Upfront Ventures Adds Hamet Watt as New Investment Partner

Posted on Sep 12, 2013 | 50 comments


Today is a day I’ve waited patiently for for 5 years but more earnestly for more than 1 year. I am thrilled to announce that we have added Hamet Watt as a Partner at Upfront Ventures.

Hamet Watt Upfront Ventures

Now that he’s become a VC he’s promising me he’ll provide way more public information and discourse so please welcome him by following him on Twitter and ¬†better yet welcoming him with a Tweet of your own linking to his Twitter handle or this post.

Thank you.

This is a big news day at Upfront Ventures. In other news we announced the closing of $61 million in funding at Maker Studios, which I’ll talk publicly about soon.

But as sweet as that success has been (we invested pre-revenue in a small team) today my even more important news was the further expansion of our partner ranks.

I’ve known Hamet for 5 years. He first came to see me in 2008 when we was raising money for his 1st startup – NextMedium. It was a software platform for allowing advertisers to purchase brand integration (product placements) as a standardized unit through a marketplace.

The idea immediately resonated. As more consumers were skipping commercials the idea of authentically integrating brands into media seemed obvious to me and ended up informing a lot of my investments in 2009 and 2010.

Hamet came up with this idea after 3 years consulting for Nielsen Media helping them to figure out the value of branded integration and trying to define ways to measure efficacy of the unit.

On the first meeting we had I told Hamet 2 things: 1: I can’t ever fund this business but 2: I know we’re going to work together one day in some capacity.

That feeling happens 2-3 times per year maximum.

Hamet had the perfect combination:

  • Smarts.
  • Startup DNA.
  • Media relationships.
  • Vision for how to change the industry.
  • Drive.
  • Relationships.
  • Gravitas.

So what gives? Mark, why wouldn’t you fund him?

I saw too much of myself in Hamet. He had made some structural mistakes in NextMedium that meant the Cap Table and leadership team was a bit wacky. I believe investors had forced him to do this. For starters they has asked him to hire a CEO (Hamet was a first timer) and that person lived in Seattle even though NextMedium was based in LA. They did development in SF and had the ad sales team in NY.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the problems in this structure.

I only wanted one thing in the deal – Hamet.

I stayed close.

At every entrepreneur event I through between 2008-2012 I invite Hamet because he was a great mentor for entrepreneurs. He reached out to younger founders and offered to help via his network at AT&T, Google, media agencies … you name it.

And he followed through. He also formed strong working relationships with my partners at Upfront over the years.

Hamet started his career in Venture Capital working for the first post-apartheid VC fund in South Africa. So he had had a taste of it. He also served nearly 2 years as an EIR and Scout at True Ventures one of the Silicon Valley firms I most respect.

He’s founded 3 companies and I’ll bet he has 3-5 more in him.

We started talking about his joining Upfront more than a year ago.

We have been on a drive to add more operational partners. Our founder, Yves Sisteron, himself was an entrepreneur earlier in his career and has been a mentor to us all at VC having backed too many billion dollar exits to name.

I was the first operational startup partner added – having built and sold two software companies.

After I became co-managing director I pushed our firm to start adding more talent who had a mix of operational, startup experience and some form of investment experience. The first such person to join us was Greg Bettinelli who came from eBay, LiveNation and then HauteLook. I wrote about that decision here.

Hamet is an extension of this strategy.

He will be a venture partner. What does that mean? Well … it means different things at different places. At Upfront Ventures it means that he will have full investment authority no different than any other partner including me.

The only difference is that he will be half time versus full time and he will continue to be Chairman of 2 companies: bLife and MoviePass, both of which have extremely talented CEOs in their own right.

Wait. How can he be effective working half time at Upfront?

Simple. While I or other full time partners may sit on the boards of 8-10 companies each Hamet will sit on the board of 4-5. So he has the exact same ratio of time available per board as any full-time partner at Upfront does. And the same authority to get deals done.

We made a commitment at Upfront to help our portfolio more by investing more in our team, our platform and by bringing on more operational expertise.

I’m very excited to announce Hamet is joining us.

I’ve considering Hamet a friend and inspiration for years. Now we have the opportunity to work more closely together along with the rest of the team at Upfront to build something special in LA.

What else? He’s a Redskins fan (he grew up in DC) so you have to kind of feel sorry for the guy. Especially after the Eagles took them down this past Sunday. We watched together. I wanted to rub it in but it’s hard not to love RGIII. And Hamet. He has a lovely family – Joy and Zion – who are also active members of the LA community.

Please help me welcome him to our firm.

  • http://www.onetact.co/ Rishi

    Congrats to both Hamet and the Maker team. Mark, does Hamet have a blog?

  • http://www.twitter.com/rohamg Roham

    Great to see Upfront growing with more entrepreneurs in the ranks! I’m looking forward to seeing the dynamic evolve as the firm expands.

  • Robert Jadon

    Congrats to Hamet and Upfront, great addition to the team!

  • http://www.twitter.com/biggiesu Mike Su

    Indeed, sorry (not really) about the Redskins but congrats and great meeting you the other day Hamet! Hopefully we continue to hang out under similar circumstances :)

  • Luis Jimenez

    Mark, Hamet is a darn good basketball coach, too…he coached my son last year. Great to hear about Marker – we pitched a project for their Yogscast brand last year but some ill-timing made the opportunity go away… Best of luck to Hamet and to Upfront.

  • Chathri Ali

    Congrats Hamet and Upfront. Glad to see the team grow.

    Also, excited to see Maker do bigger and better things in LA!

  • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

    Wow, great addition. I’d love to hear more about the first post-apartheid SA VC fund.

  • Alex Bertha

    Congrats to Hamet and Upfront. Top performing fund in the US and still pushing the role VC should play in today’s environment. Well done.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thank you. and not yet.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, roham

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, robert

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, luis. i watched zion play and if he got any of his dad’s skills then I’m sure he’s a great coach. he was incredible for his age.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    make sure to email hamet. I’m sure he’ll tell ya

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, alex.

  • peggen

    Outstanding addition to Upfront team! I’m a big fan of Hamet, gravitas personified sans the ‘Skins affiliation. ;) Seeing him next week in SF. Great hire!

  • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan

    Congrats guys!

  • Hamet Watt

    many thanks Richikesh! working on a blog….any crazy ideas? thanks again

  • Hamet Watt

    many thanks Robert. Congrats to you too. excited to hear more.

  • Hamet Watt

    :-) watch out! the RG3 is just getting warm. you saw what happened in the second half!

  • Hamet Watt

    thanks luis…sahid was one of our stars! he’ll be missed this year!

  • Hamet Watt

    thanks Jess! Happy to share war stories anytime.

  • Hamet Watt

    Thanks Alex. That’s what got me so excited! it’s a great group of folks.

  • Hamet Watt

    thanks so much, sans the Skins hate:-)

  • Greg Mand

    Congrats on the hire Mark! Look forward to meeting Hamet in the near future. Shh…don’t tell him I’m also an Iggles fan.

  • ChuksOnwuneme

    Congrats on the addition….he looks contemplative lol ;)
    Hope he also blogs and tweets!

  • Sam Spector

    Go Eagles! And Hamet!

  • http://ohheyworld.com/ Drew Meyers

    Do you truly love writing? I think it’s a myth that every single person should blog. It’s not for everyone.

    That said, the more VC’s who are open about their thinking and put their personality out there for all to see…is a good thing in my mind.

  • http://www.davidblerner.com davidblerner

    Boom…
    Congrats Hamet!

  • http://influitive.com/ Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Congrats to the team! Great points made by Mark about the importance of having partners with mix of operational and investment experience.

  • http://www.onetact.co/ Rishi

    Hamet, I was just hoping to see more entrepreneurs / VCs with operational experience share their experiences and thoughts. I love Mark’s style of writing — No BS, very real, and of course useful advice for entrepreneurs.

  • http://www.vc-brazil.com/ vcbrazil

    Bigtime congrats to Upfront and Hamet
    Hamet — i grew up in DC and bled burgundy and gold. (also fortunate to play a couple of years as reserve linebacker during Gibbs #1 – good training for this business :)
    when you are in the bay area next it would be great to connect.
    If RG3 stays healthy the Eagles game will be forgotten very quickly…
    Best
    Ted Rogers

  • http://www.bluecoastrecords.com/ Cookie Marenco

    Congratulations to Hamet! Someone with media relationships and a vision to change the industry gets an A+ in my book. Happy to hear the success of Maker Studios, too. Congrats!

    Ummm, Redskins? Sorry, GO NINERS!

    And as always, the very best to you, Mark, for being an inspiration!

  • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

    I think there are too many advice and tip blogs in this space. I would love to read something that was more anecdotes and war stories, preferably 2,000+ words. That not everyones cup of tea, but something that’s missing from the landscape.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    what a game, hey? if you’re ever down on a sunday let’s hang

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    forgotten. until the next eagles game! ;-)

  • dee bryant

    i like this $tory :-) congrats hamet #hu$tle on fella$..

  • patgiblin

    Nice building going on by you. Wish this was the same in San Diego. Keep making So Cal strong and maybe infection will come. Hope to showcase our Patented SaaS for Comments use with ADN’s, RTB and SEO some time soon. Seems to have the right “relationships” to help us get into next steps. Congrats on all things Mark.

  • Make Good Social

    Awesome. Congrats to Hamet and kudos to Mark and Upfront for the vision. The LA startup community just got even stronger!

  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com/ Donna Brewington White

    Mark, are you having fun yet or what! Such a pleasure to watch these developments — what a cool addition to the team. Much continued success to Upfront as you “build something special in LA”

    Welcome, Hamet. All the best!

  • Fred Krueger

    Congrats to both of you. Great things happen to good people.

  • Hamet Watt

    Jess, so funny! i loved your idea to have a blog with more personal / entrepreneurial war stories, then i realized you’re at visual.ly. i have literally been camping out there recently because i’m thinking through the possibilities of an almost entirely visual blog. let’s talk! i will hit you on linkedin

  • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

    Cool, I will look for your tent.

  • Hamet Watt

    Hi Ted, many thanks for the congrats and the support on our skins. You played for when of the greats. love to connect when in the same Geo. I may need you down here with me at the next game!

  • Hamet Watt

    thanks much

  • Hamet Watt

    thanks Donna!

  • Hamet Watt

    Thanks Fred. congrats to you again on all of the great progress with Needly. happy to now be one of your proud investors

  • http://www.vc-brazil.com/ vcbrazil

    Excellent — btw i’m not big on these stats but tough challenge today: Packers
    are 26-2 at home since 2009, haven’t lost back-to-back games since
    October of 2010. oh well – it’ll make a win even sweeter

  • http://www.vc-brazil.com/ vcbrazil

    :) I don’t know why but our worst beatings tend to come from the Eagles, eg, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_Bag_Game

  • timbarnes10

    Congrats to both Hamet and Upfront. Hamet, you will bring a lot to the team! It was great reading this post simply because I was able to learn a few new things about you. Best of luck on this new journey!