Almost seven years ago, in May 2004, I started SoftTech VC with a goal to get involved in a number of startups that were defining the "New" consumer internet space. Hustling my way into the first few deals I closed as an angel, I was lucky to meet amazing investors like Josh Kopelman, Brad Feld, David Hornik, Reid Hoffman and Jon Callaghan who generously shared their experience, wisdom and started working with me. To this day they have remained fantastic friends and relentless supporters, and I want to acknowledge their contribution to SoftTech VC over the years.
After three and a half years of angel investing, building Fund I's portfolio, I had the opportunity to raise my first "real" fund, SoftTech VC II, with a view to figure out the institutional incarnation of my angel investment strategy. Low startup costs, including development, marketing and distribution, had changed the nature of the investing business: the cost of failure had gotten so low that seed capital was becoming a quasi-commodity. All Benjamins being equal the differentiation amongst investors is the quality of their support, the actionability of their network, and the efficiency by which they can deploy their resources on behalf of their companies. For the duration of Fund II, I had elected to run SoftTech lean and mean, with just myself in the firm and an awesome outsourced back-office team (big shout out to Dom Turiano and Joe Pruscino at VMS). Why? Because I wanted to be able to develop, evolve and even - eeeeww - pivot the model by which I was operating in quasi realtime to respond to market and portfolio demands.
As I am turning the corner of Fund II, I am also confident that the model established over the past 80+ investments can scale and it is now time to beef up SoftTech VC resources by bringing top talent on board, allowing us to better serve our portfolio companies, present and future.
First, I am very excited to welcome Charles Hudson as a Venture Partner. I have known Charles for almost 9 years, from his days at In-Q-Tel, and we have kept in touch as he went through Google, Gaia Online, Serious Business and built from the ground up the awesome Social Gaming Summit series of conferences that he successfully sold last year. As I started thinking about bringing people on board to scale the SoftTech partnership, Charles was one of my very first calls. The big question when you get the call from the Dark Side is whether you are going to like the very particular job VCs have, and whether now is the right time to make that transition.
Charles has spent enough time around the VC world that he knows what to expect. We had very open discussion about the fact that he did feel he had one more startup "in him", and he went on to co-found Bionic Panda, a very cool mobile gaming company. My good friends, and numerous times co-investors, at True Ventures have established an interesting model allowing Tony Conrad and Toni Schneider to be both Partners in the firm, and CEOs of their respective companies. As I have worked closely with these two fine gentlemen on some of our mutual companies, I have seen first hand that the model works. That inspired me to offer the same opportunity to Charles: join me as a Venture Partner, who will make investments on our behalf with an initial focus on the gaming and mobile sectors, at the same time he develops his own startup. Not so many individuals would be able jump into two very demanding gigs at the same time, but Charles is definitely one of them - as anyone who has worked closely with him in the past will attest. Charles is also recognized as a top business development talent in the Valley, and he will be supporting our portfolio companies in that critical function. So from now on, I'll proudly refer to "my Partner Charles Hudson".
Second, no VC organization would succeed without amazing executive admins who work in the background to make sure that everything runs smoothly. I have finally found the one for me - thanks to Carly Spoljaric, Rob Hayes' very own EA at First Round Capital. I was thrilled to see Ashley Cravens join SoftTech last Monday, as my Executive Assistant. A warm welcome to Ashley who just relocated from Portland, Oregon to the Bay Area.
For the very first time, it makes sense that our Bios page is titled "About Us".