Sixteen Years Ago

1996 was the year that my career took off, the year that NYC's startup community took off, and the year that the commercial internet took off. It was a big year and an inflection point in my life.

It was also the year that Jerry Colonna and I started Flatiron Partners. We got that firm off the ground very quickly and very unconventionally. I had been working closely with SOFTBANK Corporation of Japan on an investment in a company called FreeLoader, founded by Mark Pincus and Sunil Paul. When we sold FreeLoader, SOFTBANK approached me about joining their investment team in the US.

I convinced SOFTBANK that there was going to be a lot of Internet startup activity in NYC and that backing me and Jerry to start a firm in NYC was a good idea. Jerry thought we might be better off with two backers instead of one (he was right), and we went to Chase Bank and got them to join the project. That's how Flatiron came to be. SOFTBANK, Chase, Jerry and me were the four partners in Flatiron when we got started.

SOFTBANK was just coming onto the scene in the US. Their founder and CEO Masayoshi Son was on the cover of Business Week in the summer of 1996. That same week the SOFTBANK Ventures team in the US did an offsite in Boston. We were walking through Harvard Square coming back from dinner and we saw Masa on the cover of Business Week in the newstand in the square.

I am not sure who took this picture, but it captures all of this and more for me.

Softbank crew

From left to right, you have Rich Levandov, me, Gary Rieschel, Charley Lax (up front), Jerry Colonna (in the back), and Brad Feld.

Every one of these folks is still active in the startup world.

Rich is a managing partner at Avalon Ventures and he invested in Zynga along with me and Brad (the Pincus connection lives on). Rich is also on Reece Pacheco's board and this post came out of a convo that Reece and I had about Rich in the comments to yesterday's post.

Gary runs one of the top venture funds in China. Charley runs an early stage venture firm in Boston. Jerry is the best CEO Coach in the business. And Feld is Feld.

Relationships are the currency of business. I cherish my relationship with all of the folks I worked with back than and this picture is representative of all that. It sits on the bookshelf in my office. I showed it to Reece last night. And I'm showing it to all of you this morning.