Behind a great company is a great board of directors, board of advisors, and investors. At Bazaarvoice, we count ourselves fortunate with advisors and investors who have chosen to put their time and resources behind our venture. Today, we’re pleased to continue the trend, and announce that Mike Maples, Jr. has joined as a Bazaarvoice advisor and investor!
Mike Maples, Jr. is the managing partner of Maples Investments, and was recently named as one of “8 Rising VC Stars” by Fortune Magazine for his investments in business and consumer technology companies. His background spans a variety of markets including consumer technology, small business, and the enterprise, and he has led various functions in product development, marketing, business development, and corporate strategy. Mike co-founded Motive and was responsible for worldwide product marketing at Tivoli. Now as an investor, he is behind investments such as Twitter, Digg, Spiceworks, Chegg, IMVU, and Aggregate Knowledge. See his investments here.
Mike shared some of his thoughts on joining Bazaarvoice as an investor and advisor, as well as his investment strategy and perspectives on the market:
Why did you invest in us when some investors are cautious of the “Web 2.0” space? TechCrunch recently said that Web 2.0 is a bankrupt term.
I suppose it’s more accurate to consider the question in reverse. I’ve been looking for the opportunity to invest in Bazaarvoice for quite some time and I am thrilled to be *permitted* to invest. I guess persistence does pay off sometimes!
In terms of the market space, and all of the talk of web 2.0, in my view the company’s success speaks for itself. It’s customers read like a who’s-who of online commerce providers and the company has dared to be new and different in an environment characterized by a lot of me-too companies. It has also discovered a very efficient business model that can reach scale without raising a lot of money.
What trends do you see in the marketplace that support the growth for our type of service?
The first generation of companies in the social web understood that user-generated content would be important for value creation and many of the companies I invested in earlier were the first to jump on this. In my opinion, Bazaarvoice is the first company to marry user-generated content with user-generated *commerce*. Combining these two is very powerful because you have the architecture of participation characterized by communities, combined with a very straightforward and efficient way to monetize.
I believe that there will be several very interesting user-generated commerce plays (especially since eBay hasn’t moved quickly enough in recent years) and I think Bazaarvoice is the first in this new wave just as companies like Facebook, digg, and Twitter were pioneers of the user-generated content trend.
The other trend that is powerful is the shift from traditional “old media” style mass-marketing to peer-to-peer marketing enabled by relationships on the Internet. Bazaarvoice is a leader in leveraging this and I am also working with 750 Industries, who plays firmly into this trend as well.
How does this investment align with your priorities and what you want to invest in?
At a high level, I believe that about 15 startups per year will set themselves apart in a fundamental way from the over 8,000 that will be funded. If I had to reduce my strategy to one sentence, it would be “Find as many of the 15 as you can every year.”
Finding the 15 out of the 8,000 is a lot easier said than done! My approach is to invest in companies that have a visionary founding team, a huge potential market, a fundamental advantage backed up with a network effect, modest capital requirements, and a unique value proposition for customers. I believe that Bazaarvoice has been a superperformer in these areas for some time.
As an investor in Digg, Twitter, and now Bazaarvoice, where do you see the “social space” going in the next five years?
The trends in technology innovation have switched from enterprise trickling down to consumer innovations scaling up. The bellweather companies are now companies like LinkedIn, digg, Bazaarvoice, Twitter, and Facebook and they are the companies to watch to get a feel for what will happen with business solutions in the future. There will be new types of companies in the business software and services arena that apply IT consumerization to solve problems that have in the past been solved by expensive and hard-to-use enterprise software. Some of the companies I work with are already demonstrating this, such as Solarwinds, Spiceworks, Demandforce, Egnyte, and Hyper9. Each of these firms leverage network effects, highly appealing user experiences, communities, and consumer internet sales and marketing methods to build their products and their businesses with great efficiency.
Five years from now the trend toward IT consumerization will be very pervasive and will impact small businesses and enterprises in a very fundmental way. Traditional enterprise software companies will feel that this is very disruptive but the users of technology will be the big winners.