Yesterday we announced our new venture growth fund and Jeremy Phillips as our newest member to lead our growth team. We are ecstatic to have Jeremy on board. We had known him for many years, first as a colleague then as a friend. We tried to recruit him unsuccessfully a number of times – that is until very recently - when we finally had to resort to threats. We stand to gain a lot from his experience and we all look forward to working with him for many years to come.
We have been quite reflective over the last few months as we approach our tenth anniversary. We started with a small team of 5, and grew to a team of 17 in multiple locations. We witnessed 4 weddings, 14 babies and fortunately no funerals. We have had colleagues turn COE’s and hedge fund managers. But most importantly, we have had the honor of meeting countless amazing entrepreneurs with big dreams and the good fortune of investing in over 100 companies.
This growth fund is a huge step for all of us at Spark. It is a new strategic direction that we believe will help us evolve with the ever-changing landscape in venture investing as we brace for the next 10 years.
Spark circa 2006
There was interesting article in Business Insider a few days ago:
Researchers: NSA Infiltrated RSA Encryption Security More Deeply Than Previously Known http://www.businessinsider.com/r-exclusive-nsa-infiltrated-rsa-security-more-deeply-than-thought—-study-2014-31 via @bi_contributors
I always thought that the Tor Browser and Bitcoin are a bit suspicious too. When I first tried out the Tor Browser and found Silk Road I could not believe that it existed, so I went digging. Here is the inception story of the Tor Browser from the Tor Project web site:
Tor was originally designed, implemented, and deployed as a third-generation onion routing project of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. It was originally developed with the U.S. Navy in mind, for the primary purpose of protecting government communications. Today, it is used every day for a wide variety of purposes by normal people, the military, journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, and many others.
And here is a description of Bitcoin from Wikipedia:
Satoshi Nakamoto (中本 哲史 Nakamoto Satoshi?) is a person or group of persons that created the Bitcoin protocol and reference software, Bitcoin-Qt. In 2008, Nakamoto published a paper on The Cryptography Mailing list at metzdowd.com describing the Bitcoin digital currency. In 2009, he released the first Bitcoin software that launched the network and the first units of the Bitcoin currency, called bitcoins.
Apparently his name is actually A. Satoshi Nakamoto; in Japanese you say people’s names backwards – that makes his initials NSA.
If I were the head of an international intelligence organization, the moment I realized the power of internet, I would freak out that all my current intelligence methods would mean nothing in this new world. So I would quickly start devising ways to listen in - maybe promote cryptography with a back door, and a routing protocol that everybody thinks is secure and untraceable. Then I’d throw in a currency that no one allegedly controls but where every transaction is recorded so I can see how money flows.
And if I was really devious, I would make it so obvious that nobody would believe it is me!
I would like to extend a big hug and a huge congratulations to the Oculus team. A few moments ago Facebook announced that they have agreed to acquire the company. The Oculus team will now continue their vision of bringing true virtual reality to the masses under the FB umbrella. Given the audacity of their vision, this is an amazing combination. Tapping into Facebook’s resources and their vast network of users is something we could only dream of until recently. Everyone is ecstatic about the recognition and the endless possibilities this combination may unlock.
It has been short and sweet for me since we co-led the Series A. For all of us at Spark and for all our investors, I would like to thank everyone at Oculus. I have been a fan boy since day one and watched in awe over the last year as Brendan and his excellent young team expanded and executed at break-neck speed, from one impossible task to the next, with ease.
I am sorry I will not be there to see the full story unfold but I am sure what comes out of all of this will be magnificent.
Just before sunset at Mt. Alvernia
We are very happy to announce that we have co-lead an investment with our friends at Canaan Partners in Orchard – a company that is squarely focused on the online lending space.
Matt Burton, the co-founder and CEO of the company, was a very early employee and a rising star at Admeld. Soon after Google’s acquisition of Admeld, he had a bunch of time in his hands. So he started dabbling in Lending Club.
In our first meeting, a couple of months after he left Google, he had retained the help of his co-founder Angela Ceresnie - and the two were developing models to invest their own money more effectively. He had also started to manage a growing number of other accounts for his friends. It had gotten so unwieldy that Matt was thinking about building software to make it easier for himself and maybe setup a fund as a business.
The next time I saw Matt, he had already assembled a great team of co-founders, and they had big ideas on how lending marketplaces would evolve and how they wanted to lead that change.
Financial Services industry is already going through a major transformation. The onslaught of innovation has already started in lending, credit, trading. Even the sovereign currency system is under attack by young smart companies. Orchard has just joined the battle and we are very excited to be part of their journey.
Message from my daughter!
Today, we are very happy to announce our investment in Superpedestrian – a company that is looking to revolutionize urban travel. I have been a huge fan of Assaf and Carlo and their groundbreaking work at the SENSEable City Lab at MIT. Some of you may have heard of their amazing creation - the Copenhagen Wheel - especially if you were a fan of the show Weeds. With an MIT license, Superpedestrian is the official home of the Copenhagen Wheel.
In this new era of crowd-funded consumer electronic start-ups, a 3D printer and some knowledge of electronics may lead to magical products. And some of these products may garner popular interest and create brand new categories. But, taking these products to market in many cases requires their creators to think through and innovate in areas beyond their initial inspirations. It requires a lot of hard work and capital.
The Copenhagen Wheel already has a cult-like following and Assaf and his team have been very hard at work to commercialize their creation into a safe consumer grade product. We are very excited to have the opportunity to lend the team our capital and our support to take this product out of the labs and into a reality.
If you are ever in Cambridge, you might want to stop by at the Superpedestrian World HQ and take a ride in one of their pre-production bikes.