Jason Mendelson, the Elvis of Innovation, Offers Some Lessons for San Diego’s Tech Sector

I like you. Just maybe you’ve got a clue
Meet my partners on a Monday,
We’ll see if they can dig you too
‘Cuz I’m a VC, I’m a VC
I drive around a Prius and meet over sushi
I’m a VC. Uh-huh. Who are you?
It takes more than PowerPoint slides to impress me
I’m a VC. Uh-huh. Who are you?

Jason Mendelson is the lead vocalist in the music video spoof, “I’m a VC,” which hit the top of the VC industry music chart on Sept. 6. He also is a founding partner of the Foundry Group, the Boulder, CO, venture firm.

In addition to light musical parody, Mendelson and his fellow vocalists and Foundry partners—Brad Feld, Ryan McIntyre, and Seth Levine—share decades of experience in venture investing and in the software industry. So it was only logical for the co-founders to invest primarily in early-stage Internet and software companies when the Foundry Group sprang onto the venture scene in 2007 with a $225 million fund.

Jason Mendelson

Since then, Foundry has raised another $225 million fund, and the firm has acquired a kind of au courant aura, maybe from the success of Foundry’s investments in Zynga and Cheezburger, or perhaps because of Foundry’s close ties with TechStars, the accelerator program that now provides seed funding and business mentoring for Web and software companies in four cities.

With all this swirling in my head—music video, Zynga, TechStars—I felt like I’d gained an audience with the Elvis of innovation when Jeb Spencer of San Diego-based TVC Capital arranged a conference call with Mendelson. Our idea was to talk with him about San Diego’s splintered software community—and to hear whether the lessons from Boulder could be applied at sea level to re-energize the tech startup culture here.

I’ve been brooding about this topic for some time, and I’ve talked about it with a number of local innovation leaders. One refrain I’ve heard several times is that San Diego needs someone like Foundry’s Feld or Mendelson, or something like TechStars, to kick-start the startup culture here. I asked Spencer for his thoughts when the subject came up at a … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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12 responses to “Jason Mendelson, the Elvis of Innovation, Offers Some Lessons for San Diego’s Tech Sector”

  1. Am I the young, good looking Elvis, or the old, fat one?

  2. Hah! I guess Bryan Abrams of Men Colored Badd would have been more apt. But readers would go “who?” And to tell you the truth, I had never heard of Men Colored Badd before your parody. Then I was thinking Justin Timberlake… but Nah…

  3. Nik Souris says:

    Good meeting you this evening and thanks to you and Jeb for sharing the San Diego landscape while bringing some outside perspective.

    Getting those people in a room would be interesting for sure.

    To me there is something about the SD landscape / culture / mindset possibly the water or people that gravitate here that keep those ingredients of big tech companies like Intuit/Qualcomm/HNC, great Universities and great wealth from forging a reputation for San Diego as a tech destination.

    Perhaps it is an inherent defense of the City from congestion and talent wars. Interestingly, despite the perceived absence of unbiased mentors or Tech Stars or Y-Combinator or Plug-n-play or VCs – internet companies do start and grow here – in several cases reaching that “ultimate” investor exit like internet dot-bomb survivors Provide Commerce and Active Network.

    For me tonight’s get together at Flud exemplifies SD – quiet, casual, reserved, friendly, mindful of its own business, “how can we help you”. It wasn’t Disrupt or Demo Days or Deal Pitch and I am certain the “excitement” will be self-contained to the folks that participated.

    More importantly, I believe tonight’s crew left with a great feeling about themselves, what they have and where they’re at – part of San Diego’s technology sector – not necessarily missing those tech start-up wizards, and most definitely not about to let that keep them from succeeding.

    So did Mendelson respond to you? FYI, Boulder has over 300 sunny days per year more San Diego or Miami :)

  4. Nik, it was great meeting you as well, and thanks for this thoughtful comment. As you might guess, Jason describes his schedule as “a wreck,” but we’re workin’ on it.

  5. Tom says:

    > FYI, Boulder has over 300 sunny days per year more San Diego or Miami

    Let’s see, it’s January: partly cloudy and 70 degrees or sunny and 15 degrees… which do I choose?

  6. 300 Sunny days, 70 degrees in January, and a truly international marketplace. Jason is welcome in Miami for his next concert.