Inside Project 11 Ventures: A Chat with Katie Rae and Reed Sturtevant

12/16/10Follow @gthuang

Does the world really need another seed-stage technology investment fund? Maybe not—but Boston entrepreneurs can use all the expertise they can get.

That’s where Project 11 Ventures comes into play. In the increasingly crowded field of early-stage tech investing, Project 11, which is co-led by Reed Sturtevant and Katie Rae, is taking a very hands-on approach to mentoring startups. That means helping founders (especially first-timers) refine their product, test it, think through business models, recruit talent, and work together effectively, among other things. Project 11 has announced a couple of investments already, in Boston-area startups Locately, which provides location-based information for advertisers, and peerTransfer, which focuses on international money transfers and payments.

I recently sat down with Sturtevant and Rae to talk about their investment themes and philosophy—and what really distinguishes them from other seed-stage tech investors in town. They couldn’t talk about any progress in raising their fund yet (rumored to be in the $5 million range), but they did shed some light on their unique background and their approach to working with entrepreneurs.

Sturtevant and Rae have been fixtures of the local startup scene for years. They previously worked together at Eons and Microsoft Startup Labs—in each case incubating startup ideas and testing numerous Internet businesses in parallel, rather than being more traditional “serial” entrepreneurs. Sturtevant is the tech guy, while Rae’s expertise is products and customers. Project 11 is their first fund together. (Rae was also recently tapped to be the new head of TechStars Boston.)

Becoming successful investors is a long road, of course, and lots of people will try and fail to make money as angel investors, “super angels,” or “micro-VCs.” It will take years to establish a track record of successes, and Rae and Sturtevant face a steep learning curve. Nevertheless, they are confident as they dive into the investing fray.

Here are a few nuggets from our chat:

—On their personal motivation for Project 11:

After leaving Microsoft last year, the two decided they liked working together, so they explored different startup and investment ideas. “I love making things real,” Sturtevant says. “If I step over to be an investor and coach, can I have more impact on more companies and more products than what … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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