I was at NYU’s Stern School last night to hear David Lee, founder of the super-angel investment company SV Angel. Together with Ron Conway, this duo has had their hands in funding more than a few startup successes in the last few years, including Foursquare, Twitter, Square, Zynga, and something called Facebook.
Lee is always on to the next thing, and so it was fun to learn about the latest theme–SV Angel searches for startups based on themes–in his investing.
Lee is now focused on startups that let consumers use the Web for what he calls “social discovery”. That’s finding new friends purely through social sites rather than by more conventional, non-virtual methods.
Not surprisingly, he really, really likes Chatroulette.
But Lee is also interested in a complementary theme to virtual social discovery. He describes it generally as taking on-line experiences off-line.
One example of a company in this on-line-to-offline genre is called Grouper. It has been defined by some as another e-dating service. But the underlying theme at work in Grouper is really broader, and encompasses social gatherings of a non-dating kind as well.
Lee is looking for startups that let people build social connections by, say, planning their own gatherings at ball games and concerts to include not only immediate friends but friends-of-friends much further down the social graph.
It almost sounded like Lee was describing Meetup without all the bureaucracy.
Anyway, Lee was, at first, a little uncomfortable with this online-to-offline concept, but he admitted to also feeling the same way about checkins and Foursquare. He’s now very much on board with this new theme.
Interviewed by journalist and NYU professor Adam Penenberg for Tech@NYU, Lee had a few other things to say:
On his initial meetings with Dennis Crowley: “We were thinking does this guy want to go for it or does he just want a lifestyle business?”
On cities and the social media startup scene: “In cities … you don’t spend your money on things you spend it on experiences.”
On finding investing themes: “I meet as many founders as I can. When I see five founders talking about the same thing that seems completely off the wall. That’s the trend.”
On writing business plans: “The best articulation of this topic is at sequoiacap.com/ideas”
On Ron Conway: “Have you seen the movie ‘Pulp Fiction’? I’m Vincent Vega. He’s the Wolf.”