Joining Google Ventures

I’m very excited to share the news that I recently joined Google Ventures as a partner, where I’m going to be running Startup University. Startup U is our dedicated effort at helping entrepreneurs at our growing portfolio companies benefit from our experience and that of our colleagues at Google.

For those who know me, you know what an ideal role I consider this. I have loved working at Google, and consider it a true privilege to continue to work among such incredible colleagues. While leaving YouTube was an excruciatingly hard decision – I loved my coworkers at YouTube, and am excited about what’s coming up from them – the role that I’ve been asked to take on at Google Ventures was simply too perfect for me.

I’ve worked at a number of startups – most recently FeedBurner, which was acquired by Google in 2007. Before that, there was Socialtext, and before that a couple of software companies focused on the legal space (I’m a lawyer by background, for those who didn’t know). Before Google, the largest company I’d worked for was just 200 people – I’d worked at a couple companies of just a dozen people. FeedBurner had 6 employees when I joined. I’ve been on phone calls where founders discussed postponing pay so they could pay the other employees. I’ve held my breath as we waited for news of the Big Win – some hits, lots of misses. And I’ve been in the midst of some pretty spectacular crises (maybe a blog post or two in there, come to think of it!) where we wondered if we’d weather the storm.

Which is all my way of saying that I’ve lived the startup life – good, bad and in between. But in the last four years I’ve lived the Google life, and seen countless reminders of what an extraordinary collection of talent, experience and insight Google is. When Joe and Bill first reached out to me about joining Google Ventures, I started thinking about what it might look like if we could combine the deep experience of the Ventures team (many of whom have far more impressive entrepreneurial cred than I do) along with the collective expertise of tens of thousands of Googlers. I’ve been excited ever since, and I formally joined several weeks ago.

If you haven’t seen the story that ran earlier this week in TechCrunch about my move, it’s worth reading. Not for anything it says about me, but for how Google Ventures as a whole is thinking about Startup U. Startup U is not about telling the portfolio companies how to do things. Instead, it’s about setting them up to succeed – and if they’re going to make a mistake, let’s make sure they don’t repeat the ones we made.

The early feedback from companies in our portfolio is exceptionally positive. We have a number of experiments we intend to try in the months ahead, and I cannot wait to report back on what’s working (and what’s not).

For those who’ve been in the startup trenches before: what do you wish you’d had access to? What mistakes do you wish you could have avoided? And for those of you thinking about taking the plunge: what assistance/guidance/input would be invaluable to you?

I’m all ears!