TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington sat down with Benchmark Capital’s Matt Cohler this morning at TechCrunch Disrupt SF to discuss the state of tech investing. One of the first questions Arrington asked was about Cohler’s own startup investments, and specifically whether or not he had invested in any new companies this year. As it turns out, he has not – but it wasn’t a specific decision on his part, said Cohler. He also added that he made more investments last year than a venture investor typically would.
Arrington drilled him later on as to why he didn’t invest in 2012 (yet), asking whether or not valuations were a part of that decision. Cohler said that it was not – that valuations had not caused either he or his partners to change their strategies, saying that the impact of valuations are strongest in the later stage of the investment cycle. Benchmark doesn’t work on that end of the spectrum. Dropbox was the only later stage investment Bechmark has done, but it’s usually involved in A and B rounds, said Cohler.
So why hasn’t he pulled the trigger? “I’ll do it when the time is right,” said Cohler. “One of the torturous things about my job is that, as time goes on, you get more and more clarity on all the things you’ve screwed up and all the mistakes you’ve made. I’m sure I’ve passed on some things that are going to prove to be really important and really interesting this year.” Like what? “I don’t know yet.”
Arrington also asked Cohler about some of Benchmark’s more high-profile companies, like Twitter, for example, putting him on the spot as to whether Cohler thought the changes being made at Twitter impacting its developer community were evil. Essentially, Twitter is switching off large parts of its development ecosystem, affecting developers’ livelihoods. “How evil are they being? Really evil? Or a little evil?,” Arrington wanted to know. Cohler declined to answer, saying only that Twitter was great company and Bechmark was lucky to invest in it.
At the end of the chat, Arrington asked what companies Cohler would want to invest in, and Cohler said that he was interested in mobile marketplace opportunities, which he called “really interesting.” And from a product perspective, he recommended founders “think about the smartphone as a remote control for life” – that is, apps like Benchmark investments Instagram and Uber. “One thing they have in common from a product perspective,” said Cohler, “is that you push a button and something awesome happens.” He referred to the experience as a “remote control for the real world.”
So how should founders get in touch to pitch their apps? “I’m easy to find on the internet,” Cohler said.