Kara Swisher

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RealNetworks Founder Glaser Becomes a VC at Accel–The Venture Firm That Backed Him 15 Years Ago

Rob Glaser, the founder of RealNetworks, is joining Accel Partners as a part-time venture partner.

Ironically, it was Accel that first funded the digital media pioneer, leading a critical $5.7 million round for RealNetworks (RNWK) in 1995.

Glaser said in an interview with BoomTown this afternoon that he will focus on digital media, as well as social and mobile start-ups, especially in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest area where he lives and where he founded RealNetworks.


As for becoming a VC after years of being an entrepreneur, Glaser (pictured here) said he was looking forward to being on the other side, especially at Silicon Valley-based Accel.

“I have never seen a more entrepreneurially-aligned venture firm,” he said. “And it is a really exciting time to be investing in a firm with that kind of high-density intelligence.”

The rest of Glaser’s time will be devoted to his board duties, as well as other political and charitable pursuits, including focusing on new baby: 10-day-old son, Max.

Glaser stepped down as longtime CEO of RealNetworks earlier this year, but has remained its chairman and owns more than one-third of its shares.

Although the company has struggled in recent years, RealNetworks has been a genuine and innovative pioneer in Web audio and video software and an early player in Web music services, although not everyone was a fan of the technology, because of its aggressive deployment.

The company was originally called Progressive Networks after Glaser’s political bent.

There have been several well-known entrepreneurs who have turned into VCs–most recently, Netscape Communications founder Marc Andreessen, who started a firm.

Here’s the official press release:

Rob Glaser, Founder of RealNetworks, joins Accel Partners

Palo Alto, CA, May 25, 2010: Accel Partners, a leading global venture capital and growth equity firm operating in Silicon Valley, Europe, Israel, China and India, today announced that Rob Glaser has joined the firm as a Venture Partner. At Accel, Rob will focus on digital media technology, social media, and mobile service investments.

Rob currently serves as Chairman of RealNetworks, which he founded in 1994. Rob has been a member of the Accel Partners family since it invested in Real(Nasdaq: RNWK) in 1995. In addition to his role as Chairman, Rob served as Real’s CEO from February 1994 through January 2010, leading the company from scratch to over $500 Million in revenue. Real went public in 1997.

Rob’s extensive experience as a digital and social media pioneer should prove to be an asset for Accel’s renowned and growing technology portfolio. Jim Breyer, a Managing Partner in Accel’s Palo Alto office, said “We have been delighted to work with Rob as an entrepreneur and CEO since 1995. His thought-leadership in the world of digital media and the consumer internet are well known, and we are very excited to have him join the Accel team in his new role as “Venture Partner.”

“After years of working with Accel as an entrepreneur, I look forward to working side-by-side with the Accel team to help identify companies which will benefit from the same kind of resources and partnership RealNetworks was so fortunate to have,” said Rob. “There are a wealth of promising startups in the world of digital media and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Accel to help them succeed.”

Prior to founding RealNetworks, Rob worked for Microsoft for 10 years in a number of executive positions, including Vice President of Multimedia and Consumer Systems. Before joining Microsoft, Rob founded his first company, Ivy Research, in 1981 to make games for the newly launched IBM PC. Rob has also been an early stage investor in several successful technology companies including TellMe, PlanetOut, and SmileBox. Rob’s relationship with Accel is parttime, enabling him to keep time open for other engagements, including continuing to serve as Chairman of RealNetworks.

Rob is a 1983 graduate of Yale University, with a B.A. and M.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Computer Science.

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google