• VC Charlie O’Donnell on Building Up Community, Cheaply

    Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 10.05.05 PMBrooklyn Bridge Ventures, a nearly four-year-old, seed-stage venture firm that’s solely run by founder and general partner, Charlie O’Donnell, just closed its second fund with $15 million, up from an $8.3 million debut fund in early 2014.

    Yesterday, we talked  with O’Donnell about what the process was like, whether the New York venture scene will be impacted by the $3 billion sale of e-commerce company Jet.com to Walmart, and how a small operation like Brooklyn Bridge Ventures can make an outsize impact on a shoestring budget.

    TC: We sat down last November and you’d mentioned that you’d circled $13 million or so for this new fund.

    CO: I estimated that I had about $13 million in estimated commitments, and we didn’t go into detail on what that meant. For me, it’s a spreadsheet that has a [potential investor] in the fund, a number, and a percent chance of closing, much like a sales pipeline.

    Comparatively, my first fund took 9 months from announcement to first close, and 15 months from first close to last close. This fund took 6 months from first close to last close, with 70 percent of the capital commitments coming in the first two closes.That all seemed super fast to me.

    TC: We were wondering if you ran into trouble this year with investors; some of the institutions that fund venture firms say they were mobbed earlier this year by firms that raised funds a couple of years ago and that didn’t want to be the last in line for their new fund.

    CO: Most of my [investors] aren’t in any other funds. An endowment that wrote me a $1 million check certainly is. And I think my lead investor is in one or two other funds, along with maybe a handful of individuals [who wrote me checks]. But they’re definitely in the minority. At my size, I’m not talking to many traditional [investors]. I have no idea why they keep writing checks every two years for funds that haven’t proved themselves out yet. I came from the fund side. I thought VCs raised every three to four years.

    TC: You’ve funded a lot of very promising companies. In your past life as a principal with First Round Capital, you also backed a number of companies that have sold. Do you have any “exits” yet at Brooklyn Bridge?

    CO: One exit returned its capital, but given that most of these companies average about two years old or less (it was a three-year investment period fund), it would be pretty early to start seeing exits at this stage. Also, standouts like [the smart home security company]Canary are ramping up revenues and releasing new and improved products and not looking to take an early exit anytime soon.

    TC: People have long said that New York needed a giant exit, especially after certain companies that looked to become big wins saw their fortunes change, including Gilt Groupe and Fab. Was Jet that exit? 

    CO: Jet was certainly a large exit and a testament to the great team the company assembled. Three billion dollars is a lot of money, but given how much they raised right out of the gate, I don’t know what multiples its investors got given what one would assume were the entry prices. So, do the aggregate dollars count or the return multiple? I’m not sure, but I’m also not someone who believes in the “giant exit” theory.

    What’s supposed to happen when we get a giant exit? We get more angels?

    More here.

  • Brooklyn Bridge Ventures Nears a Close on Fund Two

    1977656_74228156_3499416-jpgBrooklyn Bridge Ventures, a three-year-old, seed-stage venture firm led by its founder and sole general partner, Charlie O’Donnell, is about to close its second fund with $15 million, up from an $8.3 million debut fund closed last year.

    It’s a meaningful milestone for O’Donnell, who got his start in venture capital as an analyst at Union Square Ventures and later worked as a principal with First Round Capital before striking out on his own in late 2011.

    Last week, we sat down with him in San Francisco to talk about what the fundraising process has been like. We also chatted about his current portfolio, whether Silicon Valley VCs are paying as much attention to New York as they have in recent years, and why he’ll (probably) never be more than a one-man show.

    You’re just finishing up your first fund. How many companies did you wind up backing and what was your average check size?

    We funded 33 deals and the average check size was between $200,000 and $250,000.

    Given its size, were you able to make any follow-on investments?

    I don’t care about that stuff. I’m getting in so early [that] my average pre-money valuation is $4 million. If you sell a company for $250 million and you got in at $4 million and your fund is only $8 million, the multiple is so high and the base is so low that you return your fund on just two or three of those deals.

    At $8 million, you basically need to create a billion dollars in total enterprise value across 33 companies. It’s hard work, but you don’t have to suspend reality to imagine that a few portfolio companies might exit [in acquisitions totaling around] $250 million. You get four or five [additional] $50 million [exits], and a couple of singles and doubles where you get your money back, and it’s a 3x fund, even if the other 17 investments go to zero.

    More here.

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