William Woodward, Partner at Anthem Venture Partners
William (Bill) Woodward is the Managing Director and Founder of Anthem Venture Partners, a Venture Capital firm based in Los Angeles that invests in early-staged technology companies. Anthem has a vast portfolio, including a number of Silicon Beach startups, such as CoCoDot, BeachMint, ThisNext, and SurfAir. As you would expect of a successful investor, Bill is acutely intelligent and intensely focused. When connected with a passionate entrepreneur, he lights up with a childlike enthusiasm. We are honored to feature Bill here because he generally avoids press and rarely accepts an interview.
Here is the transcript of our interview with Bill:
Giang Biscan: Bill, how big is your fund and how deep are you in the fund?
Bill Woodward: $270M and we are about 60% through.
Giang: So when you look at investing in very early stage companies, what are you looking for?
Bill: People! The best people, big idea, best people. That’s it.
Giang: What about sector?
Bill: We are more entrepeneurs focus but sector wise, we are doing a lot of things with commerce and creative content right now. We are actually investing in an airline, so it’s completely different than anything that somebody else is doing. So it varies. We actually like data analytics. We like the big data trend that a lot of Bay Area firms like as well. We are doing several SAAS business models right now, so again more on the enterprise, more taking the data and actually doing something intelligently with the data.
Giang: Once you invest in a company, how involved are you?
Bill: Very involved, for the most part if we need to be, usually very involved. Usually a board seat. Usually involved with the strategy, helping with recruiting, hiring, all that types of things. Our value-add is about being local. The question is about being local versus you going and getting money from the Silicon Valley. So being right here to help you interview a key recruit, helping with money strategy, trying to raise the next round, all the big macro things that you have to do as a business. Just sometimes to be there to talk about your idea, you know somebody that you have to go to outside, you have to have the discipline to go to. It’s just hard with people in the Silicon Valley so far and so busy. So if you want to meet them, you have to go up North, or they have to come down, so it’s not as real time, you need somebody real time I think. For us 9 out of 10, it works.
Giang: How do entreperneurs get on your radar?
Bill: Usually through we know them or meet them somewhere, that’s the best way. Not through getting an email from someone, we usually get referred to them. A warm introduction is by far the best way.
Giang: What turn you away from a deal, or what should an entrepreneur avoid when trying to raise money?
Bill: Not being too cocky. Being not really committed to the idea is another one we try to spend a lot of time to figure out. Entrepreneurs should try to rethink the reason they start the business. It’s hard no matter what, so commitment is important.
Giang: Is it important that you were an entrepreneur first before you become and investor?
Bill: The best VCs are the people that have entrepreneurial experience, really lived it and made all the mistakes. We make a lot of mistakes. If you understand when you make a mistake as an entrepreneur then maybe you have a little bit more understanding what entrepreneurs are doing when they start their business. So I think it’s the best way, probably better than being straight financial, or a lawyer, or investment banker or something like that then come into the venture business. So I would much prefer to work with an investor with an entrepreneur experience.
Giang: You have kids and a busy life, how are you managing work life balance?
Bill: It’s really hard right now because I have 3 teenagers. They drive me crazy (Bill bursted out laughing). But it’s all good. You know, leaving the office at 10o’clock at night, having an entrepreneurial hours is actually is what I am doing right now. The same as everyone of our investors which is about working hard and doing the same thing. So it’s a really hard balance.
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