The Connected World of VCs and Tech Entrepreneurs

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is not a refrain heard frequently when talking about successful VCs and startups. That’s probably because it’s not true. You have to know your stuff to make it in the tech world, either as an entrepreneur or as an investor.

But connections matter. And the tendency is high for folks to stay closely associated with their former cohorts when it comes time to launch new enterprises.

Just take a look at this month’s cover story by Joanna Glasner. In it, she writes about the interconnected depths in which former employees and investors of VMware, AdMob and Tesla Motors have leveraged their relationships when starting up something new. Check out our cover story and how laden VMware is with links to a number of tech companies and investors, including Kirk Bowman of Accel Partners and Pete Sonsini of New Enterprise Associates, the subject for this month’s issue.

It’s a story we’ve heard before in the tech world. The most famous example for the longest time had to do with the “Traitorous Eight,” a group which included eventual VC pioneer Eugene Kleiner, who all left Shockley Semiconductor and helped give birth to Silicon Valley.

More recently, Google, PayPal and Facebook have made their marks by creating disaporas of talent that continue to splinter off into the tech and venture communities.

What’s more, there are likely more associations out there, probably right underneath my nose. I thought about that when editing this month’s Entrepreneurial Spotlight by Constance Loizos, who wrote about Mike McCue, co-founder of Flipboard. McCue is a former Microsoft employee who co-founded Flipboard with Evan Doll, a one time Apple employee. I then began to think of this as new game and to look at whether they had overlapping links.

One of the angel investors in Flipboard is Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and McCue now sits on the board of Twitter. And let’s see, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is an investor in Flipboard, and, hmm, I wonder if that’s how the firm came to invest in Twitter in late 2010. Oh, and Kleiner’s board representative at Flipboard is Ellen Pao, who used to be with BEA Systems. …

OK, you get the idea. Connections matter. Go to the cover story, read about the new mafia families spinning out of VMware, AdMob and Tesla. The diasporas will continue to grow, no doubt, so tell me if we’ve missed a connection on our lists.

And if you want to share details about a new company that is building up its own expansive ecosystem, let me know.