Boston Venture Firms Dominate New Mentoring Program for New York Startups
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funding speed dating,” says Zimmerman. “It’s about building mentor relationships vertically and building a network of high-quality entrepreneurs horizontally.”
At the same time, though, the whole program will be very much a venture-funding audition for the participating entrepreneurs. “Any entrepreneur who goes to a wedding and sits at a table next to a venture partner who doesn’t think that’s an interview ought to reconsider being an entrepreneur,” says Zimmerman. “If you move that into this context, being in a room with 40 CEOs and VCs, you ought to anticipate that how you behave in this room is going to have some ramifications, and optimize how you behave in a way that way that impresses the heck out of everyone.”
The year of networking meetings will begin and end with practice funding pitches by each startup. But participating startups won’t be pressured to accept funding from venture firms inside the First Growth network, Zimmerman says. “It will not only be kosher but encouraged” to look for outside capital, he says. “This is not shooting fish in a barrel.”
Curiously, the two Boston-area venture firms that probably have the highest profiles and the longest lists of portfolio companies based in New York—Spark Capital and General Catalyst—are not members of the First Growth network. That could be seen as a sign that these firms consider their New York connections to be strong enough already—or that their Boston-based competitors feel a need to increase their own deal flow in the Big Apple. But Zimmerman isn’t buying either of these interpretations. “I wouldn’t characterize any of the [First Growth member firms] as not having deal flow in New York,” says Zimmerman, who adds that the network “has relationships” with both General Catalyst and Spark.
For the record, the non-Boston founding members of First Growth include First Round Capital of New York, Valhalla Partners of Vienna, VA, Grape ArborVC and AngelVineVC (both based in New York), Lowenstein Sandler, and GCA Savvian, a multinational technology-oriented investment banking firm.
As you might guess from the names of his angel-investing groups, Zimmerman is a wine enthusiast. As First Growth explains in an announcement today, the name First Growth is borrowed from the Bordeaux wine classification system of 1855, and is meant to evoke an analogy between building startups and cultivating grape vines.
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