Why Natalie Portman is hot for VCs

The buzz around Natalie Portman’s recent visit to Silicon Valley was that she was pitching venture capitalists on a new “life-casting” video project a la Justin.tv.

The truth turned out to be much more mundane. Our sources tell us Portman was actually pitching VCs—including George Zachary of Charles River Ventures—on FINCA International, a micro-lending organization she is championing. Portman’s visit was part of the Village Banking Campaign, a drive to launch community lending banks in 100,000 locations to make over 1 million loans by 2010.

On a related note, we are curious why Steve Jurvetson removed a photo from his Flickr account that showed Tim Draper holding Portman in the air. The photo made its way around the Internet, appearing on sites such as Egotastic.com, a celebrity gossip blog. But when we looked for it on Flickr, we found it had been replaced by a stick-figure image.

No word from Jurvetson about why he pulled the pic. Could it be that the Academy Award-nominated actress pitched a fit?

Dennis menaced by 13

It wasn’t the number 81 (his age) that prompted Reid Dennis to start easing out of Institutional Venture Partners. He recently joked that he decided to not be a GP in IVP’s 12th fund because of his fear of another number: 13.

“What comes after XII—XII B? You certainly don’t want XIII,” he said during his acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award at an International Business Forum venture capital conference in San Francisco.

Dennis can take some comfort in the fact that several established firms have conquered triskaidekaphobia and raised a 13th fund without suffering any bad luck or sudden reversal of fortune. Firms that have a fund bearing the often feared Roman numeral in their names include Charles River Ventures and Oak Investment Partners.

LPs surprised by Moritz comment

LPs love to gossip, and the latest hot dish involves Sequoia Capital’s most recent annual meeting.

During a presentation on VC market trends, Mike Moritz discussed how appreciative he and Sequoia are of company founders who build and stay with their companies. Then he made a brief mention of a few entrepreneurs who he felt did not match that description. Among those he called out, according to LP sources, was Sean Parker, the Napster, Plaxo and Facebook veteran who is now a partner with The Founders Fund, a San Francisco venture firm run by former PayPal execs.

The animosity between Moritz and Parker apparently stems from Plaxo, an online contact service company that Parker co-founded. He served as its president until 2004 when he supposedly was forced out by Moritz and the other VCs on Plaxo’s board. Still, LPs were surprised to hear a fellow VC called out, particularly when the VC firm in question is in the midst of raising its second fund. (We should note that Moritz never mentioned The Founders Fund by name.)

For his part, Moritz thinks the issue is much ado about nothing. He said via email: “We expressed our ever increasing admiration and appreciation for the founders of companies who elect to build great, enduring enterprises (either as standalone entities or as part of larger companies), rather than the fast-money crowd who place their personal interests above those of their co-founders, employees and other stakeholders—including all of Sequoia Capital’s limited partners. We’ve always felt like this—it’s nothing new.”

Feld backs political newcomer Polis

Venture investor Brad Feld is backing repeat-entrepreneur Jared Polis, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress from Colorado’s second Congressional District. The 32-year-old Polis is gunning for a seat vacated by Mark Udall, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Polis co-founded BlueMountainArts.com, an e-greeting card company that was the 14th most trafficked website in 1999 when Excite@Home bought the company for $780 million in cash and stock.

Feld, a former VC with Mobius Venture Capital, says that he has known Polis for the past decade and they have worked together on a number of projects. “He’s a phenomenal human being,” Feld recently wrote on his blog.