You always hear investors say it’s all about people. Well, it is…
It was just over a year ago that I sat in a dive bar, at 9am, watching the United States play Algeria in the World Cup. That was the game where Landon Donovan scored that amazing goal with like 4 seconds left to lift the US to the next round. Landon’s goal was the second most exciting part of my morning…
See, I was watching the match with these two guys I had met a few nights earlier, when Josh Knowles (now running Pivotal Labs) so kindly introduced us. They were Jared Hecht and Steve Martocci, the founders of GroupMe.
Truth be told, I don’t even recall what we talked about — it was the energy of the conversation that I remember. It was so clear that these guys were for real: the passion, intelligence, maturity (Jared was 23 at the time, now a grownup at 24), and vision all stood out. There was no question I wanted to invest in these guys…
Their story was easy to understand. They met years earlier as fans touring with the Disco Biscuits, a jam band that was started at UPenn, where I went to school, so I knew the band well. Their friendship grew, they knew they wanted to work together one day, and then they jumped at the chance when the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon came to town.
Jared and Steve wanted to be able to communicate with all their friends, quickly, all at once. They jumped in and built the product that they wanted. They were their own super users. They solved their own problem. And they did it with energy, elegance and fun. They were themselves the whole time, and they wore it on their sleeves. They even had a working demo that they used to communicate with investors. That was slick.
What I liked about Jared and Steve was that they were insanely confident yet humbly aware of the challenges, all at the same time. They knew what the product would look like, but more importantly, they knew what the product would feel like. Their intensity was palpable and you wanted to be around them. And they channeled this energy and vision into building a unique culture both in and around their company.
That is why, over the past year they’ve built a world-class team, built a world-class product, and built an amazing syndicate of investors and advisors. It’s been so satisfying being part of it. Congrats to Brandon, Steve, Pat, Jeremy, Cameron, Tara, Ajay,the dude with the long hair, and the rest of the GroupMe team. You worked incredibly hard and built a winning product culture in the heart of NYC. The engineering talent and product culture at GroupMe was a major differentiator in a crowded space.
Today’s good news is particularly sweet for me for another reason — it’s my first exit as an angel investor. What a cool feeling. And it reaffirms that core lesson that everyone repeats, because it’s true: invest in great people. First and foremost. Work with people you like and believe in and who get you revved up. The rest will fall into place. Experiencing this alongside betaworks, Lerer Ventures, First Round Capital, ThriveCapital, SV Angel, Founder Collective, David Cohen, Josh Stylman and Peter Hershberg, and more was awesome.
The partnership with Skype makes a lot of sense, and GroupMe’s future is very bright. I’m thrilled the company will be staying in NYC, continuing to build out its vision of changing the way people communicate and get together. Teaming up with Skype and its 175 million users is an amazing way to achieve this goal.
Great win for the NYC tech scene. And couldn’t have happened to a better group of people.