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Leaning on CEOs for Personal Causes?

Fund: Draper Fisher Jurvetson

Posted by Krassen on 2009-01-14

PUBLIC:

On December 28th I posted the 'Avoid Fonstad' review of DFJ on this site. Within a few days seven people agreed with the review and none disagreed, and then the review rolled out of the front pages with no further feedback.

Lately however, there have been five disagreements with my review, as well as several comments supporting of DFJ/Fonstad , plus one additional review in support of DFJ. Similarly, Jennifer Fonstad's personal profile featured only negative ticks at the time of my review, but recently there were three positive ticks, along with a couple of positive comments. This was all happening while my review was off the front pages, so I doubt the activity was some form of spontaneous reaction of disagreement upon stumbling on my review.

I suspect that the pattern is indicative of a campaign to raise the profile of DFJ and Fonstad on The Funded. There are a couple of problems with that:
(1) CEOs who are currently in the DFJ portfolio are in position of dependency and subordination relative to DFJ and can be leaned upon to comment against their true opinions. (Interestingly, all of the new supportive comments are authored by identifiable monikers, and not by Anonymous, so they can potentially point out and receive credit for their effort)
(2) There is a built-in asymmetry if there is a concerted campaign underway to raise the profile of a firm. Contributors with negative sentiment are not organized by a unifying force and comment at a leisurely, random and intermittent pace; likely only when prompted by another review on the front pages, or after a meeting or other interaction with DFJ. This is reminiscent of voting on a proposition where only one side actively campaigns and not the other.

The political/electoral analogies I used are not casual. People should know that Mrs. Fonstad is an experienced political operative, who ran Mitt Romney's Senate campaign in 1994 and was the Co-Chair of Women for Mitt in this past election cycle. Obviously she has good skills as a political organizer.

This recent activity helps me better understand why my CEO, H.Perry Fell, donated maximum contribution to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in 2007, when Fonstad was fundraising. In 2004 Fell was very adamant about voting for Kerry; I can potentially see him voting for Romney, but I have a very hard time seeing him give cash, since the guy is extra careful with money (this was actually a good thing for NanoString). Now I suspect that he was leaned upon by Fonstad.

So, if you sign with DFJ, you may have to be prepared to fork cash for their political candidates and to write positive comments here.

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