Ann Winblad, Founding Partner,
Hummer Winblad Venture Partners
Our special guest today is Ann
Winblad, Partner, Hummer - Winblad Venture Partners,
a $200 million fund focused exclusively on software investments.
Ann Winblad is a well known and respected software industry
entrepreneur and technology leader; she has been distinguished
as one of the most influential people in the digital age
by Business Week, Fortune, Upside and Time magazines.
Prior to co-founding Hummer Winblad Venture Partners,
Ms. Winblad co-founded an accounting software company,
Open Systems, Inc. in 1976 with a $500 investment that
she operated profitably for six years and then sold the
company for over $15 million.
We are honored to have Ann with us today. Welcome Ann!
guest-Tanya asks: What inspired
you to start Hummer-Winblad Venture Partners?
Ann: I had recently
sold my own company and met John Hummer in California
and I had made commitments to do consulting and write
a technical book. But John kept hounding me to become
his partner and start this firm. So I finally gave in
after all the hounding about working with him.
guest-Kim asks: What do you
like best about your job at Hummer-Winblad?
Ann: First of all,
it's very challenging. Every company has its unique strategy
and business model. The challenges are very exciting.
The market today also attaches a high value to software
Internet companies. It's exciting to start companies from
scratch in this marketplace.
guest-Stephanie says: Who were
the people who inspired you/heroes when you were growing
Ann: I grew up in
a very small town, and I didn't think of myself as having
heroes, but people who inspired me. I enjoyed going to
school. So I would say all of my teachers.
guest-jmp asks: Ann, what career
events and professional experiences readied you for the
venture capital world? With that, what advice could you
give aspiring VC's?
Ann: It's a very challenging
job being a VC these days, much more than it was before.
It's a competitive market for companies and investors.
You're going to put yourself in a coaching role. So to
coach the team well you should know how to play the sport.
So I would advise those who want to be venture capitalists
to be entrepreneurs as well.
guest-Debbie asks: What can
an entrepreneur do to hold your attention?
Ann: We get thousands
and thousands of business cards each year. It's useful
for entrepreneurs to join these entrepreneurs' organizations.
One of the companies I funded I met at the Software Development
Forum in LA. I try to make myself accessible. It's a good
idea also to find a good lawyer and accountant. They are
two good contacts to help you get introductions so that
you fall to the top of the noise pile.
guest-Roberta says: What is
inspiring you in the software industry today?
Ann: It's great to
see the new names in the marketplace.
guest-rosannee says: Has the
Internet's velocity, "Internet time", and Internet economics
changed HW's approach to investment in certain segments
Ann: It's changed.
Everyone has had to change our investment strategy. We
have to make decisions faster. Yes and no decisions. We've
had to do everything faster. It has changed our investing
guest-Diane says: What do you
feel has been the most important factor in your success?
Ann: The reason I
love this industry it's been my entire career
all these years of experience has really helped me. I
get a kick out of working with all these young entrepreneurs.
It's exciting to watch people mature before your eyes.
It's exciting to see people who grew up with nothing get
wealthy. Taking the role as an integral part of growing
in this industry has been extremely exciting.
Moderator: That's great Ann! Very inspiring!
guest-Kim asks: Have you ever
been intimidated by technology and if so, what do you
do to change it?
Ann: I've never quite
been intimidated by technology. I started my career as
a computer programmer. I've been more intrigued than intimidated.
guest-Shannon says: How will
companies be run differently in the new century?
Ann: I think we have
moved to a style that pushes a very flat organization
that is run by teams rather than individuals. You don't
have time for decision-making to go up and down the organization.
That style of leadership is starting to infiltrate corporations
guest-chet asks: What is your
opinion on eHow.com's progress and development?
Ann: I'm very excited
about e-How. We funded it in December of 1999. We set
high goals for the company, and the company has exceeded
their goals. They are setting the standards for a new
company called contextual commerce.
Moderator: What advice do
you have for young women just starting out?
Ann: Set your goals
very high. If you're not ready to be a leader, find a
place where you can learn great leadership skills. Everyone
is learning in real time. So my best advice is: Get in
the game, find a great company to work with, and when
you're ready, go start your own.
Moderator: Do you see any
barriers as a woman in the VC world?
Ann: Not really. It's
a very competitive world. Like the regular entrepreneurial
world. If you are a woman in the VC world, that's part
of the playing field.
Moderator: Were there any
specific career events that readied you to be a VC?
Ann: There were a
couple. When I sold my company it was acquired
by Greg Lemont. Greg was terrific. There were a lot of
things I learned from him that I wouldn't learn on my
own. Then working with John, I learned a lot about moving
from being a player to being a coach.
Moderator: Can you share any
mistakes that you have made in your career?
Ann: I think everyday
all of us make mistakes it's the only way to learn.
Many VC's make more sins of omission than sins of selection.
Those are the companies that we look over rather than
the ones we invest in. We probably have past over some
companies that will be quite successful. But we try to
focus on what we've learned rather than what mistakes
Moderator: What do you think
you will be doing in ten years?
Ann: Who knows! I
could not have ever imagined the past ten years and how
they've unveiled themselves. Our fund is just 10 years
old. The past four years have been exhilarating. We haven't
had time to stop and look what we'll be doing in the next
10 years. I hope to be part of the technology industry
as long as I can add value.
Ann has to take an important call, so we will end our
chat early today. Any parting words?
Ann: Thank you for
having me. And good luck to all you young entrepreneurs