Social Scene: Bill Tai Gets Some (Big) Air, So Cal VC Puts $9.9M Estate on Market, Boise VC’s Yellow Lab Stars in New Feature

In this week’s Social Scene, Bill Tai of Charles River Ventures is as high as a kite … a Southern California VC throws in a Rolls to try to move his $9.9 million estate … Norwest Venture Partners’ GPs and friends celebrate the firm’s big 5-0 … a high-profile VC in China makes news for the wrong reason … birthday wishes for Andy Nibley, Caryn Marooney and Diane Schreiber … and Maggie, Boise VC Mark Solon’s yellow Lab, is the star of our new Pet of the Week feature.


Getting some air

Bill Tai

Bill Tai is as high as a kite this week.

The general partner at Charles River Ventures — and sponsored kite surfer — is co-hosting his fifth Mai Tai Kite Camp in Maui this week. Tai, who has blogged about his passion for years, co-founded the kite-surfing/networking event with pro kite surfer Susi Mai.

A website for the event bills it as “a gathering of extraordinary entrepreneurs, innovators and athletes. Participants contribute their energy to a shared experience centered around the kiting lifestyle. Lasting friendships form in an informal setting as we learn from each others successes and failures in all of our various endeavors, whilst mastering the complex sport of kiting.”

About 150 people turned out for this year’s event, which runs from May 18 to 21, according to Alyssa Richard, founder of and a Mai Tai attendee who filed a story about her experience with The Globe and Mail.

Susi Mai

“Kite surfing and start-ups have more in common than meets the eye. It’s only natural for entrepreneurs to fall for the sport,” Richard writes. “Kite surfing requires a love of adrenalin, the ability to make quick decisions under pressure, and the confidence to face challenging obstacles (even if they’re moving at 25-plus knots). Launching a company in similarly turbulent waters can be a hurdle, but that determination to succeed, to try new things and to overcome any obstacles is what will ultimately make my business, and my kite surfing skills, a success.”

Curious about other tech founders who are into kite surfing? Check out this slideshow at

Hoffman not likely to spread the wealth around

Happy Hoffman
Happy Hoffman

Now that LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is a billionaire (at least on paper), sellers of luxury cars and homes are probably licking their chops. But if his past behavior is a guide, LinkedIn’s largest shareholder won’t be going on a shopping spree any time soon. (Following LinkedIn’s IPO on Thursday, Hoffman’s 18.9 million shares were worth $1.79 billion.)

In a profile of Hoffman in peHUB sister publication Venture Capital Journal last November, Tom Stein writes:

But unlike other high-flying Silicon Valley operators, Hoffman eschews the trappings of success. He lives in a modest home with his wife and drives a 10-year-old Acura. He almost upgraded to a $75,000 Audi A8 a few years back, but then he came across an intriguing cleantech company called Nanosolar. Hoffman confesses he knows little about solar technology, but he asked himself: Would I rather take a gamble on this cool startup or purchase a shiny new car? Bye-bye, Audi.

VC throws in a Rolls to help sell estate

1961 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II

Thomas Gephart, founder and managing partner of Southern California venture firm Ventana Capital, is selling a palatial estate — and he has thrown in a vintage Rolls Royce to sweeten the deal, according to the Orange County Register.

The property, located in Coto de Caza, Calif., is listed for $9.99 million. The OCR reports that the estate sits on “2.2 acres, with six bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. Each bedroom suite in the 9,500-square foot French Normandy-style home has its own balcony. The house itself also has a four-car garage.”

A car collector, Gephart is also throwing in a 1961 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II.

See pics of the Rolls and the estate here.

Gephart founded Ventana in 1974, and he raised his first institutional venture fund in 1984, according to Ventana’s website. The firm raised five funds with combined capital of about $93 million, most recently the Technology Gateway Partnership II, a $20 million vehicle raised n 2002, according to Thomson Reuters (publisher of peHUB).

Ventana set out to raise a $200 million sixth fund in 2007, but Gephart told Xconomy in March 2010 that the fundraising was unsuccessful.

In case you weren’t invited to Norwest’s exclusive party

Norwest Venture Partners celebrated its 50th birthday on Wednesday and my colleague Alastair Goldfisher joined in the festivities. Alastair filed the following report:

Photo by Gary Wagner
Photo by Gary Wagner

If you wanted to get a sense of how the VC industry changed over the last 50 years, then you should’ve attended Norwest Venture Partners’ invitation-only event on Wednesday at the Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto, Calif.

More than 500 VCs, CEOs, attorneys, media folks and others were on hand as the Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm, which started out in Minneapolis in 1961, celebrated half a century of having invested in more than 500 companies.

On display were slideshows, displaying some the firm’s investments, such as PeopleSoft, RackSpace and Tivoli.

One of the big talking points was a timelime that showed the firm’s evolution over the years and indicated how Norwest had backed such divergent companies as Cray Computer and Dairy Queen in the early days.

“That’s amazing to think they had to source a restaurant chain and a computer company back in the day,” said Partner Tim Chang, who joined Norwest in 2006. “We’re no longer generalists. The industry has become so much more specialized now.”

Norwest Managing Partner Promod Haque (L) and Open-Silicon CEO Naveed Sherwani. Photo by A. Goldfisher
Promod Haque (L) and Naveed Sherwani. Photo by Alastair Goldfisher

Overall, the anniversary bash had the feel of a holiday party, but without the tacky Christmas sweaters. Partners from the team’s India office were on hand, as were portfolio company CEOs from around the world.

Also on hand were a number of friends of the firm, such as former San Francisco 49er Ronnie Lott and Open-Silicon CEO and co-founder Naveed Sherwani, and VCs from throughout Silicon Valley, including Dixon Doll and Pete Moran from DCM, Kate Mitchell from Scale Venture Partners, Rob Chandra from Bessemer Venture Partners, Phil Sanderson from IDG Ventures, Alfred Lin from Sequoia Capital and Kevin Fong from GSR Ventures.

One of the more popular VCs at the party — outside of Norwest Managing Director Promod Haque — was Ann Winblad from Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. She seemed to constantly have a group of of people surrounding her.

Did he do it all for the glory of love?


I am a man who will fight for your honor.
I’ll be the hero you’ve been dreaming of.
We’ll live forever,
knowing together that we
Did it all for the glory of love.

Did Wang Gongquan take “Glory of Love” by Peter Cetera too seriously? We will probably never know.  All we know for now is that he ditched his wife and high-profile VC job to be with his mistress.

Wang Gongquan
Wang Gongquan

And we know this because Wang broadcast his indiscretion to the world.

“Friends, relatives and colleagues, I am giving up everything and eloping with Wang Qin,” Wang wrote on microblogging site on Monday.

Wang is co-founder of CDH Venture Partners. Wang Qin is the founder of Jiangsu Zhongfu Science and Technology Industrial Group Co.

On Wednesday, Wang shared more of his feelings on, writing “There are so many appointments and responsibilities that I can not make, so I will not turn on my mobile phone just yet. I don’t care if my reputation is ruined.”

The “news” has been all over the Chinese media. Chinese news site reported that Wang’s “declaration had been shared more than 73,000 times and drew over 37,000 comments by Wednesday.”

For more on this story, see the entertaining post by my colleague Mark Boslet.

And for all you romantics now hankering to hear Peter Cetera, here you go. Sniff. Thank me later.



Diane Schreiber, a senior managing director at Sparkpr, a PR agency that reps several VC firms, including Azure Capital Partners, Index Ventures and Virgin Green Fund. Born in New York, Schreiber celebrates her birthday next Tuesday, May 24.

Andy Nibley, CEO of Yieldex, an ad inventory management startup with $12 million in backing from, First Round Capital, Madrona Venture Group and Sequel Venture Partners. Nibley, who is from Selma, Ala., celebrates his birthday next Wednesday, May 25.

Caryn Marooney, director of tech communications for Facebook and co-founder of the Outcast PR firm. The New York native celebrates her birthday is next Wednesday, May 25.


Who doesn’t like pets? OK, don’t answer that. Most people love pets, so we’re introducing a new feature in this week’s Social Scene: Pet of the Week. Got an adorable dog, cat, monkey, turtle or snake you’d like to share with the world? Shoot me a photo along with his/her name, breed, age and a funny or interesting anecdote. (


This week, let me introduce you to a gorgeous Yellow Lab named Maggie, owner of Mark Solon, managing partner of Highway 12 Ventures in Boise. Maggie, 9, is named after a Grateful Dead song, “Sugar Magnolia,” as are all five of Solon’s pets.

Solon shares the following anecodote about Maggie:

“When she was two years old, we traveled Back East and left her on a dog farm for a week. When we returned, the farm owner told us that a Boise K-9 officer observed her and wanted to test her for the K-9 department. He contacted us and told us that she had all the skills to be a top K-9 dog.

“For my wife Pam and I, Maggie’s one of our children and, like parents, we didn’t want to hold her back, so we agreed to have her assessed. It didn’t surprise us that she passed the test with flying colors. Ultimately, despite the K-9 officer telling us that she deserved to put her special skills to work, we couldn’t imagine putting Maggie in harm’s way. Despite a lifetime of less excitement than she might have had as a K-9, we’ve never regretted keeping her. She’s a beautiful and proud girl and we love her.”


Have a personal tidbit you’d like to share about yourself or a friend/colleague? Email me at or DM on Twitter @laragon. I’m looking for birthdays, baby announcements, marriages, new car/boat/house/fill-in-the-blank purchases, funny quotes, vacation pics, snaps from industry events — you get the picture.

Reporting by Lawrence Aragon and Joanna Glasner