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Phin Barnes


I am a Partner at First Round Capital and am fascinated by design+technology+startups. Before joining First Round, I worked at AND 1 from “day 2″ and founded a fitness video game company.

After college I spent six years helping to scale AND 1 Basketball from $15 million to over $225 million in revenue. As the Creative Director for Footwear, I led product direction, managed relationships with national retail accounts and created the initial concept for the signature AND 1 marketing property—the AND 1 Mix Tape.

In 2003, I wanted to build fitness technology and founded an independent videogame company to do it. We developed and published Yourself!Fitness, the first fitness game for Xbox and PlayStation2. I was responsible for managing the marketing and distribution and secured retail partnerships with Nordstrom and Best Buy as well as promotional partnerships with Procter & Gamble and McDonald’s.

After consulting for MTV on product and marketing, I decided to pursue an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. I earned my MBA in 2009 with honors and a double major in Operations and Information Management and Finance. A college basketball player at Haverford College, I have maintained my addiction to sneakers and a decent trashtalk vocabulary. I live in Brooklyn with my wife, Carrie, and daughter, Etta.


  • I was fresh out of college and had just joined footwear startup AND1 as employee No. 10, when I found myself in a knock-down drag-out argument with the CEO. It was an unusual place to be at age 22 with little experience behind me. But instead of shutting me down, CEO Seth Berger chose to listen.

    AND1 managed to create an environment where feedback could be offered in any direction, and where everyone was expected to make an impact. Looking back, seeing this dynamic in action so early on made all the difference for me.

    Since leading a team as creative director at AND1, I have founded my own fitness gaming company, and now, as a partner at First Round, I give founders feedback to help them maximize their potential. Below are the lessons I've learned for giving (and oftentimes getting) criticism. Because, let's face it, while we spend a lot of time talking about how important it is, we're rarely good at it

  • It is very cool to be a part of the Grand St. team and I am really glad to be an investor. Today, Grand St. is the best place on the web to buy creative technology products. But, while I love eCommerce and think it is very smart to generate revenue if you are a consumer facing company today, to call Grand St. eCommerce misses the broader marketplace vision and the massive trend that the team at Grand St is going after.

  • Morgan Knutson has been a designer, thinker, and doer for over a decade, first as a designer-activist for nonprofits, then as a creative at Google where he was responsible for the Google+ overhaul, and now at Dropbox where he heads up the mobile design team. In this Design+ Startup talk, Knutson explores the mantras that have enabled him to do his job so well. Below is an interpretation, not a transcript, of Knutson's talk.