GRP Announces $200 Million Fund. Rebrands as Upfront Ventures

Posted on Jun 27, 2013 | 90 comments


I am super excited to announce that today is a day of lots of new things for my partners and me: A new fund, a new office and a new brand.Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 12.10.09 AMLet’s start with the fund.

We have previously raised funds in 1996 ($200 million), 2000 ($400 million) and 2008/9 ($200 million).

This month we closed our 4th fund of $200 million. If you’ve been following the press about VC funds you’ll know this is no small feat. Second, we are announcing officially that we are moving our offices from Century City to Santa Monica. We have long wanted to move but wanted to wait for the perfect space.

We love all of LA and fund all regions. In fact, we fund nationally and occasionally internationally. But in Los Angeles, Santa Monica is akin to SoMa in San Francisco, Cambridge in the Boston area or Flatiron / Union Square in NYC.

Santa Monica is  the place where the highest concentration of early-stage startups are created if you consider also the contiguous geography of Venice Beach. We chose a location that fit our style. It is 12,000 sq ft of indoor /outdoor space and we’re building into a community work environment.

The building was formerly a Verizon switching center and is in the process of being classified as an historic building in Santa Monica. We will retain the cement interior and exposed feeling and complement it with wood. We want a place that feels approachable – not stuffy. And we chose to locate ourselves 3 blocks East of The Third Street Promenade where much new development is taking place.

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 12.18.44 AM

Perhaps the biggest piece of new news is that after 17 years of operations we’ve changed our name from GRP Partners to Upfront Ventures.
What’s up with that?

Well, the venture capital industry has changed a lot in the past 20 years … and we have too.

Wouldn’t we be a bit hypocritical if we talked with entrepreneurs about innovation and change but we weren’t willing to take it on ourselves?

We wanted our name to reflect both the changes we’ve made and how we plan to operate for the next 20 years.

So what changed?

To start, we believe that our industry was too closed-door and secretive. Why should investors know all the tricks of the trade while first-time entrepreneurs operated at a disadvantage?

We think transparency and easy access to information benefit our entire ecosystem. We also saw that the same types of entrepreneurs were repeatedly getting funded.  VC has operated as an “old boys club”, with access to capital often requiring entrance through an elite university engineering department in one of two cities.

Yet we know big businesses can be built in many places by talented entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds. Some of our most successful deals have been in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Baltimore and London.

And in our last fund our two biggest exits came from companies run by women, neither of whom fit the 20-something entrepreneur stereotype. We also learned firsthand as entrepreneurs that straight answers can be hard to come by with VCs, which is why we value frankness.

Our approach might feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but our objective is always to encourage rigorous thinking and quality decision-making through debate. Our portfolio companies value us as sparring partners. We think it’s best to embrace this role from the start.

So when we thought to ourselves: “What should we call an LA-based venture capital fund that values transparency, easier access, multiple geographies and frank communications?” Upfront seemed to fit the bill.

upfront_ventures

It also had that double entendre thing going for it!

You see, we do most of our deals upfront at the Seed and Series A stage. See what we did there?

But you may ask: “What else have you done other than change your name? That seems pretty superficial!”

Like many modern VCs, we’re committed to investing in the community and in our portfolio companies.

  • We blog.
  • We created one of the first accelerators in Los Angeles, Launchpad LA, which has gone on to help launch > 50 startups in the past 4 years who together have raised in excess of $150 million in capital.
  • My partner Steven Dietz created an internship program with a few of the leading LA-based universities designed to get 500 internships with the thesis that if they start with LA-based roles they’re more likely to stay after they graduate.
  • We also run annual CEO summits and topical discussions groups in marketing, technology, recruiting and the like. And there’s much more of this to come.
  • We have invested in building an associate program that seeks to work operationally with our portfolio companies rather than looking to source new deals. At any moment in time one of Upfront’s associates are likely to be working on: a pricing strategy, a market-expansion strategy, an M&A review, or helping build a company’s first board deck template. We’ve done all of these recently.

We encourage you to judge us by our actions. Or call up any of our portfolio companies and ask how it’s been to work with us.

We think you’ll hear a similar story.

We’re pretty upfront.

Please help me spread the news as only RTs or FB Likes can! (you don’t ask, you don’t get!) We want to be sure our brand message gets out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Thank you.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Maybe I can see up an Eagles viewing room ;-)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Fight? No. Pay? Handsomely. But worth it to have the brand you want and we figured over a 20-year period it was worth it.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thank you, rohan. now things will be more calm for me.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    doesn’t suck. I know. Lucky is right.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Of course I know that. Want to engage in a project? I’ve tried before with no luck.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thank you. very kind.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, adeel. that’s how it felt when I was an entrepreneur. I preferred a quick no then a dragged out yes.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thank you

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    muchas gracias, amigo

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks yaniv

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, roman. and have enjoyed having our interactions over the years. as long as I don’t have to look at the procedures on your website ;-)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    there are more than you think but of course we have our share of superficial startups as well

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thx

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks alex

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I hear ya

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    on PPT designers?!? ;-)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thank you, pete. i appreciate that

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thx

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thank you, good sir.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    don’t know

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Office move was very important to us. We’re trying to build the right culture here and also to become more of a central hub in the community

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thank you, janet. and continued success to you

  • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan

    I can imagine! Much needed calm, I’m sure!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thank you, netta

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, mike

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    plus, it’s cement. cell coverage will be an issue. ironically.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Not expanding. Have always been national and always travel too much. Regular investments in Chicago and NY (and many other places)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thank you, Jason – Investment #1 in my VC career. Cheers!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    HealthDataInsights (HDI) & Ulta

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, chirag. the connected letters are support to represent transparency and connectedness between entrepreneur and vc.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thank you, donna. i appreciate it and all your support over the years.

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com/ awaldstein

    All this LA talk makes me want to come visit. First time in years without a client there and forget how much I enjoyed living and working there.

  • http://www.startupmanagement.org/ William Mougayar

    I might get in trouble with @donnawhite:disqus for saying this…
    I think she can help your portfolio that need recruiting :) She is incredibly talented but tends to under-sell her capabilities. I have hired her and will vouch for her results.

  • Jim Patterson

    I still have a few contacts at Sprint, VZ and AT&T if you need help. Just send me a tweet @pattersonadvice.

  • http://www.edge-asia.com/ Erik Posthuma

    Congrats Mark, really exciting stuff!

  • Greg Mand

    Can’t wait to see Nick Foles in hi-def on the 100 inch screen!! ;)

  • gobbluth

    Mark – Congrats on the rebrand (and great name choice)! Does this perhaps mean that you guys will be hiring soon? :)

  • Zero Cool

    We have way more superficial vs. real technology here in Los Angeles. It’s better in SV and Boston, but the culture there is different, so it encourages that mindset and competitive nature. And of course, superficial crap is somewhat a necessity in a portfolio these days, you can’t only invest in cleantech *cough* Kleiner; diversify.

    In any case, I guess I was projecting a personal need and desire to find and interact with more engineers vs. the “I have an app idea” crowd, eerily similar to the “I have a screenplay” crowd these days. ;)

  • jem

    Congrats!

  • jem

    Congrats! A massive accomplishment.