By guest author Irina Patterson
Irina: How about a team? Do they have to have a complete team?
Nova: No, they have to have the technical lead and the product lead.
Irina: Is there any specific character trait you can identify?
Nova: I’m usually looking for people who are on the technical side. They have to be among the top few percent of talent, kind of when one person can do the work of four people.
I am looking for entrepreneurs who have great commutation skills and are really easy to work with — obviously that’s one of the big concerns here. You don’t want to work with people who are difficult.
Other things they have to have a good understanding of business and entrepreneurship already. They don’t have to know everything, but they have to understand how things kind of work. They can’t be completely new and have absolutely no experience of being in a startup. So, I look for people who’ve worked for startups.
If you worked for a big company I’m not as interested. I’m interested in people who’ve worked for startups and have been involved in early-stage companies because there’s this a particular culture that they have to be familiar and comfortable with. Also, I would say, I look for people who are ambitious and have a big vision.
I’m not interested at all in boring companies that just want to make a product and sell it. That’s boring. I’m looking for people who have a brilliant, amazing idea that people would get excited about.
I mean, half of the reasons I do this – I invest – is for fun. So, I want to work on projects that are fun, not boring, just plain old business.
Irina: What do you do with businesses you don’t invest in, if anything?
Nova: Sometimes, I refer them to others if I think I know people who are more appropriate. Sometimes, I just tell them, “Good luck. Come back later. Let me know how things go.”
Irina: Do you have any sector preference?
Nova: I really only invest in two areas, the Internet, and I’m starting to explore some things related to clean tech, a little bit. But, really, the Internet is the focus. I’m mainly interested in consumer services, the search, advanced technologies, smart service agents, and artificial intelligence.
I’m very interested in social media, things related to Twitter, or social networking. So it’s kind of the cutting edge advanced technology stuff. New, very new ideas. I’m not interested in like, just a store, for example. It’s boring.
I am sort of interested in mobile. It’s not my main focus, but I have looked at a couple of things there. Games are not really my main focus, but the iPad, I am starting to get interested in the iPad. I have one project making an iPad application right now.
Irina: What is your preferred investment type?
Nova: It’s usually a convertible note, sometimes preferred shares; it depends on the stage of the company.
Irina: Do you have companies that exited already?
Nova: I do have some that have exited. Some of them acquired — that’s really the main route to exit these days, usually within three to five years. I have some longer-term projects. The one that I’m considering right now might be like a ten-year project, a kind of clean tech project.
Irina: What is your biggest investment success to date?
Nova: Some of those have really been my own companies, things like EarthWeb. I think my new company, Live Matrix, is going to be pretty interesting. I’m very excited about that. And another one is Space Adventures ventures that I invested in that doing in space stuff — sort of outside my main focus area – but they are doing pretty well. Klout.com is doing extremely well. I was their first investor. They are doing social analytics on Twitter and Facebook, and they’re growing fast.
Irina: What does Space Adventures do?
Nova: It’s a space tourism company. I actually flew to out of space in Russia with them in 1999. But I didn’t go all the way to space. I went to the edge of space, not as expensive. But still expensive, I did that, I also did the zero gravity training, and got to go to Star City and Zhukovsky Air Base outside of Moscow and do all the training. It was cool.