“In the Studio” opens the spring of 2013 by welcoming one of the best-known “super angels,” who arrived to Valley, by way of Boston, Philadelphia, and Istanbul, in the mid-1990s, held early product management stints at Silicon Graphics and a little startup called Google, which ultimately catapulted his career into what it is today.
Aydin Senkut founded Felicis Ventures after leaving Google, and today is regarded as one of the best — and earliest — super angel or micro VC funds in the Valley. As Senkut describes it, however, it’s more of a “boutique VC” operation, as Felicis is actually investing in companies that meet its criteria regardless of stage or location across mobile, e-commerce, enterprise, education, and health. As a thesis-driven firm, Senkut and his colleagues have also identified “frontier markets” of interest, which include 3D printing, imaging, and vision; genomics; and connected devices.
In this conversation, Senkut and I discuss a range of tactical and investment issues which would be relevant to early-stage founders. As Google’s first product manager, Senkut brings experience of seeing a rapidly growing company expand internationally and hit scale, an operational point of view which informs his investment intuition. Now as his team has grown at Felicis, he and his colleagues have, over the years, invested in over 80 companies with nearly half of them finding exits. That type of track record underscores the fact that Felicis are active, hands-on investors who understand the pressures (and dangers) founders face with respect to rising valuations in today’s funding environment. For instance, Senkut warns against the dangers of founders wanting to minimize dilution at the cost of limiting exit options in the future. He is remarkably candid on this dimension, and I believe every early founder should hear his rationale.