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.
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.