Trading Places –

Don’t expect to catch Ed Olkkola, a general partner with Austin Ventures, in the office after May 2. From May 3 to May 11, he’ll be racing his 2000 Ford Lightning pickup truck in the Cannonball Run. (Seriously. It’s like the movie – only without Sammy Davis Jr. or Burt Reynolds.)

Never heard of the Lightning? It’s a fully outfitted racing truck with a custom-built 32 valve, supercharged, intercooled 5.4 liter engine under the hood. The rear wheels pull 525 horsepower at 6,400 RPM, and in late March, Olkkola ran it over 165 mph in the straights at the Texas World Speedway.

Not that the law-abiding citizen would ever exceed the speed limit in the grueling 5,000-mile road race. As he jokes on his Web site: “Of course, nothing illegal ever happens, no one ever gets hurt, accidents never happen, so it is really safe and fun for all (disclaimer: last sentence just in case the wives stumble across our Web site. : )”

After coming in third in the SUV category in 2000 and second last year, Olkkola’s got his eyes on the prize. If you want to get under the hood of the Lightning or the 1954 Chevy the team is restoring for the 2003 race, check out his site

Testosterone Break

If you thought all the angels had flown the coop, you thought wrong. The Dallas Women Angels swooped down to encourage more women to become entrepreneurs and to partake in early-stage investing.

“Women just now are accumulating wealth and money that they’re willing to invest,” says Valerie Freeman, co-founder of Women Angels and CEO of the Imprimis Group, a Dallas staffing concern.

The new fund will likely invest between $200,000 and $600,000 in each deal, and typically will co-invest with other institutions or individuals. The group’s leaders say their role is to screen companies, coach the people running them and to bring promising firms to the attention of with deep pockets.

2054: A VC Odyssey

We always follow up on tips, even if they sound a little farfetched. When we received an anonymous email that Mike Moritz planned to leave Sequoia Capital, we went straight to the source. “I currently intend to leave in 2054 – when I will be 100,” came the reply. OK, Mike, we’re going to hold you to that.

Dynamic Duo Redux

It was only a matter of time before entrepreneur-turned-VC Dado Banatao was reunited with his favorite partner, Ron Yara. Banatao, notorious for avoiding the press, brought Yara on as a general partner at Tallwood Venture Capital in December. We only just got word of it, as part of a tip that Tallwood is raising a new fund. Tallwood, started in June 2000, didn’t have a formal first fund; all the money came out of Banatao’s own pocket. As a co-founder of >Chips & Technologies and S3, (along with Yara), he’s done pretty well for himself. Now he and Yara – along with another new general partner, former Mayfield GP George Pavlov – are out raising their first formal VC fund. A knowledgeable source says that they hope to close on $150 million this summer, with two-thirds of the money coming from traditional institutional investors and one-third from the three GPs.

Race for the Gold

After turning around what many believed would be a troubled Winter Olympics, “O” chief and venture capitalist Mitt Romney looks like the favorite to win the race for governor of Massachusetts. The former head of Bain Capital, Romney will likely be the only Republican in the race. That spells bad news for Chris Gabrielli of Bessemer Venture Partners. After a failed bid for Congress in 1998, he decided to run for that office again alongside Shannon O’Brien, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. With Romney in the race, it looks like Gabrielli may once again be on the short end of the electoral stick.

Imprez-ive Hire

Former President Bill Clinton has jumped into the VC business, courtesy of longtime friend and billionaire Ronald W. Burke. Clinton will be a “senior advisor” to two funds that Burke has set up to invest in low-income urban areas, the $200 million Yucaipa Corporate Initiatives Fund and the $560 million Yucaipa American Fund. The ex prez will be paid based on fund performance.

Get Well, Brook

Here’s to a speedy recovery for Brook [Kleiner Perkins Caufield &] Byers. He underwent surgery after injuring his shoulder while skiing in Tahoe.

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