The idea economy is a fascinating, constantly unfolding universe of possibilities that will facilitate commerce and empower us to build better lives. At Bee Partners, it’s our privilege to sit right at the edge of that frontier curve of innovation with some of the most brilliant business minds and makers of our generation.
The latest unfolding we were proud to not only witness but help instigate was an awards event we recently co-hosted with CalFounders, the Frontier Innovation Awards 2018: Blockchain (FIA).
We began studying blockchain about a year ago and made our first investment in a blockchain-based business at the end of 2017. That company, Tari, launches today; see the story in Fortune. Tari is an open-source, decentralized protocol that will first use blockchain to tackle entertainment ticket sales. We committed to the three-person founding team because of their deep industry and technical understanding gained from years of experience in ticketing and entertainment, blockchain and cryptocurrency. Riccardo “fluffypony” Spagni (more about him below) is lead maintainer of Monero; Naveen Jain is a Y Combinator alum with years of experience as a serial entrepreneur in entertainment; Dan Teree was co-founder of TicketFly, which he led through to its acquisition by Pandora for $450M.
The study of blockchain and our relationship with Tari were catalysts for the FIA; it was clear blockchain companies weren’t getting the kind of support we think young companies need. We sought to create a series of events for blockchain companies that parallels the support and operations services we provide portfolio companies.
We launched the FIA in January when we put out a call for submissions for the best blockchain business ideas. We read scores of fascinating applications. After selection, over the next three and half months, we guided finalist teams through mentoring: a startup 101 session, office hours, and pitch practice, all supported by a bench of enthusiastic business and blockchain experts. Then we winnowed the final list down to 10 promising startups before throwing them on stage for a timed pitch and subsequent rapid-fire questions from panelists, including Tari’s Spagni, who served as keynote speaker, and Dan Teree, who sat on the panel.
A select subset of the community that had supported finalists through mentoring adjourned after pitches and battled out who would be the grand prize winner. It wasn’t easy! Shelf Auctioning Network emerged supreme and we are proud to offer them mentoring from Spagni in recognition of their accomplishment. See all the details here, including the names of the many, many people and institutions who helped make the FIA a success.
Our intense study of blockchain came from the persistent expectation we hold ourselves to at Bee, that we’ll adapt to the movement of the frontier curve by constantly educating ourselves and honing our point of view through research and through the lived experiences available when we conduct relevant deal-flow, mentoring, and networking. Ultimately, companies based on blockchain will represent a very small portion of the Bee portfolio; with the investments in Shelf and Tari, they make up two out of 54 portfolio companies. But we knew this paradigm-altering technology development would represent a fundamental change in how commerce is conducted, so it was our duty as investors to understand it deeply.
Through the process of writing the white paper, “Bee Partners Industry Insight: Blockchain Opportunities Abound, Discipline Not Forgotten,” and leading the FIA, I’m confident we at Bee have a solid knowledge base and point of view. As always, we believe that base is made stronger with community views and input—and if you’re reading this, you’re part of that community. So please read the white paper, share it broadly, and share your perspectives with me or anyone at Bee.
A tip of the hat to CalFounders
Our partner for the FIA was CalFounders, UC Berkeley’s only community of alumni founders. We’re incredibly proud of our strong relationship with Cal and are always inspired by CalFounders members. A third of FIA finalists had a Cal alum on the team. If you’re a Cal alum and haven’t joined yet, jump on it here!