SiteAdvisor (acq. by Mcafee)
Chris grew up thinking he'd be a professor in either philosophy or computer science. In fact, he was halfway through a PhD program in philosophy when he discovered the world of tech startups, which, as he says, "is one of the few places where you can do things as intellectually interesting as academia but potentially have a bigger impact on the world."
After spending three years programming financial algorithms at a high-speed options trading firm, Chris joined Bessemer Venture Partners, getting a crash course in investing and company building. "I learned a ton at Bessemer - I think one of the reasons I can be helpful to entrepreneurs is I've worked in the trenches on both the startup side and the investor side."
But after a year and a half of venture capital, Chris realized his true passion was on the startup side, so he left to start a company. The result was SiteAdvisor, a web security company that sought to guard users against so-called social engineering threats. Just a little over a year after being funded by Bessemer and General Catalyst, SiteAdvisor was acquired by McAfee.
After a stint at McAfee, Chris left to co-found Hunch, where he currently works full-time as CEO. Hunch provides personalized recommendations based on users' taste profiles.
On the side, Chris has also been an active angel investor. "It's a cliche, but early-stage startups are really all about the people. Had you taken any company I've been involved with and drawn a straight line extrapolating forward, I don't think you would've seen why it was an interesting company," Dixon argues. "Because what ends up happening is that the environment changes, you discover flaws in your original concept, and good entrepreneurs adapt and change. The only way you would've seen it is if you'd understood the passion and guts of the people involved."
If anything, Dixon says, focusing on seed-stage funding--as Founder Collective does--requires an even more rigorous focus on the quality of the entrepreneur you're backing. "I think this type of investing requires a lot of intellectual modesty--recognition that you simply can't predict the future, all you can do is bet on somebody who's good enough to bob and weave along the way."
Chris explains his decision to start Founder Collective: "There's a strong personal motivation, which is that we just really enjoy getting involved in companies at early stages. There might be more lucrative things we could do with our time, but that's not how we're deciding to do this. We're doing this to be partners with entrepreneurs and help them get through early stages--particularly around early team-building, product development, and financing."