It’s flattering to be nominated for any award, let alone a Crunchie. I mean, these are the geek Oscars. I even picked up some fresh dry cleaning to wear to the show.
But, it doesn’t make sense to include me on a list of finalists for Angel of the Year. Put simply, I am not an angel. Lowercase is a family of funds that risk some of my money paired with lots of money from my investors. I am also not the only guy here after we recently hired Matt Mazzeo as a partner in the firm.
True angels are accountable only to themselves and their portfolio companies. They put their own cash on the barrel and know that if they lose it all, they don’t have anyone or anything else to blame. It’s entirely on them.
A few years ago, a class of investors called superangels emerged. Generally speaking, we raised small funds to match our own dollars and wrote checks to startups that were larger than those from traditional angels. These scrappy, understaffed funds still feel angel-ish to me. But, once a firm starts investing bigger checks in later stage deals, like we have done at Lowercase, I am not sure the angel moniker still applies.
On the other hand, I also wouldn’t begin to be named a finalist in the VC category either. Those guys listed are all first-rate company-builders. The work that gets done at a Series B or C is very different from what we do at the seed level. It’s an entirely distinct form of efficacy, scale, and execution that my peers and I don’t deliver. So, no Crunchies with my name on them this year.
Nevertheless, I think each of the four other finalists for Angel of the Year is worth a shout and recognition for their impact on startups:
Mike Arrington – Sure Mike has a fund behind him now, but to get to that point, he risked a hell of a lot of his own money and well before he had seen any liquidity from the sale of TechCrunch. He backed up his talk with plenty of walk and ponied up his own coin to get into deals that moved him. More importantly, we can all agree that Arrington catalyzed a community from a loose and scattered mess and taught so many of us the language and process of this entire realm. It’s unnerving to consider what angel investing would look like without Arrington’s impact on the space.
Chris Dixon - Probably the most authentically angel-ly of the bunch, Chris always tends to find his way into extremely solid companies and has developed a strong reputation for being helpful to his entrepreneurs. His blog is incredibly rich and evidences how selfless he is with his time when it comes to educating new entrepreneurs and investors. He is also due credit for being one of the most ardent and unwavering fans of the NYC tech scene. Yet all this aside, I think it is most amazing to consider that he has accomplished all of this while busy founding, leading, and exiting his own startups as well. He is the real deal.
Paul Graham – No single person has had more impact on the creation and financing of tech startups than PG. Period. The YCombinator revolution emancipated the engineering class from servitude to MBA overlords, demystified the art of company-founding, and made huge leaps toward democratizing access to capital. I could go on, but we all already know how lucky we are to have Paul.
David Lee – This guy has only recently started to get the credit he deserves. Of course, he too is investing a fund’s money, and doing it very well at that. He also has started blogging more regularly and his pieces are invariably thoughtful and worthy of any entrepreneur or investor’s time. However, take an extra moment to consider the sheer gutsiness of the Start Fund, a project he created. By ensuring that an entire class of companies automatically had the funds necessary for months of operations and growth, David brought a previously unforeseen level of accessibility to startup capital. At the most crucial stages of a company’s life, thanks to the Start Fund, founders could focus on product and not be distracted by the harrowing burden of fundraising so early. That in itself is an entrepreneurial move and it makes me happy to see people recognizing David’s impact.
I will be excited and grateful when they call any of these guys’ names at the Crunchies. The startup world is a better place thanks to each of them. As for me, don’t you worry. Alexia assures me that a Western Themed Investor Attire category will be included in the voting any day now.