Entrepreneurial

Employee rewards site raises $24 million from Sequoia Capital

Prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital is wading into the near $50-billion employee rewards market with its $24.5 million Series C round of financing of online San Francisco-based company Achievers.

The announcement on Wednesday by the venture capital heavyweight signals a heightened interest in the space that Sequoia partner Alfred Lin said is “highly fragmented” and lacks a dominant player.

“We want to be an investor in the most interesting companies of tomorrow and we felt like this would be a company for the ages,” said Lin, who will take a seat on Achievers’ board of directors. Sequoia has had a long history of backing technology companies such as Apple, Oracle, Cisco, Google and YouTube.

The round also included previous investors in Boston-based GrandBanks Capital and Toronto, Canada-based firms JLA Ventures and the Ontario Venture Capital Fund.

Achievers has now raised $38 million since CEO Razor Suleman founded the company in 2002 in Toronto. Formerly named I Love Rewards, the company, which has 150 employees, has since expanded to Boston and San Francisco and Suleman said the latest funding will be put toward hiring in all three markets and extensive marketing of the product.

Making a case for more candor at startups

– Connie Loizos is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

In an age where seemingly everyone in the startup community now blogs, tweets and leaks his or her news, stretching the truth has become de rigueur. But I’d argue that it’s creating distrust; it’s also distorting the way that founders, the real engine of Silicon Valley, see the world.

What can be done about it, if anything? Recently, I asked neuroscientist and best-selling author Sam Harris, whose new Kindle essay, “Lying,” explores our fundamental inclination to lie and self-promote. Our conversation has been edited for length.

Twilio raises second microfund from angels McClure, Conway

– Alastair Goldfisher is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. He was also part of the judging panel at the Twilio Conference with Paul Singh of 500 Startups and Manu Kumar of K9 Ventures. This article originally appeared here. –

This week at the Twilio Conference in San Francisco, 500 Startups founder Dave McClure announced the launch of a second Twilio MicroFund of $250,000 to invest in companies that are based on Twilio’s Connect platform.

McClure and Ron Conway of SV Angel will each invest $125,000 in the fund. McClure will manage the investments, with Twilio serving as an advisor.

TechStars raises the ante in the startup accelerator race

– Mark Boslet is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

Interest in seed stage incubators, accelerators and entrepreneurial funds continues at full bore, with companies, firms and universities all getting into the act.

Vodafone early this month opened the doors of its Silicon Valley research center to startups with the hope of encouraging faster innovation on its network.

Blackstone looks to advise startups

– Luisa Beltran is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

The Blackstone Group wants to advise, not buy, Silicon Valley startups.

So reports Portfolio.com. Blackstone has long had an advisory practice, but the New York private equity firm is known more for its mega buyouts. For example, Blackstone was part of the investor group that acquired Freescale Semiconductor in 2006 for $17.6 billion and also acquired Hilton Hotels in 2007 for $26 billion.

But Blackstone recently hosted an “inaugural” tech forum in Silicon Valley that was intended to match up startups, investors and industry experts, Portfolio.com reports. Ivan Brockman, a Blackstone MD who is based in Menlo Park, admits that Blackstone isn’t known for advising tech companies.

Are patent reforms good for small businesses?

– Cynthia Hsu is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. –

President Obama recently signed into law the America Invents Act, a patent reform legislation that does away with the old “first to invent” rule. What does the patent reform mean for small businesses?

Most notably, the new legislation pushes Americans toward a “first to file” system, meaning that those who file for a patent first will get awarded the rights.

Stanford entrepreneur: If you’re 20 and you haven’t started a $1 million company, “you’re kind of a failure”

– Connie Loizos is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

Recently, New York magazine featured Feross Aboukhadijeh in a piece titled “Bubble Boys”. Aboukhadijeh is a Sacramento-born, 20-year-old computer science student at Stanford who has been characterized as among the school’s most heavily recruited students by a course adviser. The piece suggested he may ultimately be among those geeks to succeed the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world.

While perhaps a stretch, it’s easy to see Aboukhadijeh’s appeal. A year ago, Aboukhadijeh created a small media sensation with YouTube Instant, a site that invites visitors to scan YouTube videos in real time, and which Google was at one point interested in acquiring – along with Aboukhadijeh.

VC firm to form “Jedi Council” of entrepreneurs

– Joanna Glasner is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

Menlo Ventures’ newest managing director, Shervin Pishevar, is getting off to a fast start.

The serial entrepreneur turned Internet VC announced that his firm has formed a new early stage investment vehicle, the Menlo Talent Fund, which will fund rounds up to $250,000 in promising startups. As part of the effort, Pishevar told attendees at San Francisco’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week, the firm will be forming a “Jedi Council of incredible entrepreneurs,” known as the Menlo Founders Council, to work with startups.

Startups run the gamut from the sublime to the mundane

– Mark Boslet is a contributor to PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

Investors navigated the halls. Luminaries such as LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman and SoftTech’s Jeff Clavier took the stage.

Demo Fall 2011 was in full swing yesterday. What stood out at the tech conference was an eclectic assortment of startups that varied from the sublime to the silly. Several of the most appealing enterprise-focused companies seemed poised to attract considerable interest. Several developing consumer technologies did not.

Why venture capitalists invest in pigs, not chickens

– Jeff Bussgang is a former entrepreneur and partner at Flybridge Capital Partners. This article originally appeared on his blog Seeing Both Sides. The views expressed are his own. –

There is an old parable about the concept of commitment when it comes to breakfast. The story goes that when looking at a plate of the traditional fare of ham and eggs, it’s obvious that the chicken is an interested party, but the pig is truly committed.

When I tell this story to entrepreneurs, my point is usually to contrast the approach venture capitalists have to startups as compared to entrepreneurs. The VC is an interested party, but at the end of the day, if their startups live or die, they typically still have their job, their office and their portfolio of other investments. The entrepreneur, on the other hand, is the pig – truly committed to the outcome, with no fallback.

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