SXSW V2V From An Investor Perspective with Shari Foldes

Written by on August 27, 2013 in Blog, Crowdfunding, Featured, Investors - No comments
Draper Fisher Jurvetson

GrowSouthwest’s CEO Scott Kelly connected with Shari Foldes of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, through a tweet sent at SXSW V2V and met up for a Q&A interview from the investment side of the spectrum. GrowSouthwest was curious to find out what draws investors to conferences like SXSW and SXSW V2V. Let’s see what Shari had to say!

Shari Foldes of DFJ

Shari Foldes of DFJ

GrowSW: Draper is very well known firm with good history, tell me about your background at Draper and what you do.

Shari:  Draper Fisher Jurvetson is a venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley, and we’ve been around since 1985. We’re focused on making investments at seed, early and growth stages. We handle everything from seed financing, to A and B rounds and beyond. Our investment team is based in the Bay Area; we make investments anywhere in the world.

I’ve been with the firm for more than a year, and my job focuses on marketing, Public Relations and branding. I work very closely with many of our portfolio companies. We have more than 230 active portfolio companies across different stages of business in a variety of sectors. I provide strategic advice, counsel and referrals to help them grow their business and further their goals.

GrowSW: What did you do before this?

Shari: Before DFJ, I started my career in Public Relations at an agency in San Francisco and from there, I joined an early stage startup right after they raised their series A, called Ustream, the live video platform. I led marketing and PR there for three years, then joined the consumer company popchips in digital marketing. DFJ is actually the first time I’ve worked in the venture capital business; my background has been mostly focused on startups. It’s very interesting to see the ecosystem as a whole at the VC level, to work on different activities and see the ideas people have. I am passionate about working with entrepreneurs and working with early stage startups.

GrowSW: Have you been to SX in Austin?

Shari: I have.

GrowSW: Can you compare and contrast Austin Interactive vs. Vegas?

Shari: Vegas is a much smaller gathering — more targeted and focused than the Austin event.

The Austin event has grown significantly in last couple years. It’s an effective way to meet people, and also to get a pulse on what’s going on outside of Silicon Valley. Austin also attracts people who work for big brands, so it’s a great way to network. In my past experience, some of those conversations turned real meetings and discussions afterwards that made a business impact.

I was intrigued by SXSW V2V since it’s a first-time event. I liked the opportunity to meet with entrepreneurs who are at the very early stage of their business and offer advice to them as a mentor. It’s been really interesting to hear the variety of ideas. I probably wouldn’t have otherwise heard of these businesses because they’re not based in the Bay Area. It’s nice to get out of our regional area.

GrowSW: What are your thoughts about what’s happening in the Vegas entrepreneur scene?

Shari: Obviously Tony Hsieh of Zappos is leading the charge to transform Vegas into a home for startups. Some entrepreneurs seem to be serious about considering Vegas. There seems to be good talent here, an untapped market, and also a more reasonable cost of living compared to New York or the Bay Area. This approach seems to be working well in terms of attracting talent from the startup community.

GrowSW: Are any Venture Capitalists from the Bay Area being attracted to this market?

Shari: For DFJ specifically, we look for deals anywhere, but a majority of our focus is in the Bay Area and western U.S., including California, Seattle and Portland, as well as on the East Coast.

GrowSW: We’ve heard the comment, here at SXSW V2V, there are not as many people to talk to, but you get to have better conversations with them. Would you agree with that?

Shari: I agree. If you intend to speak with someone, the Austin conference is so big, and you could go the whole week without ever running into them. In Vegas, it’s been a more intimate group and easier to find key people during the event. There’s less ground to cover, and it’s much easier to have a casual conversation.

I ran into someone who I was tweeting back and forth with and then I saw them 10 minutes later. It was awesome. It was unplanned and worked out well. I feel like that doesn’t happen at the Austin event as often because people are more spread out and not everyone is staying in downtown Austin.

In Vegas, if you want to have longer conversations, you can because you’re not as pressed for time and have multiple events competing for your attention.

GrowSW: There’s not as much noise.

Shari: Exactly.

GrowSW: There’s been a lot of focus here on crowdfunding. What’s your opinion from the equity side?

Shari: I think that crowdfunding is a great model for some businesses, in that it delivers what consumers want, and provides a valuable outlet for consumers to contribute to the success of a company. Venture Capital is not for all businesses, as VC’s look for a specific type of company that will go public or get acquired one day. Not all companies meet the criteria for venture capitalists.

GrowSW: Is Draper getting involved in any of the crowdfunding platforms that are coming out?

Shari:  DFJ Growth is invested in Betaworks in New York, and that company doing some very innovative activity. Not all companies are the right fit for VC’s and that’s completely fine. Kickstarter might not have been around 5 years ago, and it’s evolving the way people can make impact on the business. Crowdfunding is filling a void in market. We keep an eye on what’s going on in the crowdfunding space. It’s great to democratize the way that financing is done. I think that’s exciting.

GrowSW: Over the last few years, “money people” have found their way to Austin, such as Angels, VC’s and an investment banker here and there. With an event like this that’s so specific with entrepreneurs and startups, do you think as this develops it will be a place that VC’s and angel groups would want to come look for an opportunity?

Shari: Sure. There are a lot of organizations that are doing events and I think integrating Venture Capitalists as part of mentoring and judging is really valuable because it provides a forum to connect with entrepreneurs. It seems like the VC community would be interested.

GrowSW: Well now, we’ve asked all the questions! So, do you have anything you want to share about your experience at SXSW V2V?

Shari: I think as a theme, it’s interesting to see Google Glass as a new platform. That’s something we wouldn’t have seen a year or two ago.

It is a great first effort for SX to try something new. I will be interested to see how they evolve the event, going outside of Austin is a good idea, and Vegas makes for a distinctly different event at a new time and location. It seems to refresh how the entrepreneur and startup community is looking at SXSW.

GrowSW: Any general comments or quotes that you want to close with?

Shari: I can’t wait to see what SXSW comes up with next. I’m really looking forward to being in Austin in March!

For more information, visit Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s website and check out Shari’s bio.

 

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