The plutocrat - Page 3

Tech mogul Ron Conway is trying to buy San Francisco politics and sell his pro-business agenda

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Ron Conway has spent more in the last two elections than any other San Franciscan.

To be a part of his exclusive investment club you had to have a minimum net worth of at least a million dollars, or have a famous name, according to Rivlin. Countless of the Internet's rising stars joined Angel Investors and its successor companies. Cobbled from myriad business journals is a small list from among many of Conway's chosen: Dean Morton of Hewlett Packard, golfer Tiger Woods, Stanford University Engineering Dean Jim Gibbons, Twitter CEO Biz Stone, entertainer MC Hammer, venture capitalist Frank Quattrone, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

For a man who made his fortune investing in the hottest names in tech, Conway is often described as a bit of an anti-tech Luddite. Not relying on product knowledge, his strategy boils down to this: Conway trusts his first impression of a startup's CEO. He goes with his gut, as he explains in a free Stanford YouTube class featuring Conway.

And though sometimes his companies would fail, the successes more than made up for those failures — so much so, that he had to expand. Conway started new LLCs to handle his expanding investments. Angel Investors II started with $150 million, according to Rivlin. SV Angel III and IV were no slouches either, starting with investments of $40 million apiece, according to SEC filings for the companies.

The number of investments from Angel Investors at the time of Rivlin's 2001 book was already well over the hundreds. And the most recent numbers for SVAngel, from 2011, list the number of startups they've invested in at 290 companies.

Conway disciple David Lee officially took over as head of the Angels last year, according to California business filings, but several sources indicate Conway is still the largest investor in the various "Angel" branded companies.

Conway is also the head of a long list of other shadowy businesses, all incorporated in Delaware for its lax tax and regulatory policies. Among the more than a dozen companies just in San Francisco that list Conway as president, partner, founder, or agent-of-service — for which most have little information publicly available — are SV Angel Management Holding, RC Chirp Fund LLC, RC Chirp Management LLC, 2000 Washington Street, 2006 Washington Street, Conway Family Foundation, and Magillicutty LLC.

What separates Angel Investors, though, from the usual investment angels, is Conway's unique way of leveraging his network, known as his "Rontourage." Hundreds of tech luminaries and celebrities tied to Conway's Angel companies have an understanding that they will trade favors, according to Rivlin's book.

"The only caveat, whether you joined a side fund, an advisory board, or Angel Investors, was that you should lend a hand when you could," Rivlin wrote. "If you're in the club, you can do someone a favor and trust that somehow you're going to get repaid for that favor," tech entrepreneur Jad Duwaik told Rivlin.

That strategy goes a long way towards explaining what Conway is doing in San Francisco.

 

CEO OF SAN FRANCISCO

Mayor Lee nows seems to be getting the royal Conway treatment, and the companies Conway invests in are getting strong support from the Mayor's Office at City Hall, from the tax breaks that Twitter and Zynga received last year to this year's unsuccessful effort to maintain Ainbnb's exemption from the transient occupancy tax (a decision made by the Treasurer/ Tax Collector's Office, which defied Lee's public lobbying on the issue).

SV Angel has investments or equity in over 103 total San Francisco startups, according to SV Angel documents leaked to Fortune last year, including Airbnb, Digg, Formspring, Wikia, EventBrite, Zynga, StumbleUpon, Justin.TV, and a little company called Twitter.

Comments

those jobs vanish permanently when the hedgies flip the popstand. You might hate the rich, or perhaps just find them "boring" like Tim. But you need them more than they need you.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

to get that way without the revenue generated from people who actually do something productive; you know build something, grow something, assemble something. In other words, workers.

Without workers, the rich would have no source of income. Not to mention the rich depend on the workers of the state and its police power to protect them from the poor. Plus the bailouts from the public treasury when the speculative bubbles burst and their pyramid schemes implode. It's the same concept in every country.

So they need us more than we need them. Your economic paternalism has blinded you.

Feel free to disregard my beliefs for I may not have enough fiscal power and don't view homeless people as vagrants or renters as freeloaders.

I don't hate the rich, but I have contempt for those that make their livings off the backs of someone else's labor.

Posted by Eddie on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

You should just own up to it.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 9:07 pm

the successful and the wealthy are somehow dependent on him. But of course they don't even know he exists.

His idea that the rich produce nothing sounds like some leftover Marxists theory.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 7:20 am

bottom of the pile, but one never knows when catastrophe might strike, so I take nothing for granted.

However, I have no need to brag about my net worth to strangers on a comment board.

I believe that most people find the practice of bragging about one's wealth to be detestable. Unfortunately, that's the direction that San Francisco has headed in my almost 25 years here.

Posted by Eddie on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

bottom of the pile, but one never knows when catastrophe might strike, so I take nothing for granted.

However, I have no need to brag about my net worth to strangers on a comment board.

I believe that most people find the practice of bragging about one's wealth to be detestable. Unfortunately, that's the direction that San Francisco has headed in my almost 25 years here.

Posted by Eddie on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

hide one's light under a bushel either.

But if you have emans then you can protect yourself against adversity in various ways, so I do not fear poverty.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 02, 2012 @ 10:42 am

about one's own wealth is akin to canine behavior. Society would be much more sustainable and sane if plaudits would accrue most to them with the greatest non-monetary attainments.

For instance, remember that once upon a time doctors were lowly paid and highly respected.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 02, 2012 @ 11:08 am

thought he could withstand any economic downturn and he gave his answers which, not surprisingly, were predicated on having an above-average net worth and a certain level of financial sophistication.

Given how the US worships at the alter of financial success, it was hardly an outlandish position to take.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 02, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

Eddie sounds like a very sensible person to me. I wish that we had more intelligent commenters like him, instead of the usual cast of bottom feeders like yourself (sigh)

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

for the kind words.

Posted by Thanks on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

for the kind words. (I messed up the first comment.)

Posted by Eddie on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

It's factual. If someone calls me a lesbian that's not an insult - it's a fact. Why is "Marxist" considered any different? Eddie is a follower of Marxist doctrine - so what?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

Like lilli and marcos this Snapples person lives for responses to their provacative, often repetitive posts. Give a response - any response - and the counter-responses will be fast and furious. These are people without a lot of family or friend commitments so any attention they can get - even negative atention - helps bolster their damaged psyche and fills up huge voids of free time in their lives.

Snap Dragon is near the top of the economic heap yet can't control the glee to come onto this board and poke at the eyes of one of the few progressive news outlets in the city. Troll avoidance 101 says NEVER respond to the provocateurs. Some are especially persistent for attention. Although their posts may spike for a period after they stop getting nasty replies, over time they will will get bored and look elsewhere for the desperate attention they need.

Eddie has recently joined the fray the past couple of weeks with some strong posts, and hopefullly Greg is still around with his always strong posts. With a few more commenters of that caliber who don't bring a lot of personal baggage to the board and this place could be a very positive environment where meaningful, thoughtful conversations about progressive issues and politics can occur.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 01, 2012 @ 8:34 am

And of course, while you may have found a hook on which to hang your false ad hominem against marcos here, giving color to your bland lies by your contradictory support for Eddie and Greg, you can't cite a post by either of us which supports your assessment.

Hannibal Lecter studies and expounds on the nature of the depraved mind.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 01, 2012 @ 8:59 am

The rise of tech and future-oriented industries throughout Silicon Valley and the Bay Area have led to a rise in votes for Democrats. That was emphatically NOT the way it was 30 years ago when Ronald Reagan won 7 out of 9 Bay Area counties.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

The Republicans hadn't been going after the hardcore stupid back then and the Democrats hadn't gotten nearly so good at sucking up to corporate power while subverting the interests of labor.

Any comparison of how counties voted then and now is worse than useless.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

True.

But that's what one expects from useless Troll II who is now back to using the name, "Lucretia Snapples."

And where is she typing from? Toledo or Topeka?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

What Lucretia wants, Lucretia gets.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

are you an adolescent, by any chance?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

And that's all that matters.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

And that's all that matters.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

when i was a young boy my mother took me to an anti-war rally. we listened to a few speakers and after one too many called the president a "motherf***er" and said he should "go f*** himself," my mother took my hand and we returned home, and my mother never took me to another anti-war rally again. i thought of this last year when i went to market street to join an occupy march in solidatary with egypt. throughout the duration of the walk, i found myself behind a few men, completely naked. there was something about seeing these bare asses right in front of me that took my mind off all the imprisoned civilians in egypt's jails. i don't know what it is about san francisco progressives. i want to reclaim the word "progressive" because i consider myself one. i want to say to supervisors avalos and campos and you sfbg, "are you kidding me? are you cia plants trying to destroy the progressive movement in the city?" are you trying to drive people to registering republican?" i suppose i was supposed to loathe ron conway after reading this article, but instead i'm thinking... someone born in the city, raised in the bay area... who understands san francisco.... yes, i like this guy. thank you for printing this article. i feel there is hope for san francisco yet. i grew up reading the sfbg and i find it sad this newspaper has become so out of touch with the city it is supposed to represent.

Posted by Douglas on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

If you support corporate giveaways to people like Conway, there's nothing remotely progressive about you. But feel free to pretend to your heart's content. Just don't delude yourself that you're fooling anyone.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

Let's send Douglas to the Gulag!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 9:16 am

Is there no copy editing here? Or at least someone else to read it before it gets published? Examples from page four of the article:

"Emboldened by Lee's decisive victory and the mayor's apparently willingness to move..."

"And that was just the beginning of spendy year for Conway..."

"... and the reinstating Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi."

Just on one page alone. There are at least this many errors on every page. It's not just typos but weird tense shifts and missing parts of sentences.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 1:27 am

For the most part, they're just minor omissions. Do you have anything contribute to this discussion other than your prissy, pedantic nitpicking?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

Great article, thank you for this. So many people in this city are aware that there are negative, right wing forces changing things for the betterment of the wealthy elite but how and why? Or better yet, who? It's hard to fight when you don't know who you're fighting with. Politicians that should be on your side, or whom you thought were on your side, i.e. Weiner, Lee are making calls that don't make a whole lot of sense in this most liberal of cities. And whether the predatory landlords or the snarky commenters on here want to admit it, this is still a very liberal city.
Yet the leaders of this city seem to have an alternate vision for the future. This article puts decisions being made at the top into perspective. You have shined a light into a dark room and the government of San Francisco has become almost as bad the federal government was/ is. Instead of the Koch brothers or Karl Rove we have Conway, instead of Cheney we have Weiner, Bush would be Lee, and Rose Pak would have to be Pat Robertson.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

I'm lost here. I've only vaguely heard of Ron Conway. He sounds like a jerk; the real "Rontourage" is more like him, Ron Cowan and Ron Burkle, all friends of Willie. But leave that aside for a minute.

Sounds more to me like someone's not paying appropriate tribute to Art Agnos and he's having a hissy fit. Boo-hoo. What's wrong with a business owner/investor donating in his interest, in businesses the City that generate skilled, high-value jobs it wants to attract at a time when city budgets are being shredded?

Your paper held its nose and supported Prop. E. You liked a gross receipts tax when Chevron, PG&E and the Gap opposed it. Now you're so tied in contortions trying to build a case against Conway that you're defending banks and realtors against a tech onslaught? Please.

It makes sense to tax actual profits rather than startup jobs. It makes sense to pursue social media and programming jobs versus insurance agents and realtors on commission. It makes sense to leverage tech knowledge and expertise to improve government services- even Salt Lake City and Omaha know that; I'm sure there's room on an upgraded Health Department website (accessible at any branch library) for a list of free clinics. Next imaginary problem?

And it makes sense to bypass the Chamber in making political donations; they're dinsoaurs who don't like small business, don't like new business and define themselves by their enemies. Let's see, who else can we think of who fits that description?

Posted by bloom on Dec. 01, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

I am absolutely loving the coverage of Ron Conway by the SFBG. This isn't the first article either. He sounds rather awesome.

We have to admit that SF/LA & CA are all ungovernable. The reason is the LEFT WING is absolutely insatiable about raising our taxes on the middle and poor classes while nothing much happens to the wealthy. A piffle happens to them.

Our sales tax in CA is going to go up. Who will suffer? Why the middle and poor classes of course. Small biz is being penalized. Business property tax is up (and is theft as far as I'm concerned!! Why keep paying taxes on your biz property like CHAIRS for instance).

This has just begun.

So many are so sick of this despite the mandate by the voters for higher taxes.

If one is righty/indie/rightygreenie/pro small biz, please join California State Politics on facebook. There are many of us from N CA on it.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/313816595380968/

Posted by Jane Smith on Dec. 02, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

is our own little sheldon adelson....creepy

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 5:04 pm