The research firm CB Insights recently put together its list of the 15 tech companies that had the best "exits" in 2013 — that is, they delivered the richest return for their investors, whether they were acquired or went public. Topping the list was Veeva Systems, for example, which raised just $4 million of funding and was worth more than $4 billion after its initial public offering.
Three Massachusetts companies showed up on the list, including Crashlytics, a company that produces tools that help the developers of mobile apps better understand why they crash. Crashlytics raised about $6 million from local angel investors and Flybridge Capital Partners, a Back Bay venture capital firm, before being bought earlier this year by Twitter. The deal was originally valued at just north of $100 million, including some cash, Twitter stock, and stock options, but at Twitter's current stock price, the payout has risen to about $300 million.
And the company might never have existed if not for a young associate at Flybridge, Victoria Song, who introduced the two founders of Crashlytics to each other at a dinner she organized in early 2011. Song also brought the deal to Flybridge, where it is on track to become the firm's biggest hit so far. (Because of Securities and Exchange Commission rules, Flybridge can't sell its shares of Twitter until next May — six months after the IPO.)
Here's how it happened...
Song put together a dinner for entrepreneurs and angel investors at Beehive in the South End, back in January 2011. (It was part of the Dart Boston event series.) Among the attendees: Wayne Chang, a serial entrepreneur who was juggling several different projects, and Jeff Seibert, who was running the Boston engineering office of the cloud storage company Box. (Chang says he wasn't on the invite list for the dinner, but crashed it. Song says doesn't remember inviting him.)
Song went out for lunch with Chang a few weeks later, where she learned that he and Seibert were considering working together on a startup. "I wanted to get my firm exposed, but Wayne refused to put a pitch deck together, since it was too early and he had no plans to fundraise yet," she explains.
"So I put the pitch deck together myself and pitched it to my team, and then convinced Wayne and Jeff to do a casual breakfast with [Flybridge partners] David [Aronoff] and Chip [Hazard]," in April of 2011. "...A lot of investors began circling the deal as it was getting put together, but I stayed close and was fortunate to have built trust with Wayne and Jeff from the beginning, so they were happy to have us as investors. The rest is history." Crashlytics announced its initial funding round of $1 million that fall; Song says that Seibert and Chang first met seven of their eventual backers at that 2011 dinner at the Beehive.
Song continues, "Wayne and Jeff are two incredibly tech savvy guys with very complementary skill sets who block and tackled in a remarkable way. Crashlytics is a great example of a company that started with a very small core product, and then built an incredible platform technology around it." (I profiled Chang in the Globe in November 2011; he was 28 at the time.)
After working with Flybridge to bring the Crashlytics deal together, Song moved to New York City to take a marketing and business development job at Tracx, a social media management startup that was also one of Flybridge's investments. She is now a student at Harvard Business School, graduating next spring. She spent the summer working at Google on Project Loon, an effort to bring wireless Internet access to parts of the planet that aren't well-served, using a network of high-altitude balloons.
Song says she hasn't yet decided what she'll do after she graduates from HBS. Flybridge's David Aronoff says "she remains an advisor to us, and we're incredibly excited about continuing to do stuff with her in her career." (Flybridge has been working to raise a new pool of capital since at least early 2012.)
"I'm considering a variety of options, so it will be a hard choice," Song says. "But I do love investing, and connecting with great entrepreneurs so I'll be sure to stay in the space."
She'd obviously be a stellar addition to Flybridge's team, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Song do something on her own...
About Scott Kirsner
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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