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October 27, 2008
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The headline is our attempt at a glamorous moniker like Brangelina for the tech region’s latest “it” couple:  venture capitalist John Backus and D&O insurance queen Caren Braun. We were on hand Saturday night as they threw open their very large doors in Great Falls to 150 fellow techies to celebrate their recent marriage, John’s turning 50, and a sprawling (understatement) new home.


John and Caren knew each other professionally for years, but only last September, at a MAVA party at vc Gene Riechers’ house in McLean, discovered they were both “single.”  Loyal readers will remember our report of their elopement three months ago at Kona Village. John’s firm, New Atlantic Ventures, is a 2006 successor to Draper Atlantic that he founded ten years before, combining the old Draper Fisher Jurvetson folks from New England and now with offices in Boston as well as here (where they’re in the old Morino building on Sunrise Valley Drive but planning to move to Reston Town Center in January). Big wins so far: selling Mobile 365 to Sybase for nearly $425M in the fall of ’06 and taking online video distributor DivX public at a $500M valuation. They also still own 25% of Vienna-based e-business integrator Global Logic, which does over $100M a year with 3,000 employees. 


John describes the design of the house as “Jackson Hole meets Tuscany,” although it also seems to meet Verizon Center, since one of its several wings is this indoor basketball court. Planned in 2005, it contained green elements before they were fashionable, like all flooring (“wormy mahogany” and “naily heart pine”) reclaimed from old factories, and geothermal heating and cooling. Showing their hoops skill: Scott Johnson, John’s partner in Boston, and Will Weil, one of the entrepreneurs Draper Atlantic backed in a company sold to American Greetings in 2000. Will, by the way, later ran the entertainment and new media group at National Geographic, where he brought the world "March of the Penguins."


New Atlantic Ventures team: Scott Johnson, Todd Hixon, John, Thanasis Delistathis, Geoff Mamlett, and Steve Marcus. NAV Just closed a first $108M fund and is already invested in five companies out of 20-25 expected, including Mpower of Reston; others are elsewhere on the east coast. Their sweet spot is A round investments of about $1.5M in wireless, new media, and software-as-a-service. John says he doesn’t mind the current economic climate, because it’s a good time for companies to “build into a future recovery.” 


McLean Capital’s Dendy Young, Comerica’s April Young, and SAIC’s Mike Daniels. Dendy says the current economy is not stopping him from actively exploring opportunities in the government and technology space to invest in troubled companies in need of capital. Mike’s still lured away much of the year to his home in Snowmass and penchant for exotic global travel.  And young though she is, April is still the institutional memory of the Washington tech region and the rose between thorns.


Coleman Andrews was John’s mentor in the 80’s at Bain & Co. and Bain Capital, and Laura McKinnon, his girlfriend, is one of Caren’s best friends. In fact, Johnren introduced them. Hmm, “Colaura?” Coleman is now chairman of Rocky Mountain Bank in Jackson Hole, where he lives.


A mini-US Order reunion, where John once worked. If you don’t remember that company, we guess you weren’t in the tech sector a couple decades back: Eryn Lynch, Pat Transue, Mark Lynch, Janet Guthrie, John Backus, and Paul Guthrie. Mark is the new CFO at Appian, Pat is retired, Paul Guthrie flew in from SFO and has a successful technology startup in the Bay Area. There’s a tech region there?

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Zegna Adrian Jules Dormeuil email Tech Bisnow Sent Using iContact