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Eric Di Benedetto

Eric Di Benedetto has been a professional investor in software start-ups in Silicon Valley for the last two decades. The aggregate market capitalization of companies Eric sponsored as an angel investor or venture capitalist reached several billion dollars at the time his investments were realized. Eric was profiled in Business Week ("Go West, Young Whiz"), in The European ("Where the Brains Drain"), and in The Red Herring ("Growing Wings").

After a successful career as a venture capitalist, Eric established Active Starts as an angel investment firm focused on the coaching and financing needs of San Francisco Bay Area software entrepreneurs within a year from product launch. Active Starts leads or participates in investment syndicates whose mission is to bridge start-up companies to market validation. Once a market opportunity has been proven, more traditional venture capital firms usually follow in subsequent rounds of financing.

The Active Starts portfolio is invested in two fundamental sectors of the consumer internet and business software industries, the social web and on-demand applications. Eric's goal is to help build several category-defining companies which will keep creating substantial shareholder value in the long run and become world leaders in their respective fields as "platform companies". Some portfolio companies already have proven they are capable of reaching this star status as demonstrated by their ability to win numerous industry awards and become number one. ClairMail won the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) CODiE Award for Software Newcomer of the Year, the Red Herring 100 Award and the Red Herring 100 Global Award, all in 2006. It was honored as a CODiE Award Best Mobile Solution finalist in 2009. Clickability won the 2009 SIIA Codie Award for Best Content Management Solution for the second consecutive year, and several of its executives have now joined the Executive Council Boards of the SIIA. RealTravel won the 2007 Atlas Award for the Best Online Travel Community and many other industry awards. LendingClub won the 2008 Webby Award for best banking site in the US while it was in registration to become the first social lending platform regulated by the SEC, and then was mentioned by the Harvard Business Review as one of 20 Breakthrough Ideas for 2009. Xactly was named the World's Best New Company in 2008 by International Business Awards after being the first company ever to win the Nation's Best New Company Award by American Business Awards two years in a row in 2007 and 2008. It also won the Software Innovator of the Year Award in 2009. Chegg is the number one in college textbook rentals in the United States, and one of the fastest growing companies of its generation. Its founder was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009. RapLeaf built the largest portable social graph in the world, as highlighted in a cover story of Business Week in 2009 (“What’s a Friend Worth?").

Currently, the financial services industry is of specific interest to Active Starts as it is undergoing a process of creative destruction providing a very fertile environment for innovation brought from the outside (Schumpeter's theory). ClairMail, Genetic Finance, LendingClub, Plastyc and RapLeaf are examples of companies backed by Active Starts to either serve constituencies neglected by incumbent financial service providers (Plastyc payment-enables the 13-25 demographic), increase credit market efficiencies (LendingClub), provide better insights on customers (RapLeaf), execute on a strategic imperative (ClairMail brings mobility to banking and payments), or remove human inefficiencies from stock trading by applying algorithms to a cloud computing architecture (Genetic Finance).

Eric sits on the boards of directors of Clickability, IdeaBlade, Plastyc, RapLeaf and RateItAll.

Eric’s career as a software investor started in the early 1990s with the client-server technology wave. Early successes included CBT Group (world leader of computer-based training for information technology professionals - IPO) and Insignia Solutions (world leader of software emulation of incompatible platforms - IPO). With the advent of the internet in the mid-1990s, Eric backed two first-generation consumer internet companies, SportsLine (leading sports content site - IPO, then acquired by CBS) and iVillage (leading women’s network online - IPO, then acquired by NBC Universal). As the business ecosystem of the internet started forming in the late 1990s, he turned his attention to infrastructure service companies such as AdForce (the second largest third-party ad serving company at the time - IPO, then acquired by CMGI) and Signio (leading online payment solution – Acquired by VeriSign, then eBay). In the early 2000s, the evolution of the internet led to an era of mobility and web services. Investments characterizing such cycles were Collaxa (developed one of the very first BPEL servers – Acquired by Oracle) and NeonYoyo (personalized mobile content delivery – Acquired by Interwoven, now Autonomy).

Before co-founding Convergence Partners, a Silicon Valley based information technology venture capital firm, in 1997, Eric was the managing director of US venture capital funds managed by BANEXI, the merchant banking arm of BNP (Banque Nationale de Paris, now BNP Paribas), including a joint partnership with Robertson Stephens & Co. Prior to his venture capital career, Eric was a workout and restructuring specialist with the PARGESA/Lambert Brussels Group, and a mergers and acquisitions associate covering defense electronics for Bankers Trust Company (now Deutsche Bank).

Eric holds an MBA degree from ESSEC, Paris, France, and a BA in mathematics and physics. He is a supporter of Singularity University, a higher level academic institution preparing humanity for accelerating technological change.

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