I am ecstatic to announce the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures--my new seed investment fund.
It is the first venture capital fund based in Brooklyn--the city’s most exciting and creative borough. It is home to cool startups like Etsy, Makerbot, Pontiflex, HowAboutWe, Energyhub, and Loosecubes. Gilt Groupe maintains a significant presence there, as does scores of creative agencies and design firms. By some estimates, 50-60% of New York’s startup community lives in Brooklyn--and at Etsy it’s as high as 80%. It has grown to be a dynamic place to build a company--and has the potential to be the very best place in the world to start a technology business. I will be working hard to help it reach that potential, while continuing the work I’ve been doing for NYC’s tech community as a whole for the last seven plus years. I'll be back and forth over the bridge taking meetings all over, but you'll often find me at the new NYU-Poly Incubator in DUMBO where I'll have a desk.
Brooklyn is my home. In fact, I’ve never lived outside the five boroughs. I grew up in Bensonhurst. My dad was a NYC firefighter and my mom worked as a teacher’s aide helping physically challenged students. I went to high school and college on scholarship. Succeeding through the generosity of others is the reason I’ve always wanted to contribute something back to my community. It’s why I teach entrepreneurship at Fordham University and why I find the job of being a venture capitalist so rewarding.
My experience at First Round over the last two years has been amazing from day one--and I thank Josh and the rest of the team for giving me the opportunity to work with them. I got a term sheet out less than 100 days into the job and was lucky enough to get to work with my friend Rob May as a Board Member for my first investment, Backupify. I'm grateful to have also worked with Steve and Jared from GroupMe, Chantel from chloe + isabel, Sean from Salescrunch and Wiley from SinglePlatform. The last year was especially helpful to me in my career development. It not only brought opportunities to work directly with great teams like Philippe and Justin at Refinery29 and Matt and John at Docracy, but I learned a lot more about being a team player, a better board member, and what it takes to build a successful firm.
Every up and coming venture professional thinks about what kind of a firm they would want to build if they could start their own firm. I was no different--and the possibility of doing something on my own has been a long term goal. In fact, it’s what Henry Blodget told me I should do the first time I met him--back in May of 2007 during a pre-Business Insider lunch at Coffee Shop. Josh Kopelman said the same thing to me about a year ago and we’ve talked a lot about firm building in my time at First Round.
It has always been of critical importance to be able to sit across the table from an entrepreneur and believe in my product. Now, I’ll have to work twice as hard to ensure that I can say that about my own firm--that I can believe in the value that I can bring, along with the community and platform that comes with it. I will certainly write more about this in the coming weeks, but there are some key aspects to the way I’d like to conduct business that I’ll be focusing on:
- Leading or co-leading seed deals--having enough capital to meet a team at a hackathon, for example, and telling them, “I’m in and you now have a round.” I don’t like the idea of telling an entrepreneur to go get someone else interested and then I’ll be able to commit.
- Being the first call--making sure I’m the kind of investor that people feel like they get value out of by going to first, before they have all the answers and way before they have the investor pitch together. I won’t fund everything, but hopefully I can help everyone out who comes to see me.w
- Being decisive early--realizing that there will always be risks and choosing to be a part of eliminating them as an investor, not waiting for them to go away.
- Adding value--especially around recruiting (I’ve placed over 20 people at startups in the last two years), PR and product management.
- The Brooklyn ecosystem. Given that many of the companies I work with don’t even have offices yet, and that many of their founders and future employees live in Brooklyn, I won’t be surprised of the majority of the fund winds up being invested in Brooklyn startups. It’s a great place to build a business--creative, less expensive, flexible, etc. However, my goal is not to geographically limit the fund but to help create and leverage an ecosystem that connects and attracts talent and knowledge in such a way that people all over the city want to be a part of it. I want to erase the barrier to attending a Meetup in Brooklyn and make building here a bigger part of everyone’s consideration set. I’ll fund deals elsewhere for sure, but I hope to convince folks that you won’t want to be elsewhere.
To that end, I'm excited to show you "Made in Brooklyn", a short video about some of the entrepreneurs and companies building in Brooklyn and what attracts them there:
I’m looking forward to continuing the dialogue about Brooklyn Bridge Ventures and furthering our community together. I thank everyone who has supported me and the companies I’ve worked with over my ten plus years in venture capital and startups. New York City, more than any other innovation hub, has been built on community and I’m excited about continuing my journey as an inspired participant.