Jim Breyer on Dell, StumbleUpon & The Celtics

It’s been a busy day for venture capital firm Accel Partners. First, partner Jim Breyer agreed to join Dell’s board of directors. Just a few hours later, Accel was identified as one of the investors helping StumbleUpon’s founders to repurchase the company from eBay. So I spent a few moments on the phone with Breyer, and here’s an edited transcript:

Why join the Dell board of directors?

Breyer: We are very big believers at Accel in founders becoming more and more important over time — not just at the inception of the business. The very best companies are led by founders for a long period of time, and Michael Dell has obviously done so many of the right things in the right that that he is a model for entrepreneurial founders that are building their businesses.

Michael and I spent time together at the World Economic Forum in Davos this past January, and had a series of conversations. I went back and spoke to many of our entrepreneurs and my partners. The feeling was unaninous that working with Michael and Dell would be very valuable for the portfolio companies. We strongly believe that there are still enormous opportunities in some of the platforms being created today, like social networks and cloud computing and storage. Dell, in many ways, sits at the intersection of those things.

You’re on seven private boards, and Dell is your third public one. Is that your ceiling and, if not, how many more boards could you reasonably join?

We don’t have formal ceilings because every board is different in terms of workload. I certainly feel that I’m fully employed, but it’s manageable. I could certainly sit on another board or two in the consumer Internet or IT space.

But it all really depends on the board. Some boards, like Facebook’s, go through stages that are extremely time-intensive. Other boards that have fully built teams that might take less time.

Dell today announced that it will raise $500 million via a debt sale. Is Accel also investing in Dell?


StumbleUpon was VC-backed before being acquired by eBay in 2007, and now will be VC-backed again. Do you expect that we’ll begin seeing a lot more deals like this?

I don’t know how many of them will be done, but do know that we have a pipeline of a half dozen such opportunities. Sameer Ghandi is our point-person on a lot of them, and is joining the StunbleUpon board. From a long-term risk/reward standpoint, we like these deals if the original founders are involved.

You’re a limited partner in The Boston Celtics. How far are they going to go this year?

All the way. Hopefully after beating the Lakers in the Finals.