dcsimg
RealTime IT News

John Malloy, Managing General Partner, BlueRun Ventures

John MalloyA lot has happened in technology venture capital since John Malloy co-founded BlueRun Ventures (BRV) in 1998. The industry simmered, sizzled and boiled over.

But with a resurgent M&A market and indications that IPOs are coming off their long Wall Street probation, institutional investors are seeing the exits opening up again (although there's still plenty of risk to go with the rewards).

BRV, formerly known as Nokia Venture Partners, recently closed a $350 million fund and is working to build a brand for its new name by emphasizing startup experts and a global reach.

In addition to its Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, the firm has offices in Helsinki, Finland; Herzelia, Israel; London; New Delhi; Seoul; Shanghai; Tokyo; and Washington, D.C.

While the name has changed, the focus remains. BRV continues to target early-stage consumer electronics, IT and mobile startups. Initial backing ranges from $2 million to $8 million.

Malloy recently sat down with internetnews.com to discuss BRV's strategy and the potential of specific technologies in the sectors where BRV operates.

Q: Entrepreneurs with strong plans and experienced executives have a lot of choices for financing. How does BlueRun differentiate itself?

The difference is in our model. We've built a global fund. We've built a network of offices in Europe and Asia. We really pick the best of breed and are geographically agnostic.

For example, we see huge opportunities with China. We have guys on the ground there. How do you vet [business plans that originates or is focused on that market]? You have to have connections; that's the piece we add.

Q: BRV also invests in consumer electronics, an area many technology-focused fund managers avoid because of the perceived fickleness of consumers. What's interesting in that space for you now?

"We invested in a Colorado company called Cornice that makes 1-inch hard disk drives. A few years ago we thought that Flash [memory] wouldn't meet market demand. We thought cell phones would have this need for new memory storage devices. It's proven to be a good venture bet for us. Samsung is using Cornice drives in new 3GB phones.

Q: Let's talk about some other technologies. Recently, there's been a flurry of activity around WiMAX , on both the testing and standards fronts. What are your thoughts on WiMAX as an investment?

I understand why Intel is interested in WiMAX, but as an early-stage investor, I think it's too early to put dollars into a company that focuses on WiMAX because an application is not defined.

Q: What about VoIP? BlueRun led SunRocket's recent round. With Vonage tipping in with more than 500,000 subscribers and everyone from AOL to MSN to traditional carriers entering the market, isn't SunRocket late?

SunRocket executives come out of the MCI of 80s and early 90s. They are consumer marketing people. Now that the technology is ready, it's all about value to the end-user. It's alternative phone service. Are they competing with Vonage directly? The answer is they are not competing directly with Vonage. They are competing with Verizon and others [regional and long-distance carriers].

There's going to be multiple [VoIP] choices There's room for three significant, independent VoIP-based service providers who have different ways of attacking the market. [SunRocket's leaders] know how to build billion-dollar companies.

Q: Is it more likely that VoIP players will go public or be acquired by traditional service providers?

It's more likely that these will be public companies. Wall Street will reward them and the financial metrics will be there. If Vonage was a public company, it would have a significant market cap, and [potential buyers] are dealing with diminishing revenues.

Q: How many business plans are you seeing these days? Where are they coming from and what's the quality like?

We look at 100 plans a week on average. Globally, the West Coast is the best single market in the world, but it's not the only one where we're seeing quality.

A lot of really interesting entrepreneurial ideas have been percolating for years. A lot of people are working hard to put together businesses. One lesson we should take way from the bubble is that the day-trader mentality is not what it's all about. You have to be committed to [building a company].