I believe that as the world has gotten “flatter” over the last decade, it’s created a big opportunity for venture investors who recognized that great entrepreneurs can come up with great ideas in almost any location. Indeed, over the last several years, First Round Capital has invested nationally and has funded companies in over a dozen states.
However, I do believe that certain ecosystems provide real leverage when it comes to the hard work of turning those ideas into reality. Take acting for example. Despite the fact that Philadelphia has some great theaters (like the Kimmel Center, the Walnut Street Theatre, the Arden Theatre, the Prince Theater, the Forrest Theatre, etc), I’m pretty sure that almost every young Philly-based actor recognizes the unique opportunities to really hone their craft on Broadway or in Hollywood -- and those who have big career aspirations typically move to NYC or LA.
The right ecosystem can take good raw materials and set it lose on a new trajectory. That’s why Stumbleupon moved from Calgary to San Francisco, why Jimmy Wales moved from Florida to San Francisco to start Wikia, and why Jingle Networks moved from Michigan to Boston. And that’s why, four years ago, First Round Capital set up our west coast office (led by Rob Hayes) to firmly plant ourselves in the silicon valley ecosystem. Today more than half of our portfolio is based in California.
Over the last several years, we’ve found that the New York City ecosystem has been particularly strong for Internet and media-based startups. In fact, we’ve met hundreds of really talented New York-based entrepreneurs and funded over 10 NYC-based startups in the last few years – including Appnexus, Knewton, On Deck Capital, Pinch Media, DoubleVerify and others. And while First Round Capital already spends a lot of time in New York, I’m super excited to announce our plans to increase our presence in the big apple by opening a First Round Capital office in New York City (led by my partner Howard Morgan) -- and the addition of Charlie O’Donnell to our team as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR).
The obvious strength of the NYC community was on display in the incredible conversations I had at our Office Hours event at Live Bait and in those between entrepreneurs at Meet-Ups around the city, at ShakeShack, at the quality of entrepreneurs involved in First Growth, and in the NextNY community to name a few. As we looked for ways to support this community, to listen to and learn from entrepreneurs and to help them build great companies in the city, I could not think of a better way to begin than by working with Charlie as our first Entrepreneur in Residence. Charlie’s belief that great companies are lead by great CEOs but also are born from great communities matches my experience as both an entrepreneur and an investor. His work as an organizer, supporter, and participant in the NY tech scene over the past several years has been amazing and I could not be happier to have him join the First Round team.
As seed stage investors we have the privilege of working with entrepreneurs as they establish the DNA of their business and we hope you will work with us as we put down deeper roots in the city.