Ron Conway is born in the Bay Area. He is the sixth child, along with his twin brother, Rick, in an Irish Catholic family of 12 children, six boys and six girls. His father is an executive at the Oakland, Calif.-based American President Lines shipping company, and later starts a business in the shipping container industry. He attends St. Stephen’s and Stuart Hall schools. His twin brother says he was shy when young:
In grammar school, no one would have expected he’d become the mayor of Silicon Valley
Conway is elected to the City Council. He is attending college and still living with his family, and runs on a two-plank platform of opposing the widening of a major road in an adjoining town, and a raise for local policemen. His father, John:
That was when Ron started building his network.
Conway starts out in the company’s sales division.
Altos becomes a co-founder, President and CEO of the company.
Altos goes public, earning $58.8 million from the sale of common shares.
Conway starts investing with Rosen, who is the chairman of Compaq and has invested in the company via Sevin Rosen. Conway:
We decided we were only going to invest in this thing called the Internet. It’s the most significant decision I made in investing.
PTS is sold to Smartforce/Skillsoft. Conway moves to Smartforce in a business development role.
Conway invests in the computer training company, and becomes its CEO.
Conway starts the fund. Due to the internet boom, he is now handling a deal a month. Angel Investors I raises $30 million. One of the companies it invests in is Google.
Conway invests in the early stages of the search provider, after meeting Brin and Page at a party in his home town of Atherton, Calif. He joins Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and other angels in the venture round with a $75 million pre-money valuation.
Page rank and relevance really resonated…This is when they were raising a VC round. They said, ‘If you help us get Sequoia, you can invest, because we want to set up a (partnership deal) with Yahoo.’ […] All of us felt lucky to get in. All of this [debate] about valuations is completely crazy. Companies are binary. They’re either big wins or they don’t win. Let the market decide the valuation.
The second fund raises a total of $150 million. The two funds take stakes in several hundred startups, including Google.
Rivlin publishes the book profiling Conway and his investments. Rivlin:
I had what I thought was this swell idea: delve deep into the life of a man named Ron Conway to tell the wider tale of the dot-com rise and fall. The story of the Internet through the second half of the 1990s writ small, as told through this guy who had slapped down more bets on Internet startups than anyone else in Silicon Valley, 240, in less than three years’ time.
Angel I and Angel II are reported to make money in 2001 despite the Dotcom bust. Among the investments the funds have made are reported to be Google, Ask Jeeves, Paypal, Good Technology, Opsware, and Brightmail.
Conway meets an L.A.-based agent for O’Neal via a contact at Intel, and convinces O’Neal to invest via the Angel funds. The agent shares an office with a money manager for Schwarzenegger, who also joins the funds. Conway is introduced to Kissinger via an associate of Rosen’s. His son, Danny Conway, describes how Conway maintains his contact list:
The fax machine was the most important thing in our household
Conway invests in Napster via SV Angel and the Angel Funds. Conway says that Napster creator Fanning was at a party at his house surrounded by fans, while Brin and Page were still relatively unknown:
I’m going to go talk to the two wallflowers over there, Larry and Sergey
Investors in Angel I earn a reported sevenfold return on investments, while Angel II earns 1.5 times, due to success by portfolio companies like Google, AskJeeves.com, PayPal, Good Technology, and Opsware.
Conway and Fanning create the database provider to allow music producers to license their content online. Conway provides $10 million. Fanning:
We’re trying to create this platform to allow the market to really explode, both in terms of content and new business models
Conway stops investing as the tech crash damages portfolio companies. His funds have remained in the black due to owning PayPal, Google, and AskJeeves.
Conway meets Zuckerberg at the University Cafe in Palo Alto. Recalling the encounter:
[…] social networking was very new to me. I said to Mark, ‘How are you going to measure success with this thing called social networking?’
Someday I’m going to have 300 million users using this product.
A letter sent from SV Angel to Angel II, LP investors states that the fund has returned 52% after the Google IPO. It says this is in the second-highest quartile of 1999-vintage VC funds. Letter:
We cannot over emphasize our desire to have returned 100% or more of the fund; yet we are thankful for the returns we have produced considering this is a 1999 vintage fund… We predict that the balance of returns will be very low (approximately $5 million) since the remaining companies in the portfolio that are doing well have had subsequent financings whereby we have suffered significant dilution in ownership and loss of liquidity preferences.
Conway is reported to sell the Angel funds to Credit Suisse First Boston. Letter to investors:
Dear Limited Partners of Angel Investors II, L.P. and Angel (Q) Investors II, L.P.:
We are following up the email we sent to you last week regarding the winding up of the fund this year.
We have successfully negotiated and signed a merger agreement with CSFB Strategic Partners II L.P. to sell Angel Investors II, L.P. and Angel (Q) Investors II, L.P. for $900,366.37 and $6,886,231.13, respectively.
The funds have more money that will be distributed to investors from reserves and the sale of securities, as well as $1.4 million of public securities that it will liquidate.
Andreessen introduces Conway and Adelson via email. Adelson meets Conway at his house:
I remember being really impressed with the questions he was asking. The other thing was Ron’s database in his brain of contacts around Silicon Valley was the most extensive and probably most top-of-mind database of people that I’ve ever run into in my career.
Conway invests personally in the company and via SV Angel. He joins Andreessen and other angel investors, as well as Greylock and Floodgate on the institutional side, for a reported total of $2.8 in the Series A round.
SV Angel joins the company’s Series B round with Greylock, Founders Fund, and Meritech for a total of $27.5 million. Zuckerberg:
We’re building this company for the long term and this funding validates the viability of our business.
Livingston says Y Combinator reached out to Conway in its early stages, but wasn’t able to communicate to him what the firm did.
He said, “Is this in Boston? I stick mainly local.” I replied, “No, we’re in Mountain View and we’d love for you to come to Demo Day.” He said, “Is this a chance to invest in the incubator?” I replied, “No, we don’t want you to invest in us. It’s a chance to invest in the individual startups.” Then he told us he’d circle back, since he was jammed. We got the “am jammed now” from Ronco—it was so embarrassing.
She says Conway did end up coming to Demo Day in 2006, and returned to talk at the next year’s winter event.
Twitter announces a round led by Union Square Ventures and including Conway, Andreessen, and others. It doesn’t disclose the funding amount or valuation. Twitter:
Twitter has had such an awesome start and now we’re even more excited to keep up the momentum. We’re very much looking forward to building a strong and sustainable company.
Arrington and Conway are among angel investors who provide the video aggregator with $6 million Series A funding. Arrington:
The service, which can most easily be described as a video Twitter, is popular with the 300 people who are beta testing it so far. Le Meur says that more than half of them are extremely active, and 200 videos are being posted daily.
SV Angel is reported to join the round with Union Square Ventures, Pilot Group, Avalon Ventures, and individual investors, for a total of $10 million.
Terms of the deal aren’t disclosed.
Conway says Silicon Valley’s ecosystem of lawyers, bankers, attorneys and investors means no other location can match it:
Not even close
The deal for the shoe provider is worth $1.2 billion at closing. Angel Investors’ stake isn’t disclosed.
Conway talks to Ideas Project about cloud computing:
Probably the most disruptive technology that’s just starting to blossom today
He says things like Google Apps allowing MS Office to run in the cloud were talked about for decades:
Now you have storage in the cloud, so the notion of all you need, a computer that has conductivity to a browser, that’s really all you need…we were talking about this for 20 years and literally with the advent of Google apps and storage in the ether it’s become a reality
Intuit is reported to pay around $170 million for the Angel Investors company, compared with Mint’s most recent valuation at $140 million. Mint confirms the deal value and says it has 1.5 million users, found over $300 million in savings, managed $50 billion in assets, and helped people track nearly $200 billion in purchases.
The newspaper covers Conway’s investments in companies like Twitter, as he favours products that can publish in real time, as well as instant communication platforms using various media and tools like geolocation. Investments typically average between $100,000 and $150,000, and sometimes as low as $50,000. Conway:
I’m in 50 companies today that nobody’s heard the name. One of these companies I’m in today will definitely have a $5 billion market capitalization in three years.
Conway is reported to raise the money from outside investors to add to deal volume. He is already planning to put his own money into 30 startups in 2010.
Tech Crunch reports an email sent by Conway to the group of investors who met at Bin 38. Extract:
I wish the Angel community could have the same integrity and values of the entrepenuer community, but unfortunately I now believe that is hopeless and your actions prove that.
What do you think the entrepenuers you have funded are thinking right now.
This is despicable and embarrassing for the tech community in my opinion.
Can you learn from this?
Conway clarifies that Lee was at the dinner by mutual decision:
David Lee, my partner at SV Angel did not want to go the Bin 38 dinner. We talked and then agreed that he should go.
Conway, Sacca, and McClure are interviewed by Arrington about the Angelgate controversy at the Tech Crunch event. Sacca says it was a ‘misunderstanding’ that is ‘worth getting past’. Arrington:
We are not going to have a Jerry Springer moment here?
Conway gives an on-stage interview for the Graduate School of Business. Among other topics, he talks about spotting Google early on:
Investors didn’t get it, they said isn’t this like the rest of them? And we said, No, this is relevant, it gives relevant results
On succeeding in tech as a non-technical person:
Every step of the way, because I’m not an engineer, I’ve always made sure for every fund there’s a very technical person we can turn to…If you’re not technical you can be [the business] person
SV Angel joins the Series A round with Sequoia Capital and Greylock Partners. A total of $7.2 million is raised. Chesky:
Our vision is to continue to build a global community marketplace
Conway talks about the investment list that he calls his Crystal Ball:
The companies that we are investing in have three entrepreneurs today, are the Twitters, Facebooks and Googles of four years from now…
He introduces 12 entrepreneurs from portfolio companies including Votizen, Hipmunk, and GroupMe.
Gur leads the round that includes Arrington, Conway, Andreessen Horowitz, and others for $1 million for the location-based app, which alerts people when someone in their circles is nearby.
Y Combinator founders receive $150,000 each via Milner and Conway’s Start Fund. The investment will be convertible debt, which converts into equity in later rounds, with no cap and discount, the most entrepreneur-friendly terms.
Business Insider publishes an Excel document apparently showing all of SV Angel’s 228 investments.
Conway invests in the site along with Firstmark, Bessemer, and other angels. The round is reported at $10 million for a $40 million valuation.
Conway and Lee talk to Tech Crunch‘s Sarah Lacy backstage at the event about continuing growth in tech. Conway:
Silicon Valley and New York are spawning even more important companies, and more of them, because the internet watershed is not over yet. It’s still early days.
Conway says the industry is close to a recruiting crisis which underscores the growth:
We are going to get as bad as 1998
Lee on how angel investors contribute:
There are lesser evils than a lot of really bright, talented engineers who want to give it a shot
Business Insider reports that among the investors in the fund are AOL, Conway, Milner, Benchmark Capital, Horowitz, Andreessen, Redpoint, and Sequoia.
Conway answers questions for the company – in which SV Angel has an investment – about hot markets, his investment thesis, and whether there is a bubble. On tech trends:
At SV Angel, we have a chart of “mega-trends” that we follow closely. The first and most obvious is social. We see a new kind of entrepreneur emerging in social. We call them “Behavioral Entrepreneurs.” These behavioral entrepreneurs understand that hardcore algorithms are no longer essential for success. Great UI and UX are becoming the new IP. Thanks to the low cost of computing, these entrepreneurs find innovation in human behavior, not pure technology.
SV Angel joins Benchmark Capital, Goldman Sachs, Greylock Partners, Institutional Venture Partners, RIT Capital Partners and Valiant Capital Partners. From the previous roster, Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners, and Hadi and Ali Partovi participate. The round is reported at $250 million and values Dropbox at $4 billion.