Simon Vallee is exactly the kind of person who venture capitalists like to keep on their radar.
He’s Canadian, for one thing. (Everyone knows how nice Canadians are.) He has also co-founded a number of small companies over the last decade — and sold them. First, there was SiteMasher, a site-creation platform that was sold a couple of years later, in 2009, to Saleforce for what Vallee describes as a “little bundle.” Vallee then used that money to help bootstrap an online booking company, OpenCal, that became a “nice, little profitable business” and soon after attracted the attention of Groupon, which bought it in 2011. (The price was never publicly disclosed, but Vallee calls it “an offer too good to refuse.”)
It was inside Groupon that Vallee began thinking up his next company, a document collaboration startup called Spaces that provided users with blank space for all their content, from images to tasks to code snippets. In fact, he and former Googler Hans Larsen were raising a seed round for the company when they were introduced to Stewart Butterfield of Slack and, well, you can guess what happened next. (Okay, fine: Those discussions turned into an acquisition in September 2014.)
Now, Vallee — who left Slack in October and has been spending time at home and traveling with his wife and young daughter — has the entrepreneurial itch again. This time, he has some institutional help, too. Three days ago, he joined the venture firm Foundation Capital as an entrepreneur-in-residence, where he says he’s already working on a startup he has long been noodling and that he expects to “build into something long-lasting.”
Why Foundation? Vallee says he met general partner Steve Vassallo a couple of years ago and the two clicked over their shared passion for design.
Vassallo was once a designer at the renowned industrial design shop IDEO — he has 77 patents to his name — and he’s now authoring a book about designer founders.
What does Vallee plan to design? A “wholesale” new personal productivity tool, which he expects to build from the ground up, or, as he puts it: “We almost have to go down the staircase and build another one. I think what will come out of [this new company] will look pretty different from what’s come before it.”
Will it work with Slack? Very possibly, says Vallee, who isn’t offering up many more details except to say that what he envisions is sorely lacking in today’s landscape. For example, though he says his favorite personal productivity tools include the professional writing suite iA Writer and the daily-to-do app Wunderlist, he notes that “content can be scattered between so many tools that getting a clear view of projects can be really difficult. It’s work just to do your work.”
If all goes as planned, Vallee’s company will be the one to bring these tools together and bring us all the “clarity that we all need.”
But first, like every other entrepreneur, he has to hire some people, then raise some funding.
Indeed, Vallee says his startup is largely a “broad theme right now, but I also have concrete ideas for what the solution looks like.”
For Foundation and other investors with a penchant for serial entrepreneurs, that’s surely music to their ears.