You always remember your first — whether it is a car, love, or … a venture capital investment.
Today, Highlight announced its new 2.0 version as well as news that they’ve partnered with DFJ as lead investor in their Series A round. I’m excited to share the story about how I found and made my first investment at DFJ. But before you read further, take a moment to download Highlight 2.0 to try a smarter and more polished experience than ever before. The team would love your feedback. You can learn more about all that went into Highlight 2.0 on their blog.
Earlier this year, when I moved over to Sand Hill Road from Hacker Way, everyone said I should blog. You know, to get my ideas out there and create a brand. While I’m still working to find my voice and pace, it is fun to write, share thoughts, and connect with new people around the mobile ecosystem. But, if you would’ve suggested those posts would lead me to my first investment, I wouldn’t have believed you, even though several great VCs have talked about sourcing great deals by blogging.
An old friend, David King (CEO of Blippy), read my first post, and shared it with Highlight’s CEO Paul Davison. I’d long been interested in location-based applications and had kept an eye on Highlight as a result. So, I was very excited to meet Paul when he reached out. We clicked in our first conversation. Right there, I knew I wanted to work with him and his team. We all spent a lot of time together, going through all aspects of Highlight’s engagement data, their consumer brand, the mobile a/b testing frameworks they’d built, and their long term vision.
There are, of course, reasons *not* to do this deal, as with many deals. There are still questions around the space: Are we too early? Do people prefer to stay private? Do we really want to build a sixth sense around us? But just as there are reasons not to do a deal, there are reasons to move forward, quickly. Paul and his team, their collective product and industry vision, their steadfast commitment to the product. All of these factors greatly impressed me. This is not a “take off in 15 minutes” type of product. The team has spent nearly two years prototyping, building, and refining, but they know leaps and bounds and several more versions and iterations are to be had. That takes determination, patience, guts, and deep passion.
I haven’t had a chance to blog much about location applications as I’ve been focused on sharing my perspective on Android. Briefly, my interest in location applications stems from the fact that it is inherently native to the mobile experience. This is becoming more self-evident as mobile devices improve location capabilities via hardware such as the M7 chip & protocols such as Bluetooth LE. Battery life continues to significantly improve as software layers offer increasingly sophisticated ways to manage location sharing through geo-fencing, iBeacon, and intelligent algorithms that minimize radio usage. So in short, while timing is always hard to predict, I believe the enabling technology for location has tipped such that ambient location based applications will be mainstream within the next two years.
Talking through this deal with my partners at DFJ gave me the opportunity to really think about what kind of investor I wanted to be. Given my background, I’m going to be focused on mobile (with a specialty around the Android ecosystem) and consumer products. No surprises there. But, I also needed to think about markets, verticals, and the stage of investment I wanted to make. Working through the Highlight deal gave me the conviction that I want to be a classic Series A investor who bets early and is a partner to great CEOs who are focused on building enduring companies.
With Highlight, Paul, and the team, all of the ingredients came together: incredible team with a big vision, huge market opportunity, and the kind of deal DFJ does best. All three were important drivers of my conviction, but if I had to pick one it element, it would be the team. Coming from an operating role, I needed to make sure I wasn’t imagining the product as I would build it but rather understand where Paul was taking it and how Ben was approaching building it. The thoughtfulness, passion, and insights they showed thoroughly convinced me that Highlight is a one in a million team that I wanted to be a part of.
Highlight is in its early days but its potential is staggering as the team continues to push a whole new space forward that will be part of our daily mobile computing experience. I’m proud to represent my colleagues at DFJ in this journey and that the Highlight team has chosen to partner with us. I couldn’t help but share a little bit of the context on how everything came together behind the scenes. However, today’s news is really about the product — Highlight 2.0. It’s about Paul and his team’s vision, the 20+ months they’ve been building and iterating on product, the resolute belief in the power of mobile and ambient location, and our innate desire to learn more about the people around us.