Having secured $5.5 million of funding from investment group Atomico (Skype's Niklas Zennstrom, Janus Friis and co.), Loic Le Meur admits he didn't need the money. And yet he's enlisted a further twelve individual backers for his new startup Seesmic -- which has been described as "Twitter for video" -- the list of which is peppered with the names of some of Silicon Valley's most successful and well connected entrepreneurs.
- Michael Arrington - Founder, TechCrunch
- Steve Case - Co-Founder and former CEO and Chairman, AOL
- Jeff Clavier - Managing Partner, SoftTech VC
- Ron Conway - Early investor, Google
- Steve Garfield - Pioneering video blogger
- Dan Gillmor - Director, Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship
- Reid Hoffman - Founder, LinkedIn
- Michael Parekh - former Managing Director, Goldman Sachs
- Mark Pincus - Co-Founder and former Chairman and CEO, SupportSoft
- Ariel Poler - Founder and former CEO, IPRO and Topica
- Jeff Pulver - Chairman and Founder, Pulver.com
- Martin Varsavsky - Founder, FON
Writing on his blog, Le Meur says: "I did not really need to raise anymore money, I could have just settled for the $5.5 million, but I really wanted to have entrepreneurs and friends help me launch Seesmic." Taking money from friends adds an additional responsibility, writes Le Meur, "but their advise is so valuable that I wanted to do it."
Of parallel importance was Le Meur's decision to relocate to Silicon Valley ("the center of the Internet" as he calls it):
If you asked me to name only one difference between Europe and the US it would be the positive attitude that floats constantly around here. It is the "how can I help" by default. Trust is by default. You can probably lose it fast but you have it much faster than in Europe where the attitude is more suspicious, more negative. Each time I launched something in Europe I started by getting the criticism and listening people who would explain me why I would fail. Here I have troubles counting how many people offer their help.
The value of Silicon Valley's connections and "can do" attitude is something I've written about here before, and is a subject close to my heart (see my film 'In Search of the Valley').
However, in order to dig a little deeper into the power of Le Meur's connections through Seesmic's initial investor list, and how these present further opportunities via connections to other influential individuals, companies and VC funds, I sought the help of GroupScope's Brad Cohen. Brad ran Seesmic's backers through his company's LinkSViewer tool to visually map their relationships. The results can be seen below.
Note: I encourage you to click through to the full images so that you can see sufficient detail.
Seesmic and all individual investors (Atomico is not included because they're not Valley-based). Interesting to note the companies that are pulled toward the center - i.e. that have multiple investors from within this group. Wikia, Digg, Jaxtr, Kongregate, Flixster, others, pretty high profile - not to mention some of those around the outside.
Minimum connections is set at two here (was set at 1 in the first map), so that only those companies with at least two investors from within this group are included - all of those other peripheral connections are lost, and we also get a clear view of which people are not already co-invested with others in this group.
Core connections - pendants dropped
Dropped everyone that had no co-investments within this group (Janus Friis, Steve Garfield, Martin Varsavsky, Steve Case, Jeff Pulver) for a better look at those core connections without their nodes taking up space.
Dropped people in the previous map who don't offer good board connections as well (at least in this database): Dan Gillmor, Michael Parekh, Niklas Zennstrom. Instead, let's look at the board connections of the others (Mark Pincus, Michael Arrington, Jeff Clavier, Ariel Poler, Ron Conway, Reid Hoffman).
In this map, only first degree investments are shown (those by our six target nodes, and then in the second degree we are focusing on board/management team connections that tie together their investments). Pendants are dropped, so no companies are shown that do not have board/mgmt connections in the map, and board/mgmt team members are not shown unless they have at least 2 connections to companies in the map. So this basically shows the board/mgmt team members in the valley that Seesmic is connected to through these guys not just through one pathway, but through TWO pathways.
Take those same six board members from the last map, and map their own board connections together. Some interesting stuff, but there's an isolated group with Michael Arrington and Jeff Clavier that doesn't connect back to the core. All we learn there is that they're co-board members on Omnidrive, where Jeff also invested. If we dump them from this map we'll get a better view of the rest.
Same map without Clavier and Arrington. We see their connections into some VC firms - DFJ, Sequoia, Tech. Crossover, Sherpalo, and Globespan.
Back to the map of these six guys as investors (not board members as in the last couple of examples). This time, however, 1st degree connections goes out to companies they invested in, and then 2nd degree goes out to VC co-investors in these companies. So we're seeing what VC's these guys (and therefore Seesmic, by way of them) have good connections into. Seesmic doesn't need any more funding now, but further ahead if they wanted to do a second round of funding it shouldn't be too difficult (for a number of reasons - VC connections being one of them). Additionally, VCs know people and VCs know things, so it's good to know VCs! Here we see connections to more VCs - Felicis, Lightspeed, Rembrandt, Morgenthaler, Greylock, Founders Fund, Band of Angels, Draper Richards, August, Benchmark, and Omidyar now appear as well.
So there you have it. It's pretty safe to say that Le Meur and Seesmic are very well connected in Silicon Valley. Of course, making those connections isn't as easy as Le Meur makes it sound (showing up to conferences etc. - although it helps to run one of your own) but it will certainly pay dividends for any new startup. The old adage "it's a small world" applies particularly to Silicon Valley, and as Le Meur explains on his blog, one introduction and offer of help soon leads to another.
Thanks again to Brad Cohen of GroupScope for his help and analysis.