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.
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.
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:
- Startup DNA.
- Media relationships.
- Vision for how to change the industry.
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.