A few of you have asked me about that secret, stealth startup I wrote about wanting to “commission”. Commission is probably the wrong phrase. It’s more like a sperm donation. I wanted to play a role at the conception, do none of the hard work, but still consider myself family. And I’m happy to say FutureEngine is not only born, it’s already crawling and will soon enough be running around full speed.
I don’t want to talk too much about the company’s secret sauce yet, but there is a good founding story. I’d had the idea for the company for a little over a year. A key moment was a conversation I had with Manu Kumar, a great seed investor at K9 Ventures. I had invested in a company Manu had co-founded called CardMunch. Manu explained that he’d had the idea for a long time, but was waiting for just the right CEO to run it. And he is always keeping his eye out for talent. So when a talented engineer out of Apple called him about a company he was thinking of starting, Manu convinced him–to everyone’s benefit–that an even better fit and opportunity for him was taking the lead at CardMunch. I was a happy customer and investor, and CardMunch was quickly acquired by LinkedIn.
Unfortunately for me, I was unaware of Manu’s modus operandi when we met in Palo Alto several years ago. He introduced me to a new CEO he was backing, Henry Ward. I didn’t know that Manu had been looking for someone like Henry for several years, and when I found out that Henry had no one else on the team, I instantly wrote him off–you mean, he can’t even recruit a team?? It ends up that that was Day One, and I missed out on the chance to be in at the beginning of eShares. Ughhhh. That was an expensive lesson.
While Manu, like other great angels and VCs, is always free to “open the Rolodex” (talk about a dated term!) and make intros for his portfolio companies, he also explained to me that once he selected the CEO for one of his incubation ideas, it becomes the CEO’s role, not his, to assemble the team and make the decisions. I already had in mind a few talented Boston people that had great chops in product management and engineering, but hadn’t found the right person to lead it, so I didn’t want to lead on any of the very qualified people who had shown some interest in co-founder roles.
But back to the project. I was talking with Elizabeth Yin, who was starting the Hustle Fund with Eric Bahn. Our investing philosophies line up perfectly–so much so that I became a happy LP in their new fund, and Elizabeth shared with Eric my startup idea. Eric knew just the right team for my project.
After some calls back and forth, Eric pitched the idea to his friend and former Facebook colleague, Ling Bao. Who was interested in it enough to discuss it with his brother, Thomas, an engineer at Instagram. And after studying the idea and the market for a few weeks, they were both sufficiently intrigued to offer to come out to Boston to meet with me. It’s rare enough to find people with the right skills and chops, virtually unheard of to have them know each other since the cradle, but then to be so earnest and humble to offer to travel across the country to do some brainstorming? I was already in love. I hopped onto a flight to SF (with the bonus of visiting my daughter) and Ling, Thomas, Elizabeth, Eric and I all got together.
Two days later, the Hustle Fund signed on as the first customer and as lead investor, I was on as an investor and advisor, and FutureEngine was born.
So, this is about as good as it gets for an angel investor–having input, being able to contribute, instant customers, engaged fellow investors, and best of all, a stupendously talented core team.
I’m no longer intend to be active as an angel investor, preferring to invest in ethereum and bitcoin, about which I am incredibly bullish. But this was just too good to miss. I can’t wait to see what happens. You can follow them on AngelList here.