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Tugboat Ventures

Firm Rating:

Rated 2.8 / 5.0 by 13
Track
Record
2.9
Operating
Competence
2.9
Pitching
Efficiency
2.7
Favorable
Deal Terms
2.9
Execution
Assistance
2.7

Firm Homepage:

FIRM OVERVIEW: Very Small Private VC founded in November 2005 based out of Palo Alto, San Mateo (US West)

TEAM MEMBERS: Dafina Toncheva, Dave Whorton,

2
Agree
2
Disagree

Waste of Time, Know It All

Fund: Tugboat Ventures

Posted by Anonymous on 2011-03-31

PUBLIC:

We pitched Dafina. When the meeting started she explained that tugboat was not a seed VC fund but an old style VC fund. Which surprised us considering the size of their fund and the amount they typically invest (500k). As we went through our pitch one of her foci was on technical details that she thought every investor would ask us. We have had 20 investor meetings and not one investor were concerned about these tech details. Total rat hole. We got to the go to market and she tells us that she thinks seed funded start ups can't get partner deals. Then to top it all off, at the end of our meeting she tell us that nobody cares about the market we are in. Ok, that is your opinion and i am fine with that. But why did you waste our time taking the meeting, did you read our exec summary?

Beware of pitching partners that have never been an entrepreneur. She had a lot of strong opinions that in our opinion were not backed up with justification. I think Dafina thought she was helping us, but in the end was just wasting her and our time. Unfortunately most of her feedback was not valuable.

PRIVATE: Members Only

3
Agree
0
Disagree

Fast to Term Sheet, Then It Got Weird

Fund: Tugboat Ventures

Posted by scottdunlap on 2011-04-23

PUBLIC:

I pitched both Dave and Dafina a mobile concept in its very early stages. Both were helpful in flushing it out, with Dave in particular going the extra mile to help recruit an additional co-founder, and helping flush out a number of business models.

After a month or so, I communicated that I had received a term sheet from another investor. Dave was quick to respond with a term sheet of his own to lead a seed round. It was not the best valuation, but the terms were friendly. Given his interest to date, I was excited to have them in the fold and began communicating to our other investors that we wanted Tugboat to lead the syndicate. The other investors gave some cautious remarks, although none could pinpoint an exact reason why they were cautious, and instead just cited "there are some big questions about Dave Whorton in our partnerships".

That's when things got weird. Dave was not thrilled when I didn't sign the term sheet within 24 hours, accusing me of many backhanded things. Negotiation of terms came back with a lot of strong language such as "in my 15 years of investing i have never seen a term like that and now question your abilities and intent...". He also said their standard due diligence was to request 8-10 references for EACH co-founder, and that if a reference was shaky, he would need 18-20 references. He wanted months to complete the process.

I went back to my other investors (with my tail in my legs, thanks to vouching for Tugboat in the first place) and shared the e-mails. They were aghast, feeling validated about their initial concerns. Within the week, we had additional term sheets at nearly double the valuation and better terms.

I'm still unsure what exactly happened here. My gut tells me that Dave is the kind of investor that can add a lot of value, but everyone around me says I seriously dodged a bullet here. My recommendation would be to check your references, and be very cautious about how you communicate your interest in Tugboat to Tier 1 investors.

PRIVATE: Members Only (980 Characters)

5
Agree
3
Disagree

Classic "Pro Founder" VC

Fund: Tugboat Ventures

Posted by ML on 2009-12-11

PUBLIC:

I have worked extensively with Dave both pre- and during his Tugboat stage as a founder/CEO. Nothing surprising here that you will not hear from reference checks with founders he has worked with:

- Brilliant and extremely well-connected

- Extremely fair

- Extremely pro-founder/entrepreneur (at times unbelievably so, but it is the real deal)

- You want him on your board. Not just as a passive investor.
- If you are lucky enough to get him on your board, he will work his ass off for you

- He is a "swing for the fences" VC, and if you are looking to build a nice cash business but not "go for it" / conquer the world, there will not be a fit, so make super-sure you are on board with the latter, because he will be

- Despite this, he truly leaves you alone to run your business, he is just always, persistently looking for that "run the table" / unfair advantage that you might have overlooked. A true thought partner in this regard.

- Extremely strong operating experience -- as a FOUNDER, not just as a VP in a big company. Working with Dave vs with investors who have never started and run their own companies is night-and-day. Dave can help with high-level strategy, AND help you stress out about your cash flow, setting up a new office, etc.

- He has been where you are and succeeded, and loves to see other founders succeed.

- His term sheets are totally clean -- doesn't waste time playing games -- once he is in, he is in to conquer the world with you, and it is either going to happen or its not...

- As a board member, really great at details of governance, doing things by the book, etc.

Biggest challenge: getting him in your deal... he only does 2-4 deals a year or something like that.

PRIVATE: Members Only

6
Agree
3
Disagree

Be Informed Before Working with Dave

Fund: Tugboat Ventures

Posted by Anonymous on 2009-12-01

PUBLIC:

Dave has a blue-chip resume that initially looks great. But do yourself the favor of digging a little deeper before working with Dave -- talk with folks who have served with him on boards and founded companies with him -- they will complete the picture for you.

PRIVATE: Members Only

5
Agree
2
Disagree

Not Impressed with Dave

Fund: Tugboat Ventures

Posted by TSingh on 2012-09-29

PRIVATE: Members Only (88 Characters)

2
Agree
0
Disagree

Capital Efficiency is Huge

Fund: Tugboat Ventures

Posted by Penniless on 2008-10-27

PUBLIC:

I pitched Dave and his big thing was capital efficiency. I'm assuming that this is because his is a small fund, if I recall correctly it is mostly his own money, he used to be an angel.

PRIVATE: Members Only