BROOKLYN, January 17th -- On the heels of Brooklyn getting it’s first Shake Shack comes more tech-friendly news. Charlie O’Donnell, previously of standout New York venture firms First Round Capital and Union Square Ventures, announced the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures--the first venture capital fund to be based out of Brooklyn.
As part of the announcement, the fund sponsored the creation of "Made in Brooklyn", a trailer on starting up in Brooklyn:
Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital added a note of congratulations:
“...I can’t wait to see the impact his firm makes on the Brooklyn tech community...During his time at First Round, Charlie made a real impact -- helping us expand our New York presence...Ever since Charlie joined First Round Capital he and I have talked about his goal of starting his own firm – and I’m excited to see him take the plunge.”
The news was also welcomed by Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures:
“Charlie is pure Brooklyn hustle. It's fantastic to see him focusing on the growing Brooklyn tech community. Startups are sprouting up in Greenpoint, Bushwick, Williamsburg, Fort Greene, Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn, and Red Hook and probably in other neighborhoods too. Nobody is better suited to catalyze the Brooklyn tech community and seed it with startup capital than Charlie O'Donnell.”
Brooklyn Bridge Ventures seeks to make investments in early and seed stage technology companies in the “Greater Brooklyn Area” (which includes Manhattan and other boroughs) across a variety of information technology sectors. It will also have the capability to lead or co-lead seed rounds and will be based out of the NYU-Poly Incubator in DUMBO.
Building a firm in his home borough brings a particularly exciting element to Charlie’s new venture:
“As a Brooklyn native and resident, I couldn’t be more excited to launch the fund here. The Brooklyn startup scene reminds me of how Manhattan was in 2005--with a few key companies in place and a growing interest in technology. Yet, the resources are disconnected from each other, representing a major opportunity to build a powerful community. In a lot of ways, things in Brooklyn are better now--we have more of a head start because of the talent here and the better social platforms. We can connect the critical elements faster and cheaper than ever before to grow an ecosystem.”
Charlie is a visible leader in the NYC startup community. His blog, This is Going to Be BIG! is ranked #6 among the top VC bloggers and his weekly innovation community newsletter is read by over 5,000 people in the NYC-area. His plan is to use this platform and reach to bring greater visibility to the Brooklyn innovation ecosystem.
Among investors that he has worked with, Charlie has a strong reputation for adding value. Ann Miura-Ko of Floodgate Capital offered that he “hustles for the companies we've worked on together and has served as a great resource to many entrepreneurs I know.”
Charlie worked as an institutional investor evaluating venture capital funds before joining Union Square Ventures in 2005 as the firm’s first analyst. In 2006, he founded nextNY, which has run over 50 events on entrepreneurship and startup education and networking. He served on the original board of the New York Tech Meetup, and is one of the meetup's first 100 members. He has been named three times to the Alley Insider 100 Most Influential People in NY Tech. After a stint as a product manager, Charlie co-founded Path 101, a Business Insider Startup 2009 Conference Finalist.
Charlie joined First Round Capital in October of 2009. He sourced First Round's Investment in GroupMe, which sold to Skype in 2011. Other deals he sourced include Refinery29, chloe + isabel, Backupify, SinglePlatform, Salescrunch and Docracy.
Will the fund only make investments in Brooklyn?
No--the fund will generally invest in the Greater Brooklyn Area--which includes New York City and the surrounding metropolis. The focus on Brooklyn isn't about geography--although Brooklyn represents a fantastic place not only to build a technology business in, but to live and play in. It's about what Brooklyn stands for.
Brooklyn is a borough of cultural diversity, a history of ingenuity, and a tradition of preserving best practices (like how to make a pizza) while reapplying them to today's world in creative ways. It's about hustle and starting from scratch to make it big. Brooklyn life is all about blurring the lines between work and play--following your passions in every aspect of your life and sharing that in a participatory community. That's what being a Brooklyn startup is about, no matter which side of the East River your office space happens to be.
Given the fact that the fund is likely to invest in companies before they have office space, it stands to reason that there’s a good chance it will attract businesses to setup shop in Brooklyn--especially when many of the entrepreneurs and their future employees already live there. In addition, the fund hopes to leverage the community to help make Brooklyn a more attractive place to start your tech business.
Isn’t the market for seed investing already too crowded?
There has never been a shortage of capital in New York City--ever. It’s New York. It has always been flush with money from all sorts of industries. However, dedicated money for seed investments--money that comes with experience, value-add, and a strong network is a relatively recent phenomenon. It is a great thing for New York startups to have more options for funding, but the hardest working, most decisive investors who can prove their value add will always have an opportunity to access the best deals if they commit early. If you build relationships with companies from the beginning and show them you are an investor that can help, you’ll be able to get great opportunities at reasonable valuations. At the same time, it has been said that the average angel investor does 70% of all of the investments they will ever do in their first year of investing--so it’s not clear that a lot of the new entrants to the scene will continue at the same pace going forward, leaving a lot of opportunity for investors thinking long term.
Will the fund be competitive with First Round?
Charlie got an inside view of what First Round could do for companies, which is why he looks forward to working on deals together with them. Any startup would benefit from having their participation. Brooklyn Bridge Ventures would encourage all of its entrepreneurs to syndicate their rounds across a diverse set of value-added investors and First Round would certainly be high on that list of recommendations.