No Nets, Trust the Universe
We had the great pleasure of having Ben Metcalfe on our podcast who in addition to having a very debonair accent, has an amazing story related to his journey into the world of Silicon Valley, entrepreneurship and now venture capitalism.
Ben’s entrepreneurial journey began in his native England, where he worked as software engineer and product manager for the BBC news website. It was all going well, but Ben had greater ambitions to move to the US and SF. When the BBC decided to move employees from London to Manchester, that didn't fit into Ben's plan so he bought a ticket and came out to San Francisco without knowing anyone. Fortunately upon arrival, one of the first people Ben met was Tantek Celik, an open source ambassador at the Mozilla Foundation. Tantek encouraged Ben to connect and network with as many people as possible, and to this day he refers to Tantek as one of his greatest influencers.
In 2006, the conversation amongst the tech set was all about community, with Clue Train Manifesto serving as a guiding philosophy to many in the community. Ben was focused on the developer community. Shortly after, Ben connected with Chris Messina and founded a company with a mission to help companies understand the importance of community on business growth.
When things didn't work out between Ben and his partner, he then became the Director of Platform at MySpace where he was focused on implementing open source standards at the company, at a time when companies had yet to embrace openness in business, much less things like authorizations and interoperability. After that, he founded several startups that didn't quite make it, however it was these experiences that taught him that the success of a company lies in the strength of its team. It is something that he carries with him in his investment philosophy, understanding that a really amazing team made up of very smart people who've done great things in the past can succeed. Even if the idea isn't as good as it could be or the market doesn't look as good, great teams can still pivot, and products can evolve. However, you can't evolve a team, you can bring more people on but they're not going to be founders, and the founding team is really one of the most important factors in startup success, even beyond product market fit and market timing.
His greatest experience throughout his entrepreneurial journey came when he founded WP engine, a software services platform for Word Press that just raised 260 million dollars and made 100 million dollars in revenue last year. He describes WP engine as having an amazing culture catering to employee satisfaction. After four years of working at WP engine, Ben left to pursue a career at UBER where he worked public policy.
These days, Ben works as a VC for Ridge Ventures where his focus is on B2B companies leveraging the latest technologies such as AI. He believes that with artificial intelligence, many operational functions of the enterprise can be innovated. The ability of machines to learn using models from massive amounts of business intelligence and data to predict future business processes or provide insights is truly significant.
This was a super fun conversation with Ben Metcalfe, who is an overall great guy applying his entrepreneurial past lessons to helping the innovators of the future in moving their businesses forward. If you're interested in learning more about Ben, you can find out more here, otherwise have a listen!