David Hornik, a partner at August Capital, is one of those likeable guys with an uncanny ability to say what's on his mind and get away with it. That's why we love having him as our Late Night host during our Splash events. Even though David could be the first VC to turn in his term sheets for scripts and become a late night talk show host, he's still spending most of his time off the stage and investing in companies.
In this interview, we talk about his investment philosophy, which is pretty simple: He's looking for new solutions to big problems from entrepreneurs who are passionate and committed.
When I asked him if there were any areas that he wanted to focus on, he responded: "It's in the awesome space." It's not the particular space, but the idea. He's not chasing those buzzwords, like "collaborative consumption" ideas or "big data" or "social commerce" companies.
"We wake up and say, 'What great people are out there building things we haven't though of,'" said Hornik. He invested in Splunk in 2004, well before "big data" was in vogue. But through August Capital, which currently has a $400 million fund and invests anywhere from $500,000 to tens of millions (August Capital put in $135 million into Seagate through its Special Opportunities Fund), he's also an investor in start-ups in other categories, such as Stumbleupon, SAY Media, PayNearMe, Aisle50, and WePay.
The attraction to those companies? The people.
So what does he look for in an entrepreneur?
Here's his thoughts (slightly edited and abridged version): There’s all sorts of things that give entrepreneurs creditibilty. But the question is: 'How do you get credibility when you have no experience?' i’m funding 23 year olds all the time. What makes them stand out is when they describe the things they’re focused on and they give you very energized and thoughtful answers.
The key to entrepreneurship is that "no one gets it right in the early stage," said Hornik. To that end, the person more than the idea is what needs to be backed.