Watch Pando play "Fantasy Series A": Part IV
In his newsletter yesterday, CB Insights CEO Anand Sanwal said that publicly VCs don’t give a shit about his “Fantasy Series A” bracket… But private conversations are another matter.
And now it’s starting to get good, with many of the big contenders going head to head.
Of course Sanwal can have the tech industry’s favorite plausible deniability: We’re just a platform! Be mad at the voters!
I have no such deniability. I’ve been giving readers a window into my voting all along, consequences be damned.
Sequoia v. Founders Fund: Now this is pretty interesting. Because several years ago there was a very real battle royale between these two. Rewind to about 2007. Founders Fund had made the controversial move to hire Sean Parker as a partner. Sean Parker was known as damaged goods in the Valley at that point, not the man with the midas touch as he was retroactively crowned. Peter Thiel [a Pando investor] rationalized the move to me at the time as Parker brought him Facebook. If he bought one more, the move was justified. You know who didn’t get Facebook because of Parker? Sequoia. Parker and Mike Moritz despised one another. So much that Moritz tried to pressure their own LPs not to back Founders Fund-- even though PayPal (headed by Thiel) was responsible for putting a troubled Sequoia fund in the black. At that point, it seemed Founders Fund could be the new Sequoia. But that didn’t happen ultimately. Founders Fund instead carved out its own niche doing deals that a lot of people don’t want to do. And Sequoia picked itself up, hired a new crop of partners and backed Dropbox, Airbnb, Whatsapp and more.
If you are a science based company, pick Founders Fund. Of the two, I’d probably pick Founders Fund, personally. But I’ve had past bad blood with Sequoia’s previous generation of partners. if you are trying to build a consumer Web company, you should probably pick Sequoia.
Our pick: Sequoia (reluctantly)
General Catalyst v. GV: General Catalyst. I think of them as more of a late stage firm than a Series A champion. But I couldn’t possibly pick GV after the way they’ve thrown entrepreneurs they’ve funded publicly under the bus. I’ve voted them out every round. Why switch now?
Our pick: General Catalyst
Andreessen Horowitz v. NEA: [AH partners Mark Andreessen, Chris Dixon and Jeff Jordan are Pando investors] A lot of people complain that Andreessen spends too much money on infrastructure, has raised too many billions, and overpays to get in too many deals. Well, next to NEA -- the original and persisting mega fund through multiple economic ups and downs -- A16Z looks frugal and measured. While A16Z has an army of staff to help founders with everything from recruiting to PR, it’s fairly measured and cautious when it comes to hiring general partners, and only has a single office. There are some great NEA partners, but not the most consistency. Since this competition is partnership not individual partner, I’d pick A16Z.
Our pick: Andreessen Horowitz
Lowercase Capital v. Greylock: [Greylock are Pando investors] Oh man. This battle sums up the battle of the soul of Silicon Valley right now. Bros with zero loyalty versus the one major firm who has reservations about funding exactly those types. This is easy for me, but I fear the audience will get it wrong, and go for the chest-thumping empty cowboy shirt. Wouldn’t be the first time.
Our pick: Greylock
USV v. Highland: For a firm whose better days are likely behind it, Highland has some digital fan! I’m surprised the firm has made it this far (although I voted for them in previous rounds.) USV played an integral role in shaping, funding, and evangelizing the New York tech scene which is one of the preeminent ecosystems in the world right now. Highland seems to me to represent a lot of the the past of East Coast investing when Massachusettes dominated everything but the Valley.
Our pick: USV
Foundry Group v. Firstmark: This is one of the easier head-to-heads of this round. I don’t know much about Firstmark, and I’ve described previously why I’m a big fan of Foundry’s Brad Feld. He’s built one of the best firms-- and even arguably ecosystems-- from outside the Valley that anyone has seen. How sweet would it be for the final four not to be Valley dominated?
Our pick: Foundry Group
Benchmark v. Bessemer: I respect Jeremy Levine of Bessemer and I have mega-issues with Benchmark that I’ve detailed in posts about previous rounds. In fact, I eliminated them in the previous round for that reason. But there’s no doubt for most founders Benchmark is the better bet here.
Our pick: Benchmark
FirstRound v. Accel: This is the single hardest match-up of the entire bracket thus far. I really respect both firms. I think both have unique approaches to venture capital as I’ve detailed in posts about previous rounds. If you were a bootstrapped and seeking your first institutional round like Atlassian, Qualtrics, or Lynda.com, there’s no question you should go with Accel. If you are a first time founder raising a seed who wants a big portfolio and a lot of resources that come with that, maybe it’s First Round. But ultimately this competition is about who is best to raise a Series A. And Series As are more like fourth rounds these days. At a Series A, you want to find a board member who will be in it with you for the long haul, and that’s not really FirstRound’s thing. They fund a lot of companies and believe they can deliver the most value early in a company’s life, so they typically rotate off.
Our pick: Accel