After the Bubble Burst, Mike Krenn Built a Venture Pipeline

2/3/09Follow @bvbigelow

While Mike Krenn is a person of dignity and influence, I still have vivid memories of him almost nine years ago, dressed like a demented Riddler from an episode of Batman. Not the dark and moody Batman in favor nowadays. I mean the ludicrous, campy Batman of weekday television, circa 1966.

The date was March 24, 2000. The scene was San Diego’s first annual iLounge—a boisterous dot-com business conference held at the heady, frothy peak of the Internet bubble. Krenn was billed as “The Question Man,” moderating a lunchtime question and answer session on “Anything and Everything Internet.” In retrospect, Krenn’s session was a silly-but-tame installment in what seemed at the time like a wildly successful one-day gathering of investors and entrepreneurs.

Within a few weeks, however, the bubble popped and people started losing serious money. Many companies failed. Not only was there never a second annual iLounge—the Brobeck, Phleger law firm that was the event’s title sponsor collapsed into a hole it had created with its own internal venture fund.

Today Krenn is the founder and managing director of the Venture Pipeline, a subsidiary created within the global DLA Piper law firm to help screen and scrub startup business plans and advise the firm’s entrepreneur clients. The firm’s lawyers often refer clients internally to Krenn’s group, which helps by assessing the business plan, if there is one, and by advising and coaching, to a certain extent.

“If they’re really close, we just try to give them some honest feedback,” Krenn says. In contrast, he says a VC firm typically rejects a business plan without saying why. “You only get one shot at going out to VCs,” Krenn explains. “If they pass on you, they’ll enter you in their data base, so if you try to come back in six months (with a revised plan), they’ll say, ‘No, we’ve already passed.’ ”

The Question Man is happy to answer questions about the Venture Pipeline. He says the group is now established in five DLA Piper offices across the country, and collectively reviews about 800 startup business plans a year. He seems more self-conscious, though, when asked about the wild rumpus that was the iLounge. The pauses are… longer. His answers are… shorter. At the time, … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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