One of the earliest members of both Google and Google Ventures has found a new home. Today Wesley Chan is announcing that he has joined fellow Google alum Aydin Senkut at Felicis Ventures, where he will serve as managing director of the early-stage investment firm.
Over a dozen years, Chan has distinguished himself both as a savvy product guy and a smart startup investor. He was instrumental in building a couple of key products to expand Google’s business beyond search, while also helping to launch the company’s venture firm.
In the early part of his career at Google, Chan founded Google Analytics and led the acquisitions of Urchin Software and MeasureMap, which became the backbone for the service. Later he led Google’s launch of Google Voice, which was buoyed through acquisitions of assets, such as GrandCentral and Gizmo.
In 2009 Chan turned his attention to the investing side of the business, becoming one of the earliest members of the search giant’s venture firm Google Ventures. While there he focused on early-stage companies, leading deals in startups that included AngelList, UberConference (which became Switch), and Optimizely.
But after nearly five years with Google Ventures, Chan left early last year. He continued angel investing and, after considering a number of opportunities in both the startup and venture worlds, he decided to join Felicis.
Chan will become the fourth investment partner at Felicis, which was founded by Senkut in 2006. He operated the firm as a sort of super angel for the first few years before raising his first institutional fund back in 2010. Since then each new fund has grown slightly larger than the last.
For Felicis Ventures IV, the firm had originally raised $96 million to invest in early-stage startups. With the hiring of Chan as managing director, the firm says it has increased that fund’s size to $120 million.
The increase in the fund’s size also comes as Felicis has seen a fair amount of success of late. In 2014 it saw a number of significant exits from portfolio companies, including Twitch, Brightroll, Dropcam, RelateIQ, LiveRamp, and Accompli. Previous investments Credit Karma and Adyen also raised rounds in 2014 that value each of them above $1 billion.
The firm fits both with Chan’s product focus and his interest in helping early-stage startups. According to Senkut, Felicis seeks to be the first institutional money into the startups and is looking for companies that are either reinventing existing industries or are in “frontier” areas, where they can develop new markets.
As a product guy, Chan says he chose Felicis because he wanted to “be part of the best product that’s being offered to founders,” and also to be part of something where he can continue to build over time.
Unlike some other firms out there, Felicis is relatively young and not bogged down by existing beliefs or the kind of partnership structure that comes from decades of being in the venture business. The fund’s size and commitment to early-stage startups allows it to be nimble and flexible around terms — there’s no business reasons dictating that it needs to own a certain percentage of a company or that it requires one of its partners to take a board seat.
The idea of Felicis as a product and founders as customers has also led the firm to find ways in which it could align its interests with the companies it bets on. That includes always voting its shares with the founders, a commitment Senkut made when Felicis announced its most recent fund.
In the interest of improving its “product,” the firm also surveyed founders of both portfolio companies and those who passed to find out what founders want out of an investor. Overwhelmingly, the survey found that operational expertise at the earliest stages was most important in choosing the right partner.
“If you look at the data… they need a coach and a cheerleader at the beginning,” Chan told me. “The most important thing is you want someone who believes in what you’re doing and can help you in the process.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean having a full-service design, marketing or recruiting organization as part of the fund. At the stage Felicis invests in, the survey found that helping founders reach critical milestones and being connected to a broad network was more important than thought leadership or domain expertise.
For a guy like Chan, who’s more interested in getting his hands dirty helping founders build product than sitting on a board seat, that seems like a perfect fit.