Mohr Davidow partner Jim Smith says MDV likes entrepreneurs who obsess about their business

Investor interview by John Shinal
November 14, 2007 last edited July 10, 2008
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For the latest in our series on what venture capitalists look for when evaluating deals, we traveled down to the heart of the West Coast VC industry -- Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park -- to sit down with Jim Smith and Bryan Stolle of MDV.

The firm, formerly known as Mohr Davidow Ventures, specializes in early-stage investments and is one of the oldest and most successful VC firms in Silicon Valley. MDV, which manages $1.4 billion, has backed a slew of firms that either went public or were acquired, including chip makers Rambus and PMC-Sierra, networking firms like ONI Systems and Brocade Communication Systems and early-Internet star Critical Path.

More recently, it's turned its attention to Web 2.0 plays and has a stake in Web analytics startup, whose CEO, David Thompson, we interviewed a few weeks back.

Stolle, who co-founded Agile Software in 2005 and served at various times as its CEO and board chair, is a recent addition to the firm, joining after Oracle bought Agile, an MDV-backed firm, for $495 million earlier this year. We'll have his thoughts on that experience in a future story on

Smith, who formerly developed high-performance integrated circuits and computing systems for Silicon Graphics, is an older hand at MDV, so I asked him to explain what the firm looks for in an investment.

After joking that "every deal" MDV funds has a great team with a great idea attacking a great market, Smith got down to specifics, explaining how MDV looks for "groundbreaking technology" and "entrepreneurs who look at things in great detail... and spend time obsessing about their business."