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Angelgate takes on a whole new meaning
By Dave Winer on Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 9:20 AM.

A couple of possibly final thoughts about Angelgate and as a bonus some thoughts about the value of money. permalink

1. I started my first Silicon Valley company in the early 80s with angel money. Then, and now, it was a collegial thing. A bunch of guys (they're almost all men) play at entrepreneurship the way other men play ponies. They're not going to live the life of the 20-something. They couldn't, it's too much stress, and they have lives, and more important they have cash. It's hard to push that hard when you aren't betting it all. The young guy (he's almost always a guy, too) is like a racehorse. The angels all get to hang around the stables, and watch the game closeup. The price? As little as $10K or as much as $500K, depending how much of a thrill you like.  permalink

When I was coming up, they had their meetings at the Stagecoach Restaurant on Woodside Road. It's long-gone now. It was a dark, smoky greasepit of place. While I was raising money I'd have breakfast there every morning and if one of the angels showed up I'd pitch him. I'd call my chief angel from the office later and he'd go over and see how I did. Invariably he'd come back with a check. We raised a couple of million this way.  permalink

A picture named angel.gifI don't think there was any collusion back then. The angels sure talked to each other, all the time, but you know what, that's allowed. There's no law against talking. My angels did try a couple of rebellious things, but it was mostly because they didn't understand how software worked. Software was a relatively new business then, and retail software, which is what we made, was completely new. I chalk it up to confusion, which was my fault -- I was their leader. In any case it all had a happy ending. We sold the company in a big stock deal and went public and got rich. permalink

2. What we didn't know while Angelgate was playing out, that Mike did know -- is that he was getting close to completing the sale of his company to AOL. Note that I didn't say he knew he was selling to AOL, because until the deal is signed you never know. But in that light, it could take on greater significance. It could be Mike declaring his independence from the financial community of Silicon Valley. It's easy to see that before AOL owned it, TechCrunch would be subject to some amount of pushing around by the financial people. If he was on the outs with any of them, he would lose an important flow of information, that would possibly go to one of his competitors. Mike's ace were his sources in the VC and angel communities, and in the upper echelons of management at the big tech companies and startups.  permalink

But now that his publication is in league with Engadget, they're going to get their stories no matter what, it seems. And despite what everyone says about Mike staying on, the longevity of founders in acquisitions usually is limited. And Mike is a typical founder (that's neither good or bad, it just is). I stayed at the company that acquired mine for six months. And a lot of that time was spent at home, plotting my next moves. If you're the kind of guy who starts things, the endless corporate activities of the company that acquired you seem terribly off-topic, almost to the point of irrelevance. Give me something to chew on! I kept thinking. I'm sure Mike will too. permalink

3. It occurs to me that this may be the first big pile of money that Mike has gotten. If so, it must be a wonderful feeling. I remember when that happened for me. I sold a bit of my stock to the VCs who (for all practical purposes) owned the company that bought mine. It was, in the end a small part of the money I received, but none of it mattered as much as that very first check. It was for $425,000. I had to sit down. My legs were weak. Literally. It was at that moment that I realized that my days of being poor were over. That my struggle was over. I had attained a huge safety net. There was a level below which I wouldn't fall. Until that point, I had no such feeling.  permalink

After that were years of confusion, until I learned something very important. permalink

Money is a good thing to have, up to a point. But it can only buy you one thing that's worth more than all the rest -- your time. After that, the returns diminish rapidly. Sure it's nice to drive a luxurious car, and live close to where it's all happening. Those are also good things. But if the choice is to give up yourself to have those things, there would be no choice.  permalink

There were other things I learned from not wanting for money. Live a simpler life. Every time you have a choice to complicate things, choose the other way. I've made the more-complicated choice many times. In hindsight, the good decisions were ones that kept things simple. permalink

One final thought -- money does not buy you security. It can't. We are not secure. If you get rich and wonder why you don't feel secure, that's why. If you're poor thinking the rich folk feel secure, they don't. For more on that, I wrote a piece 10 years ago called Transcendental Money. permalink

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