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Will John Doerr talk bubbles & unicorns at Post Seed?

The VC legend has invested in every round from Series A to growth-stage, from Google to Uber

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
November 24, 2015
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/41a9

Amazon. Google. Twitter.

I’d love to know how many people reading this haven’t used one of these services today. And I wonder: what would a major investor in each of these companies have to say about today’s tech unicorns?

We may find out when John Doerr takes the stage at the Post Seed Conference a week from today.

Editor's Note: We are hosting our second annual Post Seed (#postseedconf) event on Dec. 1 at Ruby Skye in San Francisco. The event - which we expect to draw more than 500 attendees - kicks off at 8 am and ends around 5 pm. We're excited to have Cory Johnson, anchor at Bloomberg West, broadcasting live from 7 am to 11 am PST. It should be a riveting day! Register here: Post Seed 2015.

Doerr is a venture capital legend, having invested in some of the world’s biggest tech names since joining Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) in 1980. Over the past 35 years, he has cemented Kleiner Perkins as a top name in Silicon Valley through its investments in long-standing tech companies (Amazon and Google), recent exits (Zynga, Twitter, and Square), and rapidly growing upstarts (DoorDash, Slack, and Uber).

It’s hard to imagine someone better to kick off the conversation at Post Seed next week, as Doerr was crucial in several of the most important “post-seed” rounds in Silicon Valley history (more on that below). But securing funding in this stage of a startup’s life cycle has changed dramatically since the 90s.

Bambi Francisco, founder and CEO of Vator, recently shared an intricate, informative piece detailing exactly how venture capital rounds have shifted over the years, and what it means to be a Series A investor today. Namely, today’s Series A rounds resemble the traditional seed rounds, while today’s Series B rounds resemble the traditional Series A rounds.

Here’s why we’d love to hear Doerr’s opinion on this transforming landscape.

Three significant investments

First there was Amazon.com, the perfect startup story. Jeff Bezos quit his job, launched Amazon from his garage, and, a month later, started fulfilling $20,000 in sales every week. A year later, in 1995, Doerr raised an $8 million Series A round for Amazon.com; two years later, the company went public at $18 per share. To this date, Amazon continues to grow revenue year-over-year while maintaining razor-thin profits, a strategy favoring long-term growth over short-term gains.

Similarly, Google started out as a garage project in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The following year, the company issues its first press release, announcing a $25 million round of funding from rival firms Sequoia Capital and KPCB. Doerr (and Michael Moritz from Sequoia) joined the company’s board, where Doerr still holds a seat today.

Finally, there’s Twitter, which played out a little differently than the previous two. Not quite an early bet, KPCB led a $200 million round for Twitter in late 2010, after the company had already raised over $150 million over the previous year’s rounds. (This in spite of the claim that ex-KPCB partner Ellen Pao pushed for a Twitter investment as early as 2008.) Also unlike the Google and Amazon stories, many people are still skeptical about Twitter’s growth potential, particularly its investors.

The Series A in the 2010s

While it’s somebody’s job to ask Doerr whether he believes the latest additions to his firm’s portfolio will ever reach Amazon or Google’s dominance (in terms of valuation), that’s not our main concern.

We want to know what the successful VC thinks about the changing post-seed landscape.

Though some of his investments have been especially late-stage (Flipboard, Slack, and Uber), he has in fact bet money on startups at several different stages over the past several years. Here are some examples:

  • Series A: Coursera ($16M), Path ($8.5M)
  • Series B: DoorDash ($40M), Shyp ($50M)
  • Series C: NextDoor ($600M), Square ($100M)

When Doerr gave the green light on Coursera and Path, what were the terms?

Certainly these weren’t seed rounds, intended to fuel the growth of companies still finding their footing. Just by the numbers, Bambi would call them redefined Series A rounds, reserved for companies with “well-defined product, solid proof points in (but not all) either team, revenue, [or] data.”

And how did we get here? Maybe all those unicorns, private companies valued at over $1 billion, have something to do with it.

As someone who has made a few growth-stage investments in top-name unicorns, including Twitter and Uber, Doerr should have something to say about how all these sky-high valuations have affected the earlier seed and Series A investments. Or whether they’re both influenced by something else entirely.

Either way, we greatly look forward to seeing John Doerr on stage at the Post Seed Conference next week, and we’ll be sure to share all the highlights here at VatorNews.


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