Carey Lai's Corner

A former lemonade stand entrepreneur turned Venture Capitalist

A New Season

new seasonI realize that my last post was back in May 2011.  There is good reason for that.  I have some big news.  Drum roll please…I recently transitioned from my old firm (Institutional Venture Partners – IVP) to Intel Capital.  Obviously, the natural question is why?  There are several reasons for my decision to switch firms:

  • Bigger role, greater responsibility and more opportunity
  • Stage agnostic
  • Sector focus

Bigger role, greater responsibility and more opportunity

I joined Institutional Venture Partners (IVP) back in June of 2004 as a young analyst straight out of Technology Investment Banking.  I learned a tremendous amount about the venture industry at IVP.  It was truly my first foray into the venture capital business.  I’m privileged to have learned from some of the best venture veterans, including Reid Dennis, one of the Godfathers of the business back when it was not even called venture capital.  As sport analogies goes, sometimes you get traded and sometimes another team wants to build their bench.  When Intel Capital called, they offered me essentially what amounted to a bigger role in every sense of the word.  At first, I was a bit skeptical of the opportunity.  As some of you know, Corporate Venture Capital sometimes gets a bad rap.  In the years I had known Intel Capital, Intel focused on seeding ecosystems with $1-3M rounds of financing, moved slowly and weren’t proactive investors.  What I learned about the group couldn’t have been further from the truth.  In the last several years, Intel Capital has transformed itself in order to lead larger rounds of financings in market leaders, take a more proactive approach to investing and streamline the investment process to move quickly.  As I met with the team members, I quickly became convinced that this was the “new” Intel Capital and where I would want to spend the next several years investing in high-growth technology companies.

As proof of this change, I led my first deal at Intel Capital in a company called SweetLabs, whose mission is to reinvent the desktop by bringing the app-experience we’ve all come to love on our smartphones to the desktop.  Their product is called Pokki – please try it at www.pokki.com.  I’ve had the pleasure of knowing one of the co-founders over a decade and I’m looking forward to working closely with the company.From first meeting to issuing a term sheet took all of 10-days.  We closed the investment within 30-days.  It’s clear to me after making this first investment – Intel Capital does NOT move slowly.

Not only could we move quickly and help management get back to running the business, but Intel Capital is one of the few firms uniquely positioned to add a lot of value.  Given the company’s vision to reinvent the desktop, I can’t think of a better firm who can help them achieve their goals.  What differentiates Intel from any other organization is the company building aspect, which includes introducing portfolio companies to distribution partners, customers, and engineers.  This is in addition to all the compelling traditional company building support such as recruiting, business strategy and development.  With over 100,000 employees behind a small start-up, Intel is uniquely positioned to accelerate a start-ups business like no other venture firm in the business today.

Stage agnostic

            One of the benefits of not being part of a traditional VC is not having to fundraise every 3-4 years.  All the money Intel Capital invests comes directly from the Intel balance sheet.  Consequently, there are no end of fund, crossover, fundraising or reserve issues.  Additionally, because there is no institutional fund, Intel Capital can truly be stage agnostic.  So, whether making $250,000 or $50,000,000 investments, I don’t have to worry about how many companies make up my portfolio.  Lastly, in a world where fund sizes are only getting larger and larger, I don’t have to force portfolio companies to take on additional capital when they don’t need it.  I can now honestly say that I want to invest the right amount that makes sense for where the company is at.

Sector focus

            One of the great things about Intel Capital is that every investment professional in the U.S. is segmented into sector verticals, such as Internet & Digital Media, Software & Services, Mobility, etc.  With my experience investing in Internet & Digital Media, I focus purely on those types of deals, giving me the opportunity to go really deep into a pretty broad sector and enabling me to help companies more directly.  Additionally, Intel Capital is one of the few truly global firms.  What I mean by that is Intel Capital has people all around the world including China, Brazil, Europe, etc.  You name it, and we probably have people on the ground who can help accelerate a portfolio company’s business.  With the global resources of Intel, there’s arguably no better partner when you’re seeking global market expansion.

So, in a few paragraphs, that’s the reason I decided to transition to Intel Capital.  At least most folks have heard of Intel b/c chances are they own a PC w/ Intel inside.  I just have to explain that we invest in other things beyond chips.  When I say chips, I’m not talking about the ones that come in a bag.

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3 comments on “A New Season

  1. Douglas Y. Park (@DougYPark)
    October 17, 2011

    Congrats Carey!

  2. Mark H
    October 17, 2011

    Carey is a key ingredient to the”new” Intel Capital. During the round with SweetLabs, I watched (from the inside) Carey personify a relatively famous quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

    Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

    It’s early, but the glow continues to grow around this partnership. Am grateful for Carey’s tireless, brazen efforts to help catalyze change, progress, and the beginnings of an incredible partnership.

    Booyah!

  3. Di
    October 31, 2011

    Great explanation of an ever-changing industry for anyone (like me) to pick up and read!

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This entry was posted on October 17, 2011 by in Uncategorized.
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