Stavis hits a home run
For any venture capitalist, getting in on the ground floor of Skype Technologies, which on September 12 agreed to sell itself to EBay for $2.6 billion, would be a career-defining investment.
For any venture capitalist, getting in on the ground floor of Skype Technologies, which on September 12 agreed to sell itself to EBay for $2.6 billion, would be a career-defining investment. For Rob Stavis, 42, a general partner at Bessemer Venture Partners in Larchmont, New York, the big hit also validated his decision to leave one of the sexiest jobs on Wall Street.
Until 1998, Stavis had been a bona fide master of the universe as co-head of global arbitrage trading for the firm that once had perhaps the biggest appetite for risk-taking of all its peers: Salomon Brothers. He managed a balance sheet of more than $100 billion. Stavis left after Travelers Group bought Salomon, merged it with its Smith Barney unit and cut back on prop trading. He invested on his own for a while before joining Bessemer part-time in 2000. By 2003 he had led the first round of financing for Skype, a Luxembourg company whose software allows PC users to talk over the Internet for free.
“I had made a pretty big career change from bond trading to early-stage VC,” says Stavis. “So it was particularly fun to be involved when it was two guys sleeping on the couch and watch it get sold to one of the biggest names in electronic commerce in the world.”
Stavis won’t discuss terms of the deal for Skype, a three-year-old company that boasts 54 million registered users and estimates that revenues, projected at $60 million for this year, will jump to $200 million in 2006. Talk in venture capital circles, however, is that Bessemer’s return is in the neighborhood of 150 times, based on the company’s announced acquisition price.
The deal also paid dividends with Stavis’ kids, Sam, 11, and Jake, 14. “They’re just starting to get their hands on what it means if your dad’s an investor in these companies,” says Stavis. “They were excited because two brand names were teaming up, and that seemed cool. And with a 14-year-old, it’s just good to have a topic to talk about.”