Successful Angel Senkut Takes Flight as VC

Thanks to a string of hits as an angel investor, former Google executive Aydin Senkut is well on his way toward raising a debut venture fund of $30 million.

So far, Senkut, whose angel fund is called Felicis Ventures, has raised about $16 million, according to a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Eight investors participated in the offering for Felicis Ventures II, according to the filing, which does not list a minimum investment amount.

Senkut, who was featured on the May 2006 cover of Venture Capital Journal for a story called “Googlaire Angels,” was not available for comment.

Kerry Murphy, operations manager for Senkut’s San Francisco-based firm, declined to comment.

Prior to raising capital for Felicis Ventures II, Senkut has invested his own money in startups. Since the launch of Felicis Ventures in 2006, Senkut has backed at least 47 startups, six of which have been acquired, according to the firm’s website.

Senkut was one of the first investors in the semantic search engine company Powerset, which sold to Microsoft in 2008 for more than $100 million. Powerset had previously raised $14 million from Felicis Ventures, Founders Fund and Foundation Capital, among others.

Senkut—who typically invests between $25,000 and $100,000 in a startup—also made out when marketing services startup VoiceStar sold for $28 million to Marchex in 2007. VoiceStar had previously raised less than $1 million from Felicis Ventures and First Round Capital.

Senkut was also an investor in Cake Financial, which raised an undisclosed amount from Felicis Ventures and Alsop-Louie before E-Trade bought it for an undisclosed price in January. And Senkut helped finance the personal finance site, which was acquired by Intuit for $170 million last September. had raised $31 million from Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures and Sherpalo Ventures, as well as Felicis Ventures.

Senkut left Google in 2005, after six years as a senior manager responsible for Asia Pacific strategic partner development and account management. In the year following the company’s $1.7 billion IPO in 2004, Senkut, newly rich, began designing his own logo and website, setting up his own phones, and arranging informational interviews for himself all over Silicon Valley, including with Sequoia Capital’s Mike Moritz.

Senkut isn’t the only former Google employee who has set his sights on becoming a successful investor. One of his closest colleagues and advisors is Georges Harik, who was one of Google’s first 10 engineers and is now an active angel investor. Among Harik’s investments is Bazaar Labs, a San Francisco-based startup that recently raised seed funding from Google Ventures and numerous angels, including YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim.

Another former Googler, Chris Sacca, who was once head of strategic initiatives at the company, has also been an active angel investor in recent years. He launched a $5 million seed fund called Lowercase Capital last fall.

The ex-Googler-turned-angel club also includes Paul Buchheit. Since leaving Google, where he was employee No. 23 and helped to create the first versions of Gmail, Buchheit co-founded FriendFeed, which was acquired by Facebook last summer. Among Buchheit’s more recent investments is San Francisco-based advertising platform MyLikes, which has raised $630,000 in seed funding from such investors as Harik, Senkut and Sacca.

Still, few ex-Googlers have raised outside funding or joined traditional venture firms. One exception is Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, former president for Google’s Asia-Pacific and Latin American operations. Cassidy joined Accel Partners last summer as an entrepreneur-in-residence and she has since become CEO of fashion website Polyvore.

In addition to Senkut and Murphy, Felicis Ventures employs principal Sundeep Peechu, a former product manager at Intel Corp.

A sampling of Senkut’s investments over the past year include:

CrowdFlower, a crowd-sourced hiring website, which has raised more than $6 million from Felicis, Bessemer Venture Partners, Freestyle Capital, Founders Fund, K9 Ventures, Quest Venture Partners and Trinity Ventures.

KISSMetrics, an analytics platform, which recently raised an undisclosed amount from Felicis, Polaris Venture Partners, SoftTech VC, True Ventures and individual investors Dave McClure, Shervin Pishevar and Bobby Yazdani., an online shopping engine for local merchants, which has raised $4 million in Series A funding from Felicis, True Ventures and individual investors Ron Conway, Chris Dixon, Jeff Clavier and Aaron Patzer.

• Posterous, a blog publishing platform, which has raised $4.4 million in Series A funding from Felicis, Founder Collective, Lowercase Capital, Redpoint Ventures, SV Angel, Trinity Ventures and others.

• And Practice Fusion, an electronic health record services startup, which has raised between $5 million and $7 million from Felicis, Band of Angels and Morgenthaler Ventures. —Constance Loizos