BV Capital is relaunching tonight as E.ventures, a network of five connected global funds.We wouldn’t write about the renaming of a venture-capital firm normally—except that E.ventures has such a rich and fascinating history, one that we covered from its inception in 1998. And we’re taken with the data-driven approach that one of its partners, Tom Gieselmann, is spearheading.
E.ventures began life 14 years ago as Bertelsmann Ventures, a venture-capital arm of the German media company. Jan Henric Buettner, Andreas von Blottnitz, and Gieselmann worked together at AOL Europe, a joint venture of Bertelsmann and AOL; another partner, Mathias Schilling, worked at Bertelsmann as well. They set up shop in the unlikely locale of Santa Barbara, Calif.
In 2000, they took a step towards independence from Bertelsmann and raised a fund as BV Capital. Then things really soured, as Buettner and von Blottnitz sued for a share of the profits from the sale of AOL Europe to AOL. They won hundreds of millions of dollars. (Along the way, BV moved to San Francisco—well ahead of the recent wave of venture capitalists opening up offices in the city.) They had some successes with Onelist, which merged with eGroups and got sold to Yahoo, and GoToMyPC, acquired by Citrix.
The years of the dotcom bust were tough, but they hung in there, raised another fund, and expanded their investments from the US and Europe to Russia, China, and Brazil. Recent hits include Angie’s List and Groupon, which went public last year, and Sonos, where E.ventures sold shares in the company’s most recent financing round. (As part of the deal, longtime BV partner von Blottnitz is leaving the Sonos board, and he’s not joining E.ventures in the firm’s latest incarnation.)
So what’s next?
Over the past two years, Gieselmann told us he’s been working on a dashboard driven by data like Web traffic to spot promising startups.
Like the data he uses, Gieselmann’s dashboard is publicly available. Buettner and Schilling have asked Gieselmann why he doesn’t make the site private, but he argues that the advantage they derive from it isn’t based on the data, which anyone could download and crunch in similar manner, but their analysis.
That data-driven approach, Gieselmann said, takes him and his partners back to their AOL days, when they crunched numbers to figure out the best ways to market dial-up Internet service to European customers.
Sometimes experience pays off.
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