Velocity Interactive Group, the venture-capital vehicle of former Fox Interactive CEO Ross Levinsohn and ex-AOL chief Jon Miller, has yet to raise a $250 million fund insiders say they've been seeking for six months and counting. Which is curious. Levinsohn and Miller tried to raise money on their own, but decided to merge with ComVentures, an established VC firm with $1.5 billion in assets under management. "Assets under management" isn't the same thing as "available cash," however. To have a free hand to invest, Miller and Levinsohn need their own pot of money. When will they get it?Now hardly seems like the time. The pension funds and college endowments which invest in VC funds have been pulling back, as of late. And investments in consumer Web startups — Miller and Levinsohn's specialty — are not looking as wise as they were a year ago. If the duo do raise money in this climate, it will be an impressive feat. If they don't? Then their second careers as venture capitalists may come to an abrupt end.
Former Fox Interactive exec turned venture capitalist Ross Levinsohn only needs to finish the paperwork to become the biggest name on Microsoft's list of 10 nominees to replace Yahoo's board, TechCrunch reports and BoomTown confirms. The high-profile rubber-stamping position should suit Levinsohn's ego just fine.
Venture capital is a brutal game when you're on the losing side. Some partners get whacked; others just disappear. When ComVentures abruptly cut two of its partners, Baris Karadogan was not on the hit list — but when the VC firm reemerged with the new name Velocity Interactive Group, Karadogan was nowhere to be seen. He remains absent from Velocity's website. But we called him this morning and found him at the office. "I've been getting this question a lot, and it's temporarily frustrating," he said. "There's no big reason behind it. There's different levels of seniority among partners." Nonetheless, he remains a partner with the firm, and he's now overseeing some of the investments left orphaned by the departures of Michael Rolnick and Jeb Miller.
Venture capitalists sell themselves as friends to entrepreneurs, and talk about how they're going into business together. Isn't it useful to know how they treat the people they're actually in business with? The tale of the formation of Velocity Interactive Group is instructive in that regard. Former AOL CEO Jonathan Miller and ex-News Corp. executive Ross Levinsohn, who oversaw MySpace, raised eyebrows when they switched VC teams last December. The full story is even more cutthroat than we imagined.
Jonathan Miller, the man who was ungracefully booted as AOL CEO, and Ross Levinsohn, the former Fox Interactive Media chief who was never quite as in charge of MySpace as he would have liked, will form a new group at VC firm ComVentures, SAI reports. They're callng it Velocity Interactive Group. The pair plan to invest $20 million to $30 million in digital media startups in 2008 and already, they plan to close as many four deals in February. Wait, doesn't this sound familiar?
You have to admire the George Costanza-like persistence of one Anand Lyer Vaidyanathan. After hanging around the Sequoia lobby a little too much last October and November, Vaidyanathan was finally arrested for trespassing. Vaidyanathan protested, convinced that he somehow already worked for Sequoia. He then applied for another Sequoia job in December, and when a private investigator told him to stay away and not contact anyone in the office again, Vaidyanathan responded with, "I thank you for your offer. I appreciate your timely action. I accept your offer of employment." So they just went ahead and hired him; really, what else could they do? Only kidding! They took out a restraining order. Incidentally, that wasn't all Sequoia had to deal with as 2006 came to a close.
The VC giant also had a tussle with Comventures — they of the recent Filmloop discorporation — when Comventures attempted to rip off Sequoia's website design. After some litigatory saber-rattling, Comventures backed down and settled, though terms were not disclosed. Perhaps Comventures could have used the Vaidyanathan strategy, and responded to Sequoia's demands with something like, "We thank you for your website design. We appreciate your timely action. We accept your copyrighted work for our own use."
Slideshow startup Filmloop — recently in the news for enduring the ostensibly "Golden Touch" of Guy Kawasaki and subsequently canning most of its staff — will be euthanized and dismembered. Comventures (among others) had invested in Filmloop, and supposedly the site's remaining cash will go to storage company Fabrik (another Comventures investment) to assist with Fabrik's acquisition of storage device maker SimpleTech. A tipster says the Filmloop founders "were forced to sell the company to Fabrik by one or more unknown investors." Guessing they're not rolling around in Youtube-level money, either — try nothing or close to nothing, per extensive Techcrunch dissection.