We are celebrating the 5th anniversary of Genacast so I thought it might be a good time to look back at how it all started. From 1985-95, I was a software consultant with clients in the US, Europe and Asia. I designed and developed everything from operating systems to databases to complex financial applications. In 1995, David Morgan, Mark Pinney and I started Real Media, the first online ad network and ad server company. I was the CTO and developed one of the most popular ad servers used by many of the largest online publishers in the world. Real Media was acquired by 24/7 Media in 2001 and again by WPP in 2007. After Real Media was acquired I join Dave Morgan as CTO of Tacoda where we pioneered online behavioral targeting. Tacoda was acquired by AOL in 2007.
After Tacoda was acquired, I did what every entrepreneur does and pondered -- yet again -- what I wanted to be when I grew up. I met with dozens of start-ups and had a number of start-up ideas of my own. I had been lucky enough to be a part of two successful start-ups so I was looking for a new challenge. I considered offers to be an advisor, consultant or board member to many start-ups. I thought long and hard and decided that I didn't just want to be a passive onlooker; I wanted to be deeply vested in the success of the start-up. And the best way to do that was to have "skin in the game." Hence my desire to be an investor. And in order to make meaningful investments I needed to raise a fund. Also, given my start-up, business and technical experience, I thought I could bring something different to help my portfolio be more successful.
In addition to being CTO at Tacoda, I was head of corp dev and ran our fund raising process in 2007. We didn't end up taking funding since we were acquired but as part of that process I met some great funds and investors. I became very familiar with Comcast Ventures as we got pretty close to taking an investment from them. After AOL's acquisition of Tacoda, I left and began discussions with Comcast Ventures on starting a seed-fund. They do $2-20M sized investments and were looking for a vehicle to do earlier stage investments. We thought it would be a good match so we both invested capital and formed Genacast Ventures in the spring of 2008.
Choosing to partner with Comcast was an easy decision. First, Comcast Ventures is a top firm and as I made the shift from entrepreneur to venture capitalist it was important to learn from the best. Second, Comcast/NBC/Universal is an amazing platform and would be a great resource. Finally, the open-ended fund structure would liberate us from the typical fund dynamics (7 year fund, fully-invested by year 4 and pushing for exits from which to begin raising the next fund.) Instead, we would be able to take our time and invest at the right pace: do more deals when we see more great deals and do fewer deals when seeing less interesting investments – without regard to fund lifecycle.
Fast forward 5 years and it has been a great relationship. The fund has performed wonderfully with significant financial and strategic returns, having funded some great companies including InviteMedia which was acquired by Google and Demdex which was acquired by Adobe. Side note: Genacast is an independent, non-strategic fund. Meaning, we have a different investment approval process than Comcast Ventures and our investments don't have to have anything to do with Comcast or NBC/Universal but, of course, if there are potential tie-ins then even better since we have a close working relationship and can open doors and make key introductions.
So where does the name Genacast come from? I'd like to say that I spent months doing market research and focus groups but the real story is far less scientific. I compiled a list of over 200 names ranging from the pratical to the silly, including: SeedLogic, PennGenesis. USS Ventures, United States Seed, Precursor, Asymetric, Seedelphia, Venshire, Telemachus, Diamond Orange, Tomato Seed, Impromtu, Open Sesame, Dog The Fish, Pig Iron, Lepricast, Rollercoaster and Noname.
Genacast started as an amalgum of Genesis (always a great place to start) and Comcast. When I typed Genacast into Google, there were NO results. Wow, nobody had ever used that term in recorded human history -- at least according to Google. So it gave us a completely blank canvas to brand the firm. It also helped that it was a pronounceable word with a good number of vowels and consonants.
Genacast Ventures is itself a start-up and I am very proud of what we've accomplished so far and look forward to many more exciting years working with great entrepreneurs and helping to build great companies.