Voyager Co-Founder Godreau at New Firm with Ex-MS, Yahoo, AOL Execs

4/13/12Follow @curtwoodward

Updated 4/16
Enrique Godreau III, a founder and former managing director at Seattle’s Voyager Capital, has resurfaced at a new venture firm where he’s working closely with former Microsoft executives who recently left high-profile jobs at AOL and Yahoo.

In fact, the firm—-GSharp Ventures—appears to be so new that the only real thing I could find online was an early website and the LinkedIn profiles of people working there. But the roster includes some pretty well-known names.

Godreau, who left Voyager earlier this year, is listed as co-founder and managing director. The other co-founder/managing director is Luis Salazar, a former Microsoft executive who most recently worked for about a year at Yahoo, serving as a vice president in marketing and business development. Salazar also served as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Voyager for more than two years before his job at Yahoo.

The other big name associated with GSharp is Alex Gounares, a former Microsoft exec  and onetime close adviser to Bill Gates who most recently was chief technology officer at AOL. Gounares left that post in February, having come to AOL in mid-2010. He’s listed on LinkedIn as being an operating advisor at GSharp. Gounares also is listed as CEO at Concurix, a new company that says it is “building a next generation operating system for cloud data centers.”

Enrique Godreau

Luis Salazar

Also listed on LinkedIn as affiliated with GSharp were Northwest business veterans Tom Nault and Kim Nelson, who were listed as operating partners; and John Hansen, a former CEO at GoAhead Software, a Voyager portfolio company that was acquired by Oracle in October.

Comment, detail from GSharp added here
I couldn’t find any paperwork indicating that GSharp Ventures had raised a fund, and its website was pretty spare (apart from the main image of a baby reaching toward the screen). Via e-mail, Godreau and Salazar say they can’t comment on the new firm yet, alluding to legal restrictions.

But in response to my questions, they did post a description on the GSharp website explaining a little more about the firm’s approach. They’re calling it “venture equity,” a blend of venture capital and private equity investing. GSharp says venture equity fits in after the pure start-up stage, when companies are taking shape and going to market, “but before the ‘scaling,’ or high growth phase served by larger VC’s, private equity firms or corporate acquirers.” The private equity part comes into play by providing, “at no cost to entrepreneurs, access to experienced operators to maximize and unlock asset value while also minimizing overall risk.”

The website also says GSharp is focused on cloud computing, next-generation Web, education technology, and consumerization in the enterprise. GSharp’s as-yet unusued Twitter profile says it’s located in Seattle and Menlo Park, CA.

When he left Voyager, Godreau told me in an e-mail that he was hoping to get back to the origins of venture investing, and perhaps toy with the prevailing models. Here’s the key excerpt from what he wrote:

“Over the last 15 years, we have seen and experienced a lot of change in the business of start-up formation and all aspects of the information technology industry—open source, the smartphone, the cloud, social networks, ubiquitous digital networks, etc. Yet it seems odd to me that in spite of these seismic changes, that the world of venture hasn’t really adapted or changed very much. In terms of my next steps, I am going to take some time to revisit the roots of venture capital, reflect on my personal experiences as a VC, and play with the question, ‘What would I do different?’”

There also may be some clues to GSharp’s approach in Salazar’s blogging, which echoes the theme of “back to basics venture capital” seen on the firm’s site. In a blog post of that same title, Salazar says he sees a gap in the startup ecosystem: the cost of starting a tech company is low and the availability of early stage funding and advice is relatively high, but scaling up and finding a market can be tough, he writes.

At the same time, even though corporate acquisitions are often not terribly successful, companies keep on trying. Salazar writes that “corporations need a front row to entrepreneurship” to see how small, innovative businesses work if they hope to make acquisitions pay off in the long run.

In a follow-up post, Salazar writes that “large corporations such as Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Google in the Seattle area should actually encourage their execs to be part of the local tech entrepreneurship movement.”

Since I have to speculate what that kind of idea could mean for a new venture firm, I’d say it sounds like a drive to recruit more corporate tech execs as investment partners, or observers on behalf of big-company investments. Maybe. But again, that’s just a wild guess.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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  • Laura

    We need (badly) more tech venture firms, angels and incubators in seattle…

  • Andrew

    I agree with the post about corporate involvement in the local startup scene. Microsoft, Amazon and others should play a stronger role and their execs would benefit from the experience! Microsoft seems more interested in the bay area, finland, india or china than Seattle… I think there is room for all

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