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Dave Walters

Dave Walters

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Drinks On Fifth: Vivek Wadhwa, Act III

Friday, 23 July 2010 02:35 Published in Startups

We conclude our conversation with Vivek on the topic of H-1B visas, and how he believes they are the wrong approach to attracting and retaining skilled immigrants. Vivek shares a statistic that’s eye opening: Between 1995 and 2005, immigrant-started companies created more than 500,000 jobs and 52% of all Silicon Valley startups. With numbers that significant, Vivek contends that these immigrants shouldn’t be limited to work visas and constantly in danger of losing their job – and therefore their right to be in the US legally. Other countries such as Canada, Singapore and Chile have clearly figured out the value of skilled immigrants as entrepreneurs and have programs to draw them to those countries – complete with green cards.

(Watch: Part One | Part Two)

Enjoy the video interview below:

As hot as the ScoutMob and Regator kids are on the B2C side of the world, one of the most anticipated B2B launches on the horizon is Dave Wright’s latest venture, SolidFire. Dave has a deep track record in the startup world, including selling JungleDisk to RackSpace in 2008 and being a core part of the IGN team during the News Corp. acquisition of 2005. So if great things happen in threes, I’m supposing 2011’s going to be one hell of a year for SolidFire.

SolidFire is busy at-work building out the final touches on software that significantly impacts the way web-hosting and cloud computing providers manage the storage aspects of their data centers by replacing traditional spinning hard drives with solid state drives. Dave tells us SolidFire is targeting a system that delivers 100x the performance at 10% of the cost. That should be a pretty easy decision for providers – especially given they know exactly how much their customer is willing to pay, and being able to deliver a quantum leap in performance for 10% of the cost is a nice boost to the bottom line.

Enjoy the video interview below:

Drinks On Fifth: Vivek Wadhwa, Act II

Wednesday, 21 July 2010 19:05 Published in Startups

During our second session, Vivek and I talked at-length about how to improve the entrepreneur ecosystems of the South’s biggest cities – whether that is Atlanta, Charlotte or Dallas. While funding is certainly part of the solution, he contends (and I agree 100%) that it’s all about the people. Successful entrepreneurs need to find a way to give back to the next generation of startup founders – not purely based on altruism, but as investors and mentors.

His prescription for any metro area is find a way to lure 10 successful startup veterans to your town, and that will change the dynamic in a very short period of time. Vivek says it best of all: “You don’t need billions of dollars, you need seasoned, successful, good human beings who are ready to help other human beings.”

(Watch: Part One | Part Three)

Stay tuned for our final episode on Friday. Enjoy the video interview below:

Drinks On Fifth: Vivek Wadhwa, Act I

Wednesday, 21 July 2010 03:01 Published in Startups

There are few people in the world with a background as diverse and impressive as Vivek Wadhwa. He began his career as a software developer, and quickly rose to VP of Information Services at CS First Boston. After spinning a business out of CSFB, Vivek grew the company to a $120 million publicly traded company. After a long run inside startups, he saw an opportunity to give back by converting himself to the academic world. And true to his success path, his academic credentials now include: a senior research associate with the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School; an executive in residence/adjunct professor at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University; and visiting scholar at the School of Information at University of California at Berkeley. Other than that, he’s not up to much…

Our conversation was as wide-ranging and insightful as you’d expect from our earlier interview of Vivek. The first part of our conversation focused almost exclusively on mentorship as a key driver in building entrepreneur ecosystems. His research shows clearly that organizations like TiE have created great results for the Indian community, and Vivek believes the same exact model should be applied to the many groups currently underrepresented in entrepreneurial circles – whether that’s women, African Americans or Hispanics.

(Watch: Part Two | Part Three)

Stay tuned for Acts II and III Thursday and Friday this week. Enjoy Act I below:

The VC panel at the TiE Entrepreneurial Summit over the weekend was followed immediately by the angel investing panel – which had a distinctly lighter tone and featured some of Georgia’s most recognized names: Suresh Ramamurthi of BC Capital; Sig Mosley of Imlay Investments; Mike Eckhart of Atlanta Technology Angels; and Bob Franklin of the Global Angel Investor Network (GAIN) – all moderated by Ashish Mistry from BLH Ventures.

One of the more interesting stats quoted by the panel came from Suresh Ramamurthi: Before the economic downturn, angels invested in about 23% of the deals they saw but that number has dropped to 10% in today’s world. In comparison, VCs invest in less than 1% of the deals they see. The panel shared many thoughts on the pressures facing angels: 1) the VCs have gone up market, leaving the angels to do more Series B and C deals; and 2) the economic conditions have thrown uncertainty into the customer’s buying process.

Mike Eckhart has a relatively simple strategy for dealing with this increased risk: “I won’t invest in a first-time entrepreneur in this market … You may not want to hear that, but that’s how I’m looking at things.”

Enjoy the video below:

Drinks On Fifth: Sig Mosley, Act III

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 04:55 Published in Startups

As we conclude our conversation with the ‘Godfather’ of angel investing in Atlanta Sig Mosley, we begin by talking about the type of individual best suited to being a successful entrepreneur and we both agree big company management experience with at least some exposure to finance is a pretty good mix. (By the way, you decide whether the adjective ‘unwitting’ applies to Sig’s Godfather title as he claims in his Twitter bio – after spending an hour interviewing him, I suspect not much happened by mistake…)

We also discuss another classic tale of MSA deal making: in 1980, when they went deep with two companies for potential acquisition. In the end, they bought Peachtree Software and passed on Microsoft. And we finish up talking Angel Tax Credit, which Sig praises across the board as an effort that should bring angel dollars off the sideline – and make follow-on rounds a little easier to manage for existing investors.

(Watch: Part One | Part Two)

Enjoy the video interview below:

TiE Entrepreneur Summit: Inside The Mind Of A VC

Monday, 19 July 2010 18:54 Published in Startups

In addition to a great networking event, the TiE Entrepreneurial Summit over the weekend featured some great panels – including ‘A Southeastern Perspective on Venture Capital Investments’ featuring Glenn McGonnigle of TechOperators, Fred Sturgis of H.I.G Ventures and Jeff Muir of Fulcrum Ventures. In addition to the standard ‘how we think about deals’ topics, there was a lot of discussion about creating a startup in Atlanta.

While everyone recognized the city’s strengths (airport, good talent pool, low cost of living, etc.) Glenn had perhaps the most interesting take: “Being an entrepreneur is a risky investment … If you have a high probability it’s going to flame out, don’t you want to flame out in a city you like?” He was also quick to point out that Atlanta has a strong history of being able to start and exit tech companies, even if we’re not on the same scale as Silicon Valley.

Fred Sturgis also pointed out two very clear advantages to forming a startup here versus the West Coast: 1) more loyalty among key team players (both in recruiting and retention); and a lower overall cost basis. Enjoy the video below:

Drinks On Fifth: Sig Mosley, Act II

Monday, 19 July 2010 05:25 Published in Startups

We pickup our talk with Sig discussing his favorite co-investment partners over the years including fellow angel groups like the Atlanta Technology Angels. In another sign of experience being the best guide, I’ve heard Sig say on multiple occasions that his angel deals look more like venture deals from the get go – which helps to ease the transition into future rounds of capital. He’s more than shrewd enough to understand his most successful deals will require the next step of deeper pockets to get to nice liquidity events.

We finish up Act II talking about a few of the many urban legends surrounding Sig – including the creation of the Secret Sig website and Startup Riot 2009 hi-jinx that was WiFi Cat. Stay tuned for Tuesday’s final installment where we’ll talk about today’s dynamic of exits and Georgia’s new Angel Tax Credit.

(Watch: Part One | Part Three)

Enjoy the video interview below:

Drinks On Fifth: Sig Mosley, Act I

Friday, 16 July 2010 03:36 Published in Startups

If you’re talking about who’s made the biggest impact in the Atlanta’s technology community, Sig Mosley and Imlay Investments are likely the best bet. Sig’s done about 120 deals since they launched in 1990, so clearly he’s got some serious expertise in the startup game. Over the years, he's absolutely earned his local reputation as 'the unwitting Godfather of Atlanta angel investing'.

First off, Sig sets the record straight on the recent eRollover deal, and tells us he’s got 3-5 more bullets in the chamber before they stop doing first-round investments on August 31. We also talked at-length about the role of tech incubators, and how the SaaS model has changed the dynamic of building a revenue base (hint: it takes a lot of $79/month customers to equal one $250,000 licensing deal).

Stay tuned for Monday’s Act II where we’ll cover Sig’s favorite investment partners, why Atlanta B2C companies can’t raise money and the great Sig urban legends.

(Watch: Part Two | Part Three)

Enjoy Act I of the video interview below:

An Audience With The Godfather

Thursday, 15 July 2010 04:01 Published in Startups

I normally don’t preview my Drinks On Fifth interview series, but I spent a very cool hour today with an Atlanta legend: Sig Mosley of Imlay Investments. During the first couple days of this week I was thinking it was historical lesson time – especially given there’s only about two and half weeks of new deals left for Sig and crew. We’d run through Sig’s impressive book of business (120 companies funded over 20 years), and glean some great lessons for investors and entrepreneurs alike.

And then news broke that Imlay had joined another investment round with eRollover (although the printed details turned out to be a bit sketchy). And come to find out, he’s got at least two – maybe three – more bullets in the chamber before his self-imposed deadline of August 1. In addition, he believes it’s going to take something on the order of eight years to bring the whole portfolio to fruition. So yeah, the word ‘retirement’ isn’t really in Sig’s vocabulary quite yet.

We covered a ton of topics including: the MSA days and when they bought Peachtree Software instead of Microsoft; how much capital it takes to get a product or service to market; why B2C dies on the vine in Atlanta; how Lance Weatherby became his personal webmaster; the Angel Tax Credit; and who will take over the Sig role.

We’ll roll out Act I of our Drinks On Fifth interview this Friday, so stay tuned.

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