As founder and managing partner of early-stage investment firm Genacast Ventures, which was established in 2008, Gil Beyda has accredited himself well in a relatively short period of time. With prescient investments in Invite Media (bought by Google in 2010) and Demdex (acquired by Adobe in 2011), Beyda has been no stranger to the VC Holy Grail of successful "exits."
Like many in the venture capital field, he earned his tech stripes and honed his sharp venture capital eye in high-level tech roles which included Tacoda (acquired by Aol in 2007) and Real Media - eventually acquired by WPP Group.
Success aside, Beyda admits that he has missed a number of good startups on their way up but has avoided playing what he calls "the volume game" of venture investment. Offering a bit of color on his firm's differentiation, he adds, "Our 'hand-crafted' approach to building a portfolio doesn't lend itself to doing a slew of deals. Being an entrepreneur at heart, I really enjoy working with and being active with a smaller number of start-ups. It is difficult to be hands-on when you have loads of companies in your portfolio so we're going to miss some good companies."
AdExchanger: Overall, what do you see with your fellow venture capitalists and their ad tech investments - doubling down? - pulling out?
GIL BEYDA: Investor in ad tech are in it for the long-term and realize that it is still early and thus are encouraging their portfolio companies to not worry about acquisition and focus on building a real business with long-term aspirations. That often means doubling down by bringing in larger funds to fuel growth. I don't see investors running for the hills, this space is too important with many great investment opportunities ahead.
How do you see that changing in the next 12-18 months?
I don't see things changing soon. Until the pace of acquisitions accelerate, building long-term, sustainable, real businesses with real revenue and profits will be the goal. I think that is a good thing. We need more high-growth, mature companies as anchors in ad tech to balance out potential concentration issues with a few large players.
Looking across the table at the entrepreneurs, any trends you can share?
God bless, America! The entrepreneurial spirit never ceases to amaze and delight me. I have been an investor for four years, seeing over 2,000 start-ups, and the supply of great ideas, entrepreneurs and start-ups never end. I love it! While bad economic times are terrible for our country, I see a special kind of entrepreneur during these times. One who, during high winds and high waves, doesn't turn his boat for safe harbor. He or she is heartier, more realistic and more scrappy. I have a special respect for these entrepreneurs.
How has Genacast investment thesis changed since the days of your Invite Media and Demdex investments?
Our investment philosophy hasn't changed over the years. We've just had an opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. While we started in ad tech, because that was my background, we didn't want to be known only for those types of investments. Our third investment was in ad tech with DoubleVerify but we quickly branched out into ecommerce with Packlate, mobile with Enterproid, big data with Mortar Data and lead generation with LeadiD. The common theme is great entrepreneur who can execute with great technology to provide competitive advantages and defensibility.
Do you still consider ad tech investment? When?
I still have a lot of roots in the ad community so I see a lot of ad tech deals. There is still so much opportunity in ad tech. Much of the work over the past few years has been to build great pipes between publishers and advertisers , going thru SSPs, exchanges, DSPs, DMPs, etc. Those pipes are game-changing and extremely valuable; consuming and throwing off tons of data. Therein lies the next wave I see coming. Using the massive potential of cloud computing to crunch through that data and produce actionable analytics that were never before possible because of cost. We're already seeing it with one of our portfolio companies Mortar Data and some of their customers bringing massive amount of ad data and finding insights that have the potential to be transformational to their customers' businesses.
Has the board room evolved at all? What are you doing in the board room as an investor that you may not have considered 3 years ago?
Brainstorming. All my board meetings are brainstorming sessions. Brainstorming about product, go-to-market strategies, competition, hiring, etc. We spend all of 30 seconds on formal board stuff like approving minutes and option grants and then spend the rest of the 2-3 hours rolling up our sleeves. I think it helps to have board members that have been operators and have been there, done that and can help start-ups benefit from their challenges and successes.
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