Draper Fisher Jurvetson has led a $12 million investment round in Redfin, the Seattle-based online real-estate broker. But what does it say that Tim Draper and Steve Jurvetson, the venture capitalists behind such early Internet hits as Overture and Hotmail, have delegated new Web discoveries to junior partners in their firm? Emily Melton, a Stanford MBA with no big hits to her name, is joining Redfin's board, having "monitor[ed] Redfin's progress since early 2006," according to a company press release. Here's what that tells me about what investors really think.
DFJ's Melton is clearly no dummy; Stanford's not in the habit of issuing degrees to the like. But she joins an investing team filled with other back-benchers. Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen and Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz have also put money into Redfin, but Allen and Schultz tapped underlings to serve on Redfin's board. If Draper, Jurvetson, Allen, and Schultz really intend Redfin to upend the real-estate industry, why aren't they backing it personally? Clearly, Redfin isn't a star of their portfolios, or an idea that really captures these Internet dreamers' imaginations. They're aiming for a base hit at best — which is why they bunted when it came to picking their board representatives.