Hot Prospects: Phin Barnes, First Round Capital
— The following profile is an abbreviated version of Venture Capital Journal contributor Tom Stein’s piece for the the VCJ’s series on “Hot Prospects” within the venture capital industry. —
Phin Barnes’ first entrepreneurial endeavor did not exactly go according to plan.
In 2003, the former college basketball player co-founded ResponDesign, a developer of fitness games for consoles like the Xbox and Play Station 2. With its first game, Yourself!Fitness – which was based on Barnes’ concept of a “virtual personal trainer on a game console” – the company blazed trail for a whole new category of fitness games, including the wildly popular Wii Fit.
Barnes gained valuable experience as ResponDesign’s chief marketing officer, establishing marketing partnerships with a host of major companies, including Best Buy, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Nike, Proctor & Gamble and Sony, he says.
But by 2006, he had soured on the Portland, Ore.-based company after he and CEO Ted Spooner disagreed on direction. Jaded, Barnes left ResponDesign, which continues to operate as a private company. Today, Barnes wishes ResponDesign had raised venture capital, so he could have gotten the business advice he lacked at age 27.
The experience with ResponDesign motivated Barnes to become a VC. “It made me realize that if I had a reputable investor and the right kind of guidance, the company would have turned out completely different,” he said. “I want to help entrepreneurs avoid the same mistakes I made.”
Name: Phineas “Phin” Barnes
Occupation: Principal, First Round Capital
Education: BA in History and Sociology from Haverford College, 1998. MBA with honors (with double major in operations and information management and finance) from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 2009.
Work experience: Creative director, basketball shoe company AND1, 1997-2003; founder and chief marketing officer, RespondDesign, 2003-2006; freelance consultant, American Express, 2005-2007; freelance consultant, MTV Networks, 2006-2007; summer associate, McKinsey & Co., 2008; venture apprentice, First Round Capital, 2008; principal, First Round Capital, 2009-present.
Investments: Actively involved with AdCopy, Hot Potato, ModCloth, PerformLine and Stickybits.
Heroes: Phil Jackson and Steve Jobs
Twitter handle: @phineasb
Why he became a VC: “To help entrepreneurs avoid the same mistakes I made.”
Sources: VCJ reporting, LinkedIn, First Round Capital