Sunday, December 26, 2010

Portfolio Update Part 2

Continuing my little 2010 portfolio review (here's part 1), the next stop after San Francisco (Zendesk), Vancouver (Clio) and Berlin (Momox) is Edinburgh, home of FreeAgent Central. By launching a flurry of innovative new features such as multi-currency support or project profitability analysis, in 2010 the FreeAgent team has shown again who's setting the bar for online accounting. An incredibly powerful yet simple-to-use application is what 1000s of users love us for (as well as the press), and is the reason why we've won a Software Satisfaction Award for the second year. And there's more to come. 2010 has been a big year for the company in other ways as well: In March we announced that we've taken a minority investment from and entered into a strategic partnership with IRIS, the leading supplier of software for accountancy practices in the UK with over 14,000 practice customers (50% market share!). Kudos and a huge thank you go to Ed, Roan, Olly and everyone else at FreeAgent Central.

The next portfolio company takes me to Tokyo. Konnichi wa, myGengo. myGengo is a pretty recent investment of mine which I've done about half a year ago together with Dave McClure and other angel investors. myGengo is a crowdsourcing marketplace for human translations – think Amazon Mechanical Turk for translations. myGengo connects people who need translations with qualified translators in a way that's much more efficient than it used to be and thus allows it to offer high-quality translations done by certified translators at affordable prices. Thanks to this very clever idea, extremely strong execution and lots of innovations (like an iPhone translation service and a very smart API), as well as a rapidly growing list of language pairs, my Gengo has more than doubled translation volume and revenues in every quarter this year. Even so, the young startup is of course just scratching the surface of the huge, multi-billion dollar translation industry, which makes me extremely excited about the opportunity ahead. Thank you very much and doumo arigatou gozaimasu, Rob and Matt.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Portfolio update (part 1)

As 2010 is drawing to a close I’d like to take a moment to give you a quick update on my angel investment activities and more importantly, thank the incredibly talented and hard-working people who have made it such an amazing year.

Since becoming a full-time angel investor in 2008 I’ve made 14 seed investments, with 4-5 additional ones being on the way. Except for two of my first investments that didn’t work out – rookie mistakes, fortunately pretty small ones – I’m absolutely blown away by the success of each and every company in my portfolio.

Some highlights:

Zendesk has had a phenomenal year. In May we announced that we’ve reached 5,000 paying customers. We didn’t publish an updated number since then but I think it’s no secret that the number of Zendesk lovers worldwide has continued to explode throughout the year. With a world-class management team and Board, one of the best products and brands in B2B software and a recent $19M cash infusion Zendesk is ideally poised to bring Cloud-based zen and good karma to even more people in 2011. Mange tak to Mikkel, Morten, Alex, Michael and the whole crew.

Speaking of the Cloud, 2010 may mark a tipping point with respect to the adoption of Cloud-based services in the legal technology field: In 2010 my portfolio company Clio, which provides a web-based practice management solution for solo lawyers and small law firms, has grown its customer base by more than 400%. The company also continues to launch new features and initiatives pretty much on a weekly basis, boasts (by far) the highest trial-to-subscription conversion rate that I’ve ever seen and has a ton of great new stuff in the pipeline. Thanks and merci to you, Jack and Rian, and your growing team of hand-picked rock-star developers and industry experts.

The development of Momox, which has bought more than 8.4 million used books, CDs, DVDs and games from private sellers since 2006, has been equally impressive. We’ve grown revenue by more than 2.5x , recruited two stellar executives to head logistics and marketing, moved to a new 85,000 square foot warehouse, relaunched our online shop, raised a couple of million Euros from Acton Capital Partners and scaled up the whole organization to make sure that we can handle our continued growth. Huge kudos to Christian Wegner and his 150+ people in Berlin for this gigantic and successful effort – jut jemacht!

More in part 2.
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