Daniel Primack (who edits PE Week for Thompson Financial) interviewed Stavis:
---start of Primack interview with Stavis---
It likely will go down as the most lucrative deal done by any of those firms (including DFJ's Baidu.com play), so I spent some time yesterday asking Rob Stavis of Bessemer why he pushed for the original investment. His answer is stunning in its simplicity.
According to Stavis, Bessemer was already looking around the VoIP space when it first met with Skype in the summer of 2003. The firm was impressed with the founding team's P2P pedigree (they previously co-founded Kazaa), and thought that the business model made sense from a scaling perspective. What really seems to have sold them, however, was the ease and reliability of Skype's software, which they initially tried out in beta. Specifically, this was one of those rare pieces of software that Stavis and a far-flung colleague could download at the same time and be using five minutes later. No firewall issues, no "this doesn't work on my PC" problems. It may sound basic, but think about all the times you and a colleague have tried to download a piece of software (particularly communications software), only to find out that it works far better on his computer better than on yours.
"Regardless of the firewall, it would traverse the network and find the connection," Stavis explains. "And then it worked 100 times better than anything else we had seen."
Very interesting, I've been thinking about it similarly for a while.
Skype is technologically pretty trivial, but the whole experience works out to be something much greater than the sum of its parts. Looks like all the investors were also serious users first - maybe a nice model to follow for future deals!!!