NAME: Clark Landry AGE: 39 HOMETOWN: McLean, Va.
COMPANY: Maple Media TITLE: Chief Operating Officer
Clark Landry is no stranger to having people ask him for money. As an angel investor, Landry has written early checks to more than 60 companies, including Ventura’s Trade Desk, which now has a market capitalization of $1.7 billion, and Santa Monica’s EdgeCast Networks, which sold to Verizon Communications Inc. in 2013 for $390 million. But he’s also co-founded several ad tech companies including Santa Monica’s Shift, which was acquired by Brand Networks in 2015, and TagWorld, which sold to Viacom in 2008, among others. Landry co-founded his new venture, L.A.-based mobile-app operator Maple Media, in November with Michael Ritter, co-founder of Culver City mobile-game developer Jam City. Ritter serves as Maple’s chief executive. Maple announced last month that it has raised $30 million from Westwood’s Shamrock Capital Advisors. Los Angeles has a lot of seed funds. Why do you think bigger venture capital funds have been slower to take root? It takes a long time to build up a reputation as a fund that does those margin deals. It will take a lot of time and success to get to the point where they’ve got the prestige level and the ability to say, You should go with us as opposed to Andreesen or Sequoia, or any of the elite funds up north. That’s a tough sell.
Do you see larger funds developing in Los Angeles?
It’s more likely that one of the existing funds has such great results that they say, We want to move up the food chain and raise a much larger fund. That’s a more likely scenario than someone rolling into town and starting one.
What makes a good angel investor?
The tough thing about angel investing is it’s one of those things where you really learn by doing it. There’s a time lapse there, too. Most of these companies take a long time to get to a sale or an IPO. It could be six to 10 years later. So, you may do those first investments and then you don’t really know until a long, long time after whether or not you’ve got the right connections or if you know how to evaluate these deals.
Why haven’t you been as active over the last two years?
Valuations started to get a little bit out of control. I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of deals that excited me. Also, I feel like some of the consumer-facing mobile tech has passed me by.
What’s your philosophy as an angel investor?
I’m fine getting into things I think are lower risk. I’ve had entrepreneurs in companies that I’ve invested with call me up and say, “Hey, we sold the company.” And I say, “Great!” And they’re, like, “Wait a second, you’re only getting your money back plus 50 percent.” And it was after two years. And I’m, like, “I’m totally fine with that, guys.”
Do you think the Snap IPO will create more angel investors in Los Angeles?
This is not a knock, but there are certain companies in L.A. that I feel like are L.A. companies to the core, and the people at these companies will stay and they’ll start new companies. I feel it’s a bit of a different thing with Snapchat. Based on some of the senior and midlevel people they have over there, I think a lot of them may end up going back up north. The jury is still out.
What’s something you’ve learned as an investor?
People are everything.
What’s an example of that?
I got in very early at EdgeCast. Alex Kazerani and I sat down and we realized we had a lot in common. He was figuring out what he was going to do next, so we started brainstorming some ideas. He said, “I want to do a content delivery network.” And I was, like, “Alex, that’s the dumbest idea that I’ve heard out of you in the last month,” and I rattled off a bunch of reasons.”
But you backed him.
I said, “I’d love to invest in the company. You know what you’re doing. You’ve been successful.” I wrote a bigger check than I usually write. That ended up working out well.
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