“Stay hungry, stay foolish.” In 2005, Steve Jobs gave this advice to the graduating class of my alma mater, Stanford University. Jobs spoke about taking risks to change one’s life and change in the world. I listened to his speech again following news of his departure from Apple. Like the first time, his words inspired. In my own life, I always did just what Steve suggested, even before I heard that commencement speech. Last month, I once again confirmed: I am still hungry, and still ready to risk and be foolish.
I decided to keep following Steve’s advice and play the hand fortune dealt me once again. Here’s the story:
An old friend of mine, Leonid Boguslavsky, whom I met in 1989 when helping Oracle start its Eastern European business, has since become one of the most prominent technology investors in Russia. His investments include some of the top internet companies in both Russia and Europe. Recently, his investment group scored a big win as early investors in Yandex. I met with Leonid during my recent vacation in Moscow. One of the projects he was considering was taking his investment activities overseas, specifically, to the United States. He needed someone to run the newly formed investment fund. We talked, traded emails, Skyped, and decided to form an investment group in the United States. Needless to say, I was intrigued by the idea. So, a new fund, Ru-Net Technology Partners (and our U.S. operation, RTP Ventures) will be formed and I will be running it. Despite the seeming safety and promise of my career in venture capital, I, once again, chose to do a startup — now a VC startup, not a VC-funded one.
We plan to start investing carefully with about $100M slated for the U.S. My passion and my personality will make an imprint on the work we do. Our focus will be early-stage, Series A software and internet companies that have technology and innovation at their core. B2B, SaaS, cloud, big data, analytics, infrastructure, enterprise — these, in my opinion, are markets underserved by the current swarm of consumer internet investors. And these are exactly the investments that we are going to do.
Our choice of investments will be driven by many of the principles I described in this blog. We will always focus on large markets, innovative products, and smart, energetic founders — not the latest fads. The fund will be large (~$100M backed by another $600M+ in opportunity investments that can be used for later stage portfolio companies) but small enough to be effective. We will gladly syndicate deals with investors whom we respect and who can contribute to a company’s growth (smarts, not just money). We will be angels where and when appropriate. We will be growth investors if the opportunity is right.
Though I will be based in New York City, many of our investments will happen elsewhere: California, Seattle, Austin, Boulder — anywhere smart entrepreneurs are solving tough problems. Though on the East Coast, I come with strong Valley roots. Make no mistake: I will make this fund feel like a Silicon Valley VC, choosing the same caliber of people to help me and using the same rules and processes to pick future winners.
I want to thank the friends who helped me through this “soul-searching” year. Last, but certainly not least, I want to especially thank my colleagues at Greycroft Partners who gave me a chance to see how real venture capital works.
So, I am on my own again, building something on my own instead of working for someone. How new, yet how familiar. Once again, I am staring at the abyss and smiling. It will be another thrilling ride.
Entrepreneurs, dreamers, angel investors, VCs — I look forward to working with you and building great companies together.
… is coming to a startup near you. Sign up for our mailing list and I’ll keep you posted on our upcoming launch: http://rtp.vc
About Kirill Sheynkman
I am the Senior Managing Director of RTP Ventures. I am a three-time founder of software startups including Stanford Technology Group, Plumtree Software and Elastra (an acquisition, an IPO, and a failure): spent most of my life building companies and working with VCs. Now a VC myself. Still not 100% sure I like it.