Tuesday, March 20, 2007

RED HERRING | Tellme About Benchmark

"Complicated Calculations
Calculations, however, are complicated by the fact that AT&T, Bowman Capital Management, and San Francisco mutual fund Van Wagoner may have liquidated their holdings in the company, only to have some of those picked up on the secondary market by outfits such as Saints Capital and Millennium Technology Ventures.

Also, a Tellme representative said employees owned two-thirds of the company, something several VCs in Silicon Valley found surprising.

“I just don’t see how that leaves enough equity interest to keep VCs involved,” one said. “It certainly defies conventional metrics.”"

"Microsoft’s move to buy Tellme for about $800 million represents a boon for Benchmark Capital, as well as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, but no home run on the order of Google.

Benchmark was the biggest outside investor. Benchmark and KPCB invested when the company was only a few months old in a 1999-vintage first round at $47 million. Venture capitalists around Silicon Valley said that figure likely bought 50 percent of the company at the time.

Now Benchmark appears poised to haul in the biggest return among the investing venture firms. One Silicon Valley venture capitalist described it as “no Google, but a good, solid hit.”

How good? Benchmark’s half of the $47 million investment “would have been somewhere around 6 to 8 times return,” said one VC speaking on condition of anonymity. That would conservatively bring Benchmark’s return to between $141 and $188 million—about a quarter or better of the value of its most recent $550-million fund. "

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