Last summer – in the depths of the economic crisis – a couple of us started to think of ways to drive the company formation process and it struck me that the best ideas tend to come from entrepreneurs who have already  been successful. These people sit atop great organizations in the midst of important and innovative industries. Any VC would be delighted to back their next great idea.

Thus “12×12” was born…and we are announcing it today at the annual Nantucket Conference.

My co-conspirator is Andy Ory, founder and CEO (and close friend) of Acme Packets, a very successful venture-backed company in Burlington, MA. Over the past six months or so we assembled a group of 12 world-class CEO’s and 12 senior partners from some of the most active VC firms in town to launch 12 new companies in the next 12 months – and in so doing, launch the careers of 12 next generation great entrepreneurs. Oh, and we wrapped a few great people around the effort like Desh Deshpande, Jonathan Kraft (Kraft Group/Patriots), Paul Sagan (Akamai) and Steve Vinter (Google) to create an organizing committeeto make sure that we stay in line. Here is the roster…

 12 CEO’s                                                     12 Venture Capitalists

Colin Angle (iRobot)                                  Jon Auerbach (Charles River Ventures)

Jim Baum (Netezza)                                    Liam Donohue (406 Ventures)

 Jeff Bennett (Name Media)                     Scott Friend (Bain Capital Ventures) 

 Joe Chung (Allurent)                                Jamie Goldstein (North Bridge)

  Helen Greiner (CyPhy)                            Felda Hardymon (Bessemer)

   Brian Halligan (Hub Spot)                     Matt Harris (Village Ventures)

   Tim Healy (EnerNoc)                              Mike Hirshland (Polaris)

   Diane Hessan (CommuniSpace)          Eric  Hjerpe (Kepha Partners)

    Scott Savitz (Shoebuy.com)                Bob Hower (ATV)

    Brian Shin (Visible Measures)            Paul Maeder (Highland Capital Partners)

    Ram Sudireddy (CHiL Semi)               Eric Paley (Founders Collective)

    Michael Weintraub (Humedica)        Carl Stjernfeldt (Castile Ventures)

 The proposition I posed to the CEO’s went somewhat along these lines: you have been incredibly successful, you have a killer rolodex, you can see around corners in your industry given how successful you have been, and you must have another great idea in you – but you already have a day job – so let’s create a framework for you to get that idea seeded. You can sit on the board, provide oversight, invest, etc – and in so doing you will see your next great idea get launched and also be giving back to the ecosystem in a very profound way.

To the VC’s, my ask was far simpler: you are already scouring the landscape for great ideas but now before you I offer up a slate of great ideas – but you need to come into this group committed to seed one of these CEO’s ideas. At Flybridge Capital Partners (where I happen to work) we refer to these CEO’s as “blank checks,” that is if Andy Ory comes to us with an idea, we would move quickly to seed it and help him recruit the founding team, etc.

“12×12” is all about matching high quality ideas with high quality next generation entrepreneurs and allowing great VC’s to fund their work. What I was really surprised to see develop these past six months was the “call to action” many felt. There was a real sense that this would be fun – potentially quite rewarding – but also it was a chance to give back to the community. Many of the CEO’s cited important business mentors early in their own careers who were very influential – and they wanted to serve that role for others.

Stay tuned. The press release is here.

We already started one company, Lighter Living.


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6 responses to ““12×12”

  1. Excellent initiative. First time entrepreneurs like me who have developed and launched the product , are looking for customers and some infusion of fresh ideas.
    How do we get started ?

    • thanks for your comments. stay tuned – we will begin to talk about some of the new company ideas that will be forthcoming. the beauty of this program is getting these great successful CEO’s kick-starting their next companies in conjunction with new entrepreneurs while they are already running great companies!

  2. Extending the idea a bit further…

    What if you could access senior managers from highly targeted sectors who are interested in hearing about, and possibly joining, early stage companies if there is adequate funding and a great idea? Rather than warehousing EIR’s, what if you could access them on a just-in-time basis?

    We’ve been working with a major public research university to accelerate the technologies being commercialized from their labs and our model includes a proactive targeted effort to identify managers with specific domain expertise to lead spin-outs. This idea could be applied to your 12 x 12 initiative.

    In fact, targeting talent with highly specific domain expertise would significantly mitigate execution risk and provide some validation of the concept before a major investment is made.

    Best of all, thanks to the information age, these pipelines of talent can be developed very inexensively.

    We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this in more detail.

    Best regards,
    Chris Shea

  3. Pingback: 12×12 Update… « On the Flying Bridge

  4. Pingback: 12×12 – Yet Another Update…. | On the Flying Bridge

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