Conway Helped Facebook Grow Up

Apparently the kid entrepreneurs do listen to their elder benefactors.

Ron Conway

said that after he invested in an angel round in social networking company Facebook, the company execs changed their passcode to gain entry into their first building to “Conway.” Conway said they did that as a daily reminder that they now had adult supervision.

Conway told this anecdote last month while he was honored at the 7th Annual BizWorld Luncheon, which gave tribute to him for his support of business education in the classroom. Conway, founder and managing partner of Angel Investors and an early investor in Facebook, also served as an unofficial advisor to Sean Parker, who later became Facebook’s first president and was involved in the company’s early pitches to investors.

After the luncheon and his speech, Conway said that he’s never told anyone before about Facebook changing its building passcode to his name.

Lacob’s Experience—It’s in the Game

Who would have thought that a VC’s investment experience would play out on the hardcourt?

But such is the case. Last month, on the sports radio station KNBR-AM in San Francisco, we heard a commercial promoting the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

Nothing unusual about that, except that the radio spot focused on new team co-owner and onetime Kleiner Perkins investor Joe Lacob, who along with Peter Guber, bought the basketball franchise last year for $450 million. The radio ad mentioned how Lacob backed AOL and Electronic Arts, and is now behind the Warriors. Apparently, we’re led to believe, he knows a good investment when he sees one.

At VCJ, we can’t remember the last time a local sports team owner was highlighted over the team. But then we took a gander at the standings. The Warriors stood at 9-18 in the west, as of Dec. 21.

It made us wonder, too, if other VCs had the right stuff to own a team. Would Tim Draper, managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and onetime investor in Hotmail and Skype, want to buy the San Francisco 49ers? We’re guessing he has no interest.

Confessions of a VC: Replacing a Management Spells Trouble

Remember the last time you heard a venture capitalist say: “That didn’t work”?

Chances are they were talking about swapping out one management team for another. It unsettles a startup, soaks up board time and can cost money. Or so said several VCs at the recent AlwaysOn Venture Summit Silicon Valley 2010.

One common misperception is that VCs jump quickly into deals without thinking. The opposite is frequently the case.

GGV Capital Partner Jeff Richards said on average he spends nine months getting to know a company before investing. Prior to putting cash into music steamer Pandora Media Inc. in June, GGV followed the startup for four years. Part of the “getting-to-know-you” is becoming familiar with company management. When betting on outcomes worth hundreds of millions of dollars, nothing may be more important.

The top thing GGV looks for is a good chief executive, Richards said. Things often don’t work out well when a venture firm needs to swap one management team for another, he added.

Briefly…John Doerr, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, was one of 20 U.S. business leaders who met last month with President Barack Obama to discuss how they view 2011, which the White House hopes will see stronger economic growth and hiring. Others included Greg Brown, co-CEO of Motorola Inc.; John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems; and Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel Corp. We understand that Doerr brought up the net neutrality proceeding during his chat with the president. Doerr told Obama he was supportive of the net neutrality proposal on which the FCC was to vote late last month, after the VCJ deadline. No surprise that Doerr emphasized the importance of regulatory certainty, which he said the net neutrality proposal would provide. …

William Davidow

, who continues as an active advisor to Mohr Davidow Ventures as a partner emeritus, will be discussing his new book at a signing at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park on Jan. 19. Davidow’s latest tome, called “Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet,” is due out this month. The book More info about the book signing is on the MDV website (

Want A Job? The Accel Website Features 998

Want a job?

There are 998 of them listed on the Accel Partners site (as of mid-December), some in Silicon Valley, others in states elsewhere. So at a time of high national unemployment, you might think these jobs would be snapped up, right?

Why they haven’t leads right into Joe Schoendorf’s big gripe–that the U.S. education system is failing the country when it comes to math and science. Schoendorf, who helps Accel portfolio companies establish global business relationships, especially in China and Japan, last month joined the chorus of venture investors who have complained about the nation’s shortage of engineering and science graduates.

But he did so with a twist. He says he is not worried about the short-term impact. “I’ve never seen more fundamental innovation,” he said. What Schoendorf seems to fear most is the nation’s leadership role in the next phase of economic evolution, an event on par with the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution: the transformation of billions of people in China, India and Brazil into the middle class.

“We’re not in the position to win unless we change [education] pretty quickly,” he said.