Venrock has quite a history as a VC firm. In the 1930s, Laurance Rockefeller pioneered early-stage financing by investing in the entrepreneurs who started Eastern Airlines and McDonnell Aircraft. In 1969, Venrock was founded to continue this heritage of investing in and building entrepreneur-backed companies, beginning with Intel. You will find a bunch of household names in its portfolio, such as Apple, as well as more recent Web tech ventures, such as CC Betty, BlogHer, Bungee Labs, and SlideShare. Venerable, perhaps, but not one to rest on its laurels, as Brian Ascher explained in our recent interview.

Listen to the Interview

Download the MP3.

Questions and MP3 Guide

Question #1: The Venrock history is amazing: Intel, Apple, etc. How does this help Venrock select and assist great ventures today?

Skip to 1:11 in MP3
Summary: Brian made it clear that “you cannot rest on your laurels in the venture business. You have to show up hungry and passionate every day.”

Question #2: How can Venrock stay focused on early-stage? Do you keep the fund deliberately small?

Skip to 2:47 in MP3
Summary: Despite a track record that would allow it to raise much bigger funds, Venrock keeps its fund as small as $600 million. In bio tech and clean tech, large amounts of capital are still needed. But Venrock is happy to do small deals for capital-efficient Web tech ventures.

Question #3: User experience is critical, and we recognize a great one when we see it. But is it just magic? What can ventures do to create consistently great user experiences?

Skip to 4:00 in MP3
Summary: Brian emphasized the basics: hard work, lots of testing, and iteration.

Question #4: Tell us about Adify. Does Google just suck all the profit from online advertising? How can intermediaries create value today?

Skip to 5:20 in MP3
Summary: Brian identified three areas of opportunity. First, better targeting by analyzing social media conversations. Second, ad exchanges. Third, branding via video advertising (see below).

TurnHere: Crowdsourced Video Ad Production

One of the ventures Brian mentioned seems like a great idea. TurnHere answers the need for video ads produced at the right price. Paying a big agency to produce video ads is okay for a big brand, but what about small companies that want the emotional and branding power that only video can deliver but don’t have the budget? TurnHere uses crowdsourcing to pay videographers a fixed fee. Videographers often have spare time in their schedule and would fill it with lower-priced jobs if the process was simple enough. Neat idea: this will be interesting to track.

Listen to the Interview

Download the MP3.