By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
This is the thirty-eighth interview in our series on financing for entrepreneurs. I am talking to Christina Brodbeck, a Silicon Valley angel investor and the co-founder of a soon-to-be-launched startup called TheIceBreak. Christina was part of the YouTube founding team. She designed YouTube’s first user interface and later was responsible for creating interface that brought YouTube videos to cell phones. She invests primarily in the Bay Area.
Irina: Hi, Christina. Let’s start briefly with your background and how you arrived at this point in your life.
Christina: I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, and I was actually a history major studying Russian history. In my spare time, I was really interested in HTML and web design and things like that, so I did a lot of playing around with HTML and building websites for fun.
Then I ended up working side jobs for the University of Illinois, building educational websites and doing some contracting here and there. At some point I realized that’s what my passion was. I really enjoyed doing it, so I came out to California for grad school, and I went to San Francisco State. I studied instructional technologies for my master’s. While I was there, I worked at Keynote Systems, and I then started working in startups. One of the startups I ended up working at was YouTube, and the angel investing went from there.
So, I graduated from University of Illinois in 2001 and from grad school in 2004. I started working at YouTube, probably, unofficially, the summer of 2005. I started doing angel investing in the spring of 2009. I left YouTube in August 2009.
All of the angel investing I’ve done to date has been on my own. I’ve always decided that I want to do this on my own. I’ve never invested with a fund or group of people. I have had people refer deals to me, but never, ever as part of a larger group.
And outside of angel investing, right now, I am starting a new startup with my co-founder, who is also a former YouTube employee, and he’s also from PayPal. We’re planning to launch sometime before the end of the year, and it’s going to be called TheIceBreak. I can’t talk too much about it right now, but it’s going to focus on personal relationships.
Irina: Where are you based?
Christina: My office for TheIceBreak is in San Mateo, California.
Irina: For your investing, what’s your geographical focus?
Christina: All of the investments I’ve made, except for one, have been in the Bay Area. So, that’s pretty much my focus, just because it’s easier for me to get deal flow that way. I’m able to meet with the people one on one and things like that. But I’m not against investing in people who don’t live in the Bay Area.
Irina: Where do you usually get your deal flow?
Christina: A combination of ways. A lot of it is from entrepreneurs who I have worked with, in that I have invested in their companies. And if they have other friends who are also starting companies, they’ll refer them to me, saying, “Hey, I like this cool startup. Take a look at them.” Y Combinator’s Demo Days have also been effective. And then other angel investors will send me deals that they think they like or they don’t like or that they think I’d be interested in . . . also former colleagues from other companies that I worked at.
Irina: So, you invested in some Y Combinator companies?
Christina: Yes. I invested in Indinero, HeyZap, and Greplin. Those were all Y Combinator companies. Actually, my first deal was HeyZap, which was a Y Combinator company, so that’s how I first learned about Y Combinator.
Irina: Approximately how many pitches do you get per month?
Christina: That’s a good question. Probably – if you count just random cold calls – I’d say somewhere between 50 and 150, depending on the month.
Irina: Which ones deserve a closer look?
Christina: I’d say maybe three to four.
Irina: How can entrepreneurs who are seeking funding reach you?
Christina: I’m pretty open. They can reach out to me on LinkedIn. Or they’ll probably be more effective if they reach out to me through another founder whom I’ve either worked with by investing with her or worked with her as a co-worker, or another angel. But, honestly, most of my connections are with the founders and people who are actually working at the startups, as opposed to other angel investors.