by Giovanni Rodriguez
Originally published in Forbes. Reprinted with permission from the author.
On a bright weekday morning last Spring, I found myself stranded outside a small, non-descript building on Howard Street in San Francisco, desperately trying to figure out how to get in. I got the address right, according to Google Maps. But there was no sign on the building, and no obvious way to enter. Three thoughts/feelings occurred to me. One, an easier portal into the space would have been welcome. Second, the experience felt like a test. Third — and perhaps the most persistent sentiment, because I feel it to this day — it was actually an appropriate experience because of the people inside that building.
Perhaps it was a test. The people inside that building were Stewart Alsop and Gilman Louie, founders of the fast emerging VC firm Alsop Louie Partners (one of their first big scores: Twitch, which sold for almost $1 billion in 2014; more about that at the end of the article). It’s a special firm. I knew Stewart from a startup he invested in more than 10 years ago, and recently met up with him to check out one of his most recent investments, a startup called Hover which enables contractors to use a smartphone to create an accurate 3D model of a home and which they can later use to spec, price, and do work on the home. After the meeting, Stewart and I chatted briefly. I was impressed, I said. I had been following, from near and from afar, some of the more interesting developments in 3D and AR, and this seemed like a potential B2B market disruption.
“You should come meet Gilman,” said Stewart. “He’s beginning to see the whole world in terms of 3D, where everything might be interconnected online and offline.” When I finally caught up with Gilman, I began to understand the different kinds of border crossings — from one world to another — that one would have to navigate to make a new world in 3D a reality. One border crossing: from the ‘inside’ to the ‘outside’, which I was reminded of on Howard Street before I finally figured out how to get inside the building.
Military Meets Games
Based on what little I knew about Gilman, I thought there might be some other test: whether I was smart enough to break into the building.
Many know of Gilman from his tour of duty as the founder and former CEO of In-Q-Tel, a strategic venture fund serving the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The gig created an air of mystery about the man which may have obscured his own reality. Before he entered