It is with great pleasure that I can finally announce that we have added Greg Bettinelli as a partner at GRP Partners.
If you don’t already follow him on Twitter please click link and follow. You won’t regret it. The guy has knowledge.
It is the first time in 6 years that we’ve expanded the partnership as is reported expertly here.
So why Greg and why now?
I first met Greg about 4 years ago or so. He had joined a young startup in LA called HauteLook and was interested in getting to know the local tech community.
Because my role as a VC requires me to take and endless stream of meetings I long ago decided I need to learn as much as I can from the meetings I attend so I often just ask tons of questions and assimilate knowledge. I love learning so this is a great process.
I instantly hit it off with Greg because we was a fountain of knowledge. He shared tons of information about how how they were using marketing to quantitatively make marketing decisions at HauteLook and acquire customers for prices that were far cheaper than similar companies.
On each subsequent meeting I’d learn a little bit more. Greg was the first person to share with me the insights of mobile conversion and why with a simpler product selection and conversion funnel they would get higher conversion on mobile than on the web. He was also the first one to challenge my conventional wisdom that it made no sense for tech companies to advertise on television. He walked me through both the logic and the math. He always had an angle for how he could acquire better, faster, cheaper than others.
So I started introducing him to portfolio companies. I always tried to be respectful of his time because he had a day job but he was always happy to attend dinner sessions, take a quick call from a startup or grab a coffee.
The feedback was always universal, “that was the most helpful marketing meeting I’ve every had.”
I always felt the same.
Greg was the CMO at HauteLook from the early days all the way through growing the business to 12 million registered users and far in excess of $200 million in annual sales. In 2011 the company was sold to Nordstrom for $270 million in a deal that has been widely seen as a success for both buyer and seller.
After that you could tell that Greg was really “all in” on the LA technology community. He co-founded a prominent accelerator in Los Angeles called MuckerLab, that has produced a number of impressive companies and he mentored more than 20 of them.
This is exactly the brand that GRP Partners wants to embody. When I think about what defines us as a VC I think:
- Operationally knowledgeable / strong startup competence
- Quantitative & analytical
- Natural mentors – a desire to help
- Community builders
- Open & transparent
And Greg was a perfect match for all of these. So I began talking to him about joining the fund. It was perfect timing since in 2012 GRP raised its fourth fund bringing our total assets managed to nearly $1 billion.
And there was instant chemistry and where we both saw our respective futures.
We both wanted to build a practice that would make Los Angeles proud but where we would travel tirelessly to other locations to make investments in the best entrepreneurs wherever they were. GRP’s biggest winners over the years have not only come from LA (Overture, CitySearch, TrueCar) but from Chicago (Envestnet, Ulta), Las Vegas (HDI), Baltimore (BillMeLater), New York (DealerTrack), London (LastMinute.com) and other locations. Like any firm we of course invest in the San Francisco Bay Area where 33% of my personal boards are.
We both wanted to put energy into GRP’s platform of services that provide more value to our investments than merely capital.
We both wanted to invest in a select number of companies and spend more time with those companies rather than invest too broadly.
We both wanted to continue to build a world-class staff at GRP from which to build future leaders in either tech startups or in our investment firm.
So we talked about his joining.
I made some reference calls. They were effusive. Especially from those that had worked with Greg over his many years at eBay. One of his biggest accomplishments there was championing the acquisition of StubHub. One senior eBay executive told me, “many people suggested buying StubHub. Only Greg had the persistence and persuasion to champion it through the behemoth that eBay had become. He was stubborn. He wouldn’t give up until they understood why they HAD to buy it.” After PayPal, StubHub is widely seen as eBay’s second most profitable acquisition.
Another reference I called who is ex eBay and now a prominent VC said to me, “If I were organizing a marketing panel on online marketing and I wanted to pick the top 5 marketers to be on the panel Greg would be on my list.”
And then we settled in on his role. We knew he had to be an investment partner. He has the skills, gravitas, experience and temperament for it.
What does that mean?
He is an investment partner exactly like I am. He has full investment authority and attends all of our Monday partners meetings and investment committee meetings. The only difference is that he will be half time at GRP.
What? How can you do a job half time?
Pretty well as it turns out. If you do half the number of investments of a full-time partner. You are on less deals but for the same amount of time. And we’ve designed the economic incentives so that Greg is aligned with the overall performance of GRP in addition to his investments so I’m excited to get him involved across all of our portfolio companies helping provide fresh perspectives on the important topic of growth.
What will he do with his other 50% time? Golf more?
Well. I’ve been to his house and he did build a little putting green atop his patio deck in the hills above Brentwood that has spectacular views. But luckily for his wife I don’t think he’ll be spending much extra time there. His plans are still solidifying but will likely involve some later-stage activities in the eCommerce & retail sectors unrelated to early-stage venture capital. And largely synergistic with what we do – which is awesome.
So is that it for change at GRP for the next 6 years?
Hardly. Many more improvements afoot. Much more of our fee income poured back into our community, our offices, our staff, our portfolio company – where it belongs.
Watch this space.
But for now please welcome Greg to GRP and if you want to get a sense for his knowledge base feel free to watch this discussion I had with him on This Week in VC.