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On March 11th, 2015 | by Aydin Senkut
On January 13th, 2015 | by Aydin Senkut
At Felicis, we have long believed that great companies can be built anywhere in the world, aided by the democratization of access to capital, customers and talent. We have been fortunate to back companies based in 11 different countries. We also recognize that Silicon Valley remains the central hub for entrepreneurship; founders come here, against all odds, leaving behind everything known to them, to start something new. Unsurprisingly, immigrant founders founded 52% of all new Silicon Valley companies between 1995 and 2005. True to our DNA, Felicis founders hail from over 29 countries.
Our founders have told us that support from someone who has been in their shoes is invaluable. That is why we are thrilled to announce that Harley Finkelstein, Chief Platform Officer at Shopify, has agreed to join our Founder Advisory Council.
Welcoming Harley to this role will allow our founders to learn from one of the most talented operators in our portfolio. We strongly believe that deepening our team’s operational experience is one of the best ways we can serve our founders as they build great companies.
A former attorney, Harley took a non-traditional path to become one of Shopify’s earliest employees, eventually helping to grow the company to power over 150,000 merchants. We have been privileged to support Harley as he and Tobi, Shopify’s CEO, led the company to become one of Canada’s epic tech success stories.
Harley is a special person. Warm and personable, he is a great hustler, community builder and operator. Shopify’s Build a Business competition is a strong testament to that effect. It has grown under his leadership from 1,378 new businesses launched in the first annual competition, to more than 21,000 in last year’s competition.
With five portfolio companies based in Canada, plus close to another half dozen in the US with Canadian founders, Felicis is deliberately long on Canada. We look forward to having Harley as our eyes and ears for the best Canadian companies yet to come.
I’m extremely pleased to share that Wesley Chan, whom I’ve known for more than 13 years since our early Google years together, has joined Felicis Ventures as a Managing Director. Wesley is a phenomenal product expert: an early visionary on Google’s advertising system, he went on to found both Google Analytics and Google Voice, growing each business to tens of millions of users. He then switched to the investing side, playing a pivotal role in the growth of Google Ventures. Wesley made great investments in companies including Parse (acquired by Facebook), Optimizely, and iPerian (acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb). He was recognized by MIT’s Technology Review as one of 35 Innovators Under 35 and has 14 US patents for his work on Google’s advertising system. He’s a really great guy all around, to boot.
Wesley will join as the fourth partner on our investment team. To capitalize on this momentum, I am also pleased to announce that we’ve increased the size of our latest fund, Felicis Ventures IV, from $96M to $120M. This is an exciting way to begin the new year, which I have no doubt will surpass last year in terms of the amazing achievements of our portfolio companies. In 2014, we were fortunate enough to celebrate two new $1B+ companies (Credit Karma and Adyen) and seven $100M+ exits (Twitch at $970M, Brightroll at $640M, Dropcam at $555M, RelateIQ at $390M, LiveRamp at $310M, and Acompli at $200M).
To be clear, the addition of Wesley to our team and the increased fund size are two important moves reflecting our deep commitment to delivering an exceptional founder experience. As a team, we have always felt our most important customers are our founders. We are constantly optimizing how we can better serve them, particularly in meaningful ways aligned with the boutique nature of our firm.
Wesley shares my view that Felicis is, first and foremost, a product built for founders, and should be developed as such. With this in mind, we conducted our first founder NPS survey in late 2013. In summer 2014, we publicly committed to always vote our shares with our founders. Finally, last fall, we kicked off a deep survey of founders, including a few we did not have the chance to back, to truly understand how we could improve our level of service.
The two recurring themes stood out. First, founders needed greater operational expertise from our team. Our NPS survey revealed that 75% of founder respondents sought more support in building their companies at the earliest stages, including help with hiring, building customer pipelines, deeper relationships with partners, and coaching from investors who had been in the trenches as an entrepreneur. In our deep-dive interviews, 90% of founders rated an investor’s ability to help founders reach critical milestones as “very important” (4 or higher on a 5-point scale). 100% of these founders rated an investor’s ability to provide and be connected to a broad network as “very important.” On average, this deep, meaningful support was more important than thought leadership and domain expertise.
We also discovered an identity issue that reflects Felicis’ exciting maturation over the last several years. Founders had trouble placing us in the context of the broader venture capital landscape. They recognized that we had graduated from our super angel days, when we were fortunate enough to be among the first investors in Meraki, Twitch, Dropcam and others. Founders also noticed us making larger, bolder investments in later-stage companies around the world, such as Adyen and Rovio.
The latter observation is consistent with the type of firm we aspire to become: one that leads with conviction and offers actionable, deep support to founders in company building, regardless of geography or stage. Though we have been fortunate to achieve a stellar track record, we have realized that it also carries higher expectations of Felicis as an active partner to our portfolio companies. To that extent, both the addition of Wesley to our team and our increased fund size are squarely targeted at deepening our commitment to better serve our founders.
We are actively listening and are determined to support founders in the best way possible. Concurrently, Wesley has already hit the ground running with two pending investments, which we look forward to announcing in coming weeks.