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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Seattle Visit

Seattle Visit 2010

I've been in the Seattle area for the last few days, mostly to catch up with long time friends. It's been 18 years since I visited the area, and the first thing that struck me is that the climate hasn't changed: it still rained for my first 3-4 days here, only turning sunny today. Friends told me that this was the worst summer they had ever had, though it being an El Nino year they had an unusually good winter and spring.

I first met with Ashuthosh Tiwary from Doyenz, a startup I helped put together a funding round for. The business is ramping up, and they're signing up customers every week. Apparently, the last year has been very difficult even for large companies selling into the SMB market, but that delay in capital expenditure has led to a backlog of upgrades this year.

I spent the weekend with my friend Scarlet, whom I hadn't seen for a while, and we got caught up with a lot of things, including her son Evan. Scarlet introduced me to the Battlestar Galactica board game. It was definitely challenging, and very well themed.

On Monday, I met with Doyenz's engineering team, and asked a bunch of questions involving the business that interested me. As an investor, it's quite different to examine a company and then worry about business questions, rather than the technology. I did ask if there was anyway I could help leverage my social network to help them, but it turned out that the biggest benefit I provided was that in asking such a question, other engineers revealed that their social network could provide such help better than I could. It's quite clear to me that a way to expose such social networks is very useful and would unlock a lot of value.

I spent a lot of time with Przemek (also a Doyenz co-founder), who'd gotten married since our last sailing trip. We discussed some technical issues going forward, and how to approach Doyenz's potential partners in that space.

I met with Reza, whom I went to high school with. Reza was one of the co-founders of Jambool. He neither confirmed nor denied the truth of TechCrunch's story, but we discussed startups various experiences (Reza used to be at Amazon). Reza was one of the smartest guys I knew in school, and it's great to see that his startup has been quite successful. Reza's startup happened at the same time as Przemek's, but he hadn't gotten in touch with me then and so I did not get a chance to invest.

I stayed with Amy Platt, who was an intern at Google, and now at Microsoft. I hadn't seen Microsoft's campus since 1992, and the company is now so big that it's satellite office in Bellevue took up an entire city block as far as I could tell. Nice views, and posh stores I would never shop at took up most of the first floor.

I revisited Seattle and Elliot Bay Cycles (yes, I'm a geek who will visit bike shops), and found that things had changed quite a bit, including tunnels through down-town that took both buses and trains. Places that I thought were busy 18 years ago are so busy now that I had a hard time navigating!

Finally, today James (a former Mpath person) and I had lunch and he gave me a quick tour of Amazon, which has a very different feel than any other tech company I've visited. Whether this is unique or whether it's because Seattle companies grow very differently, I don't know. All in all, a great trip! Thanks for the tours and the insights, everyone!

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