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.Let’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.
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.
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.