch of other folks who believed in us (you know who you are) we were very fortunate to have been able to raise a $120m early stage fund that will be based in Berlin and invest across Europe.
Over the years we have developed a strong conviction around how entrepreneurs are using technology to change our markets and societies – and what we enjoy investing in. So BlueYard will be a thesis driven firm; and this is what we are thinking about most as we get started:
- The decentralisation of markets: entrepreneurs will continue to build networks and platforms on the web (and hopefully the blockchain) that enable individuals and organisations to transact directly amongst each other, while reducing the power of gatekeepers and in other cases creating entirely new markets. We are also excited about entrepreneurs opening up markets to the uncredentialed.
- The democratisation of capabilities: entrepreneurs have long been democratising technology; that, in turn is democratising capabilities, empowering users and organisations to do things they couldn’t before, or do them a lot better, cheaper and faster. Over time these enabling technologies can evolve into meaningful platforms and / or networks. Even though a lot of empowerment has happened through desktop and mobile internet, we think we are just getting started.
- The liberation of data: entrepreneurs can make data more free, usable, portable and positively influence the balance of power over data*. We think a lot of interesting things will happen at the intersection of control, value and meaning from data.
So we are trying not to think of the world too much in terms of specific sectors – but rather what the macro level economic and social changes are that technology is driving. There are a few other things we are excited about and we’ll make sure to keep an open mind. And of course we are most excited about the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs every day. This is why we get out of bed in the morning and don’t mind chewing through a topic on 2am on a Saturday morning.
At its core BlueYard is a product for entrepreneurs, everything follows from that. That is our guiding principle.
As we start this journey there are a few other things we have committed to:
- We are prepared to shut down BlueYard after just a few fund generations (or even after the first one). We don’t want to run into the empire or legacy building trap; we want to make sure we are mentally prepared to stop doing this at any time, especially if we are not an attractive product to entrepreneurs and LPs anymore. However we fully appreciate it can take a long time to build a great venture firm.
- During this time we plan to expand the partnership very, very gradually and only with people we have known for many years. To that extent we are very excited that Chad Fowler is joining us as a Venture Partner, adding an important element to our DNA: he is an extremely experienced, entrepreneurial and capable technology leader based with us in Berlin.
- BlueYard will always be an equal partnership – if and when we expand the partnership, everyone will always have equal economics in the funds they are involved in.
- We will always be a partner driven firm – entrepreneurs will be dealing with people who can deliver the firm and make decisions; we will not outsource key entrepreneur interactions to junior investment staff.
- We place an extreme value on honesty and transparency – between ourselves and especially with our entrepreneurs and limited partners.
- We will never enter the maximise-assets-under-management game; small & focused is beautiful to us.
But those are just words; actions matter. So it’s back to work now.
* I wanted to keep this blog post as short as possible; but there is so much to say on each of these topics (and many other folks, too many to post here, have written great pieces on each) – but especially on the liberation of data topic. I asked Chad to look over a draft of this blog post and I didn’t want you to miss his spot-on comment on the data piece “I think an important missing aspect here is that liberated data is data you own and the central gatekeepers DON’T. This means privacy. It also creates new problems. How do you get the benefits of centralized data (intelligence) without giving the data to a central authority? I think this is a big part of it. Liberated data also means portability. Can I use my data to do my own analyses? Can I blend it with other sources which I also own to create richer intelligence? Can I move from one service to another without starting over?” This is an important debate we are having every day. It also mirrors some of the great “server vs client power” conversations (amongst many others) we’ve had with Brad over at USV who has played no small role in sharpening our thinking on many topics. As are others, we’ll be thinking a lot about these topics — and hopefully acting on them too.