You ever meet someone and wonder if you could get away with kidnapping them, locking them in your basement and exploiting their incredible intelligence to your sole gain? Yeah, me neither. But IF I did think that way, Lee Linden would be shackled right now to my water heater. Since that would be, you know, illegal, I’m settling for being an angel investor in his newest company Karma, alongside folks like Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia, Obvious and others. Karma’s app is one of the smartest “mobile social commerce” experiences I’ve seen and many many many journalists seem to agree. It’s an example of my “anthropology + algorithm” thesis – that the best consumer technology uses science wrapped in art to delight users. In this case it’s rethinking what gifting looks like in a way which creates tremendous emotional satisfaction for the giver and recipient.
Update 5/18/12: Karma has been acquired by Facebook. Congratulations to the team and thanks for the opportunity to help support you!
But as suggested above, it’s not just the product I loved, it’s the founders Lee and Ben Lewis. Ben used to work at Google and I tried to recruit him over to YouTube a few years back. He declined, letting me know he was actually leaving to join a friend in starting a new company. That friend was Lee Linden and the company was Tapjoy, which enjoyed a very successful exit in 2010. I’m thrilled to finally get to work with Ben, even if it’s not in the capacity I originally expected.
Lee and I first met in 2007 at a Stanford brunch. He was a first year grad student and I was an alum returning for a mentorship brunch. If I remember correctly, Lee’s mentor didn’t show and we hit it off big time. Getting together for coffee or lunch every so often, I discovered that in addition to Lee’s raw horsepower, he’s incredibly modest. So this is a guy who began his post-undergrad career as a star product recruit at Microsoft, then came out to the Valley and within a few years got a graduate degree, launched a Y Combinator startup, built a hit iOS game, built an ad solution for that game, turned that ad solution into a company and sold that company. Oh and did I mention he also worked with Kleiner Perkins as well as some other early stage investing work? Yeah, he’s fundable.
So when the opportunity appeared to help lend my support to their latest venture, it was with head and heart that I enthusiastically committed. Thank you Ben and Lee for saving me a seat on this bus. Full speed ahead!