This Week in VC with Farb Nivi, Founder of Grockit

Posted on Jun 3, 2010 | 10 comments


This was really a fun week at TWiVC because we decided to have an entrepreneur come and talk about raising capital rather than having a VC come on.  We had Farb Nivi, who is the founder & CEO of Grockit, a website that enables online group learning.  It’s always such a pleasure for me to spend time with Farb because he has all of the enthusiasm and energy you love to see in entrepreneurs.  He’s also candid, humble and helpful.  I think you’ll enjoy watching this week’s video.

In particular I tried to do most of the “entrepreneur advice on VC” up front so that if you don’t want to watch our views on the deals you don’t have to.  Here’s this week’s outline:

INTRO to FARB NIVI

  • Farb is the founder & CEO of Grockit.com.
  • Was senior in shaping the curriculum and teaching efforts at Kaplan & Princeton Review.
  • Raised angel money from Rob Lord, Reid Hoffman, Benchmark Capital and others.  Farb talks about how he did that.  Total round was $2.5 million.
  • Went on to present at TechCrunch 50
  • Raised $8 million from Benchmark and Integral
  • Recently raised $7 million from Atlas Ventures out of Boston
  • We debated whether he should have raised less money and how you should decide how much to raise

DEAL OF THE WEEK:

In and of itself TweetDeck would be like any other deal.  But we had a great chance to talk about the recent moves that Twitter has made to “plug holes” and changing its “TOS” on advertising.  And the broader question of whether VC’s will continue to invest in the Twitter ecosystem.

TweetDeck

  • Web-based client for user stream data including Twitter (original focus), FaceBook, MySpace, Google Buzz, FourSquare and many others
  • Estimated 15mm downloads to date
  • Competes with Seesmic, HootSuite, Brizzly

Current round: $3mm in Series B by betaworks (lead)(largest investor in company), Ron Conway, Danny Rimer, Accelerator Group, Roger Ehrenberg, Howard Lindzon

Total raised: $5.3mm Read more: TechCrunch

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Discussion: Had a long chat about PicClick, a company founded by Ryan Sit in San Diego.  It’s a very product that allows you to do visual search of eBay, ETSY, Match.com, AllRecipes and several others sites.  They sponsor TWiVC.  I don’t do advertising on my blog, but I thought it was worth mentioning Ryan in particular because he has an alternate model for doing a startup.  He’s a one-man show who hasn’t raised VC.

That means he doesn’t have to create a $50 million exit to have great financial results for himself.  It’s a cool product and worth checking out.  More importantly, if you think you want to go down the non-VC route Ryan would be a great resource to contact.

___________

OTHER DEALS:

1. BlockChalk

  • “Location-based version of StickyBits”
  • Users leave messages for each other through BlockChalk mobile app
  • Messages are “geo-fenced” to a specific location, store, or address and can only be viewed when by a user in the same geo-fenced area
  • Messages can be classified as public or private; named or anonymous
  • Founded in January 2010 by Stephen Hood (ex-Delicious head of product), Dave Baggeroer (Stanford’s Institute of Design), and Josh Whiting (ex-senior engineer at Delicious and Craigslist)

-Competitors: FourSquare, Gowalla, CitySourced,

Current round: $1.0mm in seed by Founder Collective, Battery Ventures, Joshua Schachter (Delicious founder; investor in Foursquare, SimpleGeo, Square, and Plancast), Mitch Kapor (Lotus founder), Harrison Metal, Josh Stylman, Tom McInerney, and David Liu

Total raised: $1.0mm – Read more: TechCrunch

2. Giiv

  • Mobile gifting service
  • Users can send digital Giiv card with store credit (via SMS, for now) that is redeemable at retailer
  • Company still in beta
  • Founded in 2009 in Los Angeles by Michelle Crames
  • Competitors: SMS gifting– KangoGift, Online/E-mail gifting: Lottay, GiftCertificates.com

Current round: $3.35mm in Series A by TomorrowVentures (Eric Schmidt’s personal investment vehicle), Saban Ventures, Founder Collective, SK Telecom Ventures

Total raised: $3.35mm + undisclosed Seed – Read more: TechCrunch

3. LibreDigital

  • “Orchard for e-Books”
  • Provides electronic book services for content publishers; services include digital scanning and conversion, distribution to leading e-book retailers, monetization and royalty management
  • Founded in 1999 in Austin, Texas
  • Brought in new CEO, Russ Reeder in 2008
  • Competitors: SmashWords, Google Books

Current round: $8.1mm in Series C by S3 Ventures (lead), Adams Capital Mgmt, Triangle Peak Partners

Total raised: $120.3mm; $43.5mm raised prior to 2006 recap; post-recap, raised $7.7mm; Series B in 2009 for $15mm; – Read more: VentureWire (requires subscription)

4. MetaMarkets

  • Provider of real-time data and predictive analytics for web site publishers
  • Pricing engine helps publishers ascertain ad inventory pricing by analyzing ad transaction data from the market/exchanges
  • Data reports include following sample fields: real-time suggested price for specific unit of ad inventory, ad server data, order insertion data, behavioral targeting data, conversion data, etc.
  • Customer are primarily large media companies (publishers) and their media agencies
  • Founded in 2009 in San Francisco by David Soloff (ex-Lead Architect of Rapt, which was sold to MSFT in 2008)
  • Competitors: VivaKi (Publicis Groupe), FatTail, AdMeld, Rapt (part of Microsoft Publishing)

Current round: $2.5mm in Seed by IA Ventures (lead), Village Ventures, True Ventures, Founder Collective, Mike Maples, Stan Shuman (Allen & Company), AOL Ventures, Jim Pallotta, Josh Stylman, Peter Hershberg, Dennis Crowley (FourSquare).

Total raised: $2.5mm – Read more: TechCrunch

5. Cocodot

  • Premium invitation cards and event stationary that is designed online for online distribution or paper print
  • Dozens of design templates that can be printed on various high-end papers
  • Features original art and design by professional photography and design team
  • Founded by Shawn Gold (ex-MySpace CMO)
  • Competition: Pingg, MyPunchbowl, TinyPrints, PaperlessPost

Current round: $2mm in Series B from Anthem Venture Partners and Rincon Venture Partners – Total Raised: $3mm – Read more: TechCrunch

6. Hello, Chair

  • Developer of Appsaurus, a mobile app recommendation engine
  • Redesign/rebrand/evolution of Hello, Chair’s Applanche and Adpinion products
  • Competition: Apple iPhone App Store Genius
  • Current round: $0.85mm in seed from Harrison Metal Capital, Mitch Kapor, Chris Sacca, Wilson Sonsini

Total raised: $1.74mm – Read more: TechCrunch, Wired article

  • http://www.domainnoob.com John Humphrey (DomainNoob)

    Cocodot's Shawn Gold was a guest on This Week In Startups, #33. http://thisweekinstartups.com/2009/12/twist-33-
    When you consider all the targeted upselling one can do around events, it's no wonder people want into the invitation space. Harry Lin ran evite for a time and shares insights and behind-the-scenes info in this Jan, 2010 Andrew Warner interview on Mixergy: http://mixergy.com/evite-harry-lin/

  • http://www.domainnoob.com John Humphrey (DomainNoob)

    Cocodot's Shawn Gold was a guest on This Week In Startups, #33. http://thisweekinstartups.com/2009/12/twist-33-
    When you consider all the targeted upselling one can do around events, it's no wonder people want into the invitation space. Harry Lin ran evite for a time and shares insights and behind-the-scenes info in this Jan, 2010 Andrew Warner interview on Mixergy: http://mixergy.com/evite-harry-lin/

  • http://www.samianrosen.com/ Samuel Ian Rosen

    Mark — when does TWiVC tape? I know you haven't had as many comments coming in on Twitter in TWiVC 5, 6, 7… Personally it's hard to join live, but I love listening to the podcasts on my morning commute in NYC.

  • http://www.samianrosen.com/ Samuel Ian Rosen

    Mark — when does TWiVC tape? I know you haven't had as many comments coming in on Twitter in TWiVC 5, 6, 7… Personally it's hard to join live, but I love listening to the podcasts on my morning commute in NYC.

  • Rahul Chaudhary

    Mark, You mentioned that you would still invest in the Twitter ecosystem. Can you share your thoughts on what kind of Twitter based companies would interest you from investment point of view?

  • Rahul Chaudhary

    Mark, You mentioned that you would still invest in the Twitter ecosystem. Can you share your thoughts on what kind of Twitter based companies would interest you from investment point of view?

  • http://www.hypedsound.com jonathanjaeger

    Most entertaining TWiVC so far, in the top two in insights thus far.

  • http://www.hypedsound.com Jonathan Jaeger

    Most entertaining TWiVC so far, in the top two in insights thus far.

  • Rokhayakebe

    Nice shirt, Mark.

    I loved Farb's “Jump off the cliff and build a plane on the way down”.

  • Rokhayakebe

    Nice shirt, Mark.

    I loved Farb's “Jump off the cliff and build a plane on the way down”.

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