Nurturing Disruption: A New Way to Fund the Great American Startup
Harj Taggar, Partner, Y Combinator
Chris Sacca, Founder & Principal, Lowercase Capital
in conversation with Steven Levy, Senior Writer, WIRED
Steven Levy has been covering the digital revolution for more than 25 years. Before joining WIRED in 2008, he was chief technology correspondent at Newsweek. He is the author of seven books, most recently the New York Times best seller In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. Other books include Insanely Great, on the history of Apple's Macintosh computer, and Hackers, which was named the best tech book of the PC era by PC Magazine.
An accomplished venture investor, private equity principal, company advisor, and entrepreneur, Chris Sacca manages a portfolio of over fifty consumer Web, mobile, and wireless technology startups as well as an array of mature enterprises through his holding company, Lowercase Capital. While primarily known for its investments in seed and early stage technology companies, Lowercase has quietly become one of the largest venture funds in the United States. Previously, Sacca served as head of special initiatives at Google Inc. In that role, among other responsibilities, he founded and headed up the alternative access and wireless divisions. His most visible projects include Google's 700MHz and TV white spaces spectrum initiatives, the company's groundbreaking data center in Oregon, and Google's free citywide WiFi network in Mountain View, CA. He also spearheaded many of Google's business development and M&A transactions and was on the founding team of the company's New Business Development organization. Before joining Google, Sacca held a number of executive roles at one of the world's largest streaming and digital media distribution companies, Speedera Networks (acquired by Akamai Technologies), and was ultimately responsible for their legal and corporate development efforts. Prior to Speedera, he was an attorney with the Silicon Valley law firm of Fenwick & West where he handled venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, and licensing transactions for technology clients such as Macromedia, VeriSign, and Kleiner Perkins. In 2008, Sacca worked on President Barack Obama's campaign as a telecommunications, media, and technology advisor, a speaking surrogate, a field office volunteer, and as cochair of finance and a trustee of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The Wall Street Journal cited Sacca as "possibly the most influential businessman in America." In 2011, he was the youngest member of the coveted Forbes "Midas List" recognizing the country's top technology investors. He is a fixture in the Silicon Valley startup community, in part for the kind of fruitful and fun collaborations with early stage companies for which he was named one of the top 10 angel investors in the country by BusinessWeek, and in part for his unforgettable cowboy shirts which recently earned him a spot on GQ's "Worst Dressed List." Sacca was recently recognized as a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute, annually selecting 20 of the world's most promising leaders and public servants under the age of 45 and he also serves as an Associate Fellow of the Said Business School at Oxford University. Sacca graduated cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center where he was a member of The Tax Lawyer law review and was honored as the school's Philip A. Ryan and Ralph J. Gilbert Memorial Scholar. He also graduated cum laude from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and was an Edmund Evans Memorial Scholar as well as a Weeks Family Foundation Scholar. During his studies, he attended university at each of the Universidad Católica del Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador, University College Cork, in Cork, Ireland, and the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain. When not on the road for his companies, or huddled up in the cramped apartments and coffeeshops where his entrepreneurs often write their code, Sacca lives with his family in Truckee, California, is an avid alpine and nordic skier of the Sierra, surfer and kitesurfer of the California coast, two-time Ironman triathlete, and he has bicycled coast-to-coast across the United States of America.
Harj Taggar was previously founder of Auctomatic, which was funded by Y Combinator in 2007 and was acquired by Live Current Media in 2008. He graduated in 2006 from Oxford, where he studied law.
Venture capitalist Chris Sacca and Y Combinator's Harj Taggar compare the merits of developing a startup into a full-blown business versus selling it at an early stage. Taggar expresses regret that he didn't stick with his first startup, while Sacca reminds him that despite rocketing startup valuations, $5 million is still "an absolute shitload of money."