Jason Mendelson, the Elvis of Innovation, Offers Some Lessons for San Diego’s Tech Sector

I like you. Just maybe you’ve got a clue
Meet my partners on a Monday,
We’ll see if they can dig you too
‘Cuz I’m a VC, I’m a VC
I drive around a Prius and meet over sushi
I’m a VC. Uh-huh. Who are you?
It takes more than PowerPoint slides to impress me
I’m a VC. Uh-huh. Who are you?

Jason Mendelson is the lead vocalist in the music video spoof, “I’m a VC,” which hit the top of the VC industry music chart on Sept. 6. He also is a founding partner of the Foundry Group, the Boulder, CO, venture firm.

In addition to light musical parody, Mendelson and his fellow vocalists and Foundry partners—Brad Feld, Ryan McIntyre, and Seth Levine—share decades of experience in venture investing and in the software industry. So it was only logical for the co-founders to invest primarily in early-stage Internet and software companies when the Foundry Group sprang onto the venture scene in 2007 with a $225 million fund.

Jason Mendelson

Since then, Foundry has raised another $225 million fund, and the firm has acquired a kind of au courant aura, maybe from the success of Foundry’s investments in Zynga and Cheezburger, or perhaps because of Foundry’s close ties with TechStars, the accelerator program that now provides seed funding and business mentoring for Web and software companies in four cities.

With all this swirling in my head—music video, Zynga, TechStars—I felt like I’d gained an audience with the Elvis of innovation when Jeb Spencer of San Diego-based TVC Capital arranged a conference call with Mendelson. Our idea was to talk with him about San Diego’s splintered software community—and to hear whether the lessons from Boulder could be applied at sea level to re-energize the tech startup culture here.

I’ve been brooding about this topic for some time, and I’ve talked about it with a number of local innovation leaders. One refrain I’ve heard several times is that San Diego needs someone like Foundry’s Feld or Mendelson, or something like TechStars, to kick-start the startup culture here. I asked Spencer for his thoughts when the subject came up at a … Next Page »

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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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