Ex-DJ, ex-start-up entrepreneur and now full-time investor, Andrew Cleland manages the Comcast Ventures fund that counts in its portfolio such companies as Flipboard, Half.com, About.com, Tivio and WhoSay. Given its parent company, his fund is particularly interested in visual tech which makes Andrew extremely knowledgeable in this space as well as an ideal speaker for the upcoming LDV Vision Summit. He gave us a slice of his extremely busy time to answer 10 questions.
First, a little bit about yourself. What was your path to Comcast Ventures ?
There are three main ways into venture: first work your way up from the bottom after joining as an Associate out of school; second, impress as an entrepreneur and get hired as a partner; and, third, all other random path. My route to venture lies in the third bucket. I was a strategist for Time Warner and I felt I could only be good at my job if I understood technology. Given my tech focus I was
occasionally pulled into pitch meetings between Time Warner Investments and entrepreneurs, and when one of the members of the Investments group moved on I was invited to join. I moved to Comcast Ventures four years ago to help Comcast build out its presence in NYC.
You were an entrepreneur once, being surrounded by start-ups, do you sometimes have the urge take the plunge again?
Sometimes. I certainly see up close the opportunities and the satisfactions that entrepreneurialism offers. But, I also love being an investor. It’s difficult to replace the intellectual challenges of being an investor in early-stage companies. Plus, investing is a wonderful mix of left-brain analytics and right-brain human skills.
Is there a company in the video/photo space you regret not investing in and why?
A few. I should have found a way to invest into Fotolog when my old boss, John Borthwick, took over as CEO. I should have invested into Videology at the Series A by trusting the amazing team rather than the (dumb) idea that they were pursuing at the time. 5Min, Liverail, the list goes on.
“Virtual and augmented reality are going to be civilization-changing.”
How do you interact with founders after investing?
Slightly depends upon stage, but I prefer to be active rather than passive. Consequently, my relationship with the founder is important to me. I like strategy, I like positioning, and I like product.
You have a few video companies in your portfolio but none in photography. A clear conscious choice or lack of opportunities?
Neither really. I’ve invested into seven companies in the last four years. It just so happens that none of them are photography companies. It is also fair to say that I am both more interested in video and it is a vertical that Comcast can more directly impact.
Looking around the photo:tech space, what do you see that excites you?
Virtual and augmented reality are going to be civilization-changing. It will happen as most big revolutions happen — it will take far longer than anyone expects and the consequences will be more profound.
With the LDV summit coming up, what do you hope to get from it?
I’m hoping for one of those bags that they hand out at the Oscars.
What would be the ideal company to invest in that technology does not yet allow to build?
Well one that is easily imaginable today is a company that can provide a live view of any spot on earth instantly. It would present tremendous privacy and ethical challenges, so I don’t think it qualifies as ideal though. So, the obvious choice is a technical solution for blindness. Science is getting closer here too.
Photo by alemercado
Author: Paul Melcher
Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.