The Changing Face of Boston VC: A Chat With NextView Ventures’ David Beisel

2/24/11Follow @gthuang

I have glimpsed the future of Boston venture capital—one possible future, anyway—and it looks a bit like David Beisel. He’s kind of an unassuming guy, but those are the ones you have to watch because they can make big things happen.

Traditional VCs might scoff at the notion that so-called micro-VCs or “super angels”—earlier-stage, smaller investors—are disruptive to their industry. But they ignore people like Beisel at their peril. He might not admit it either, but Beisel and his partners, Rob Go and Lee Hower, are looking to turn the Boston tech VC scene on its head. How? By investing in promising seed-stage Internet companies through their young micro-VC firm, NextView Ventures. Whether you think they’ll succeed or fail, the NextView plan is to do it in a way that is more in-the-trenches and, frankly, shrewder than other approaches.

NextView Ventures started last summer and was quiet for half a year before talking to the press last month. The firm is in the process of raising a fund, reportedly in the $15-$20 million range, and has made 10 investments so far (one deal is an undisclosed company). Its most recently announced investment is in Hyperpublic, a New York startup focused on connecting people, places, and things locally. NextView’s other portfolio companies range from Swipely (social shopping) to Salescrunch (business software for sales managers) to Shareaholic (social Web discovery).

The micro-VC firm is focused on companies in the Boston-New York corridor, Beisel says. Of its nine announced investments, five started in the greater Boston area and four started in New York. In terms of deal size, NextView has mostly participated in seed-stage investments that were $500,000 to $1.5 million in total. (Beisel declined to say how much NextView itself has invested so far.) Its philosophy is different from the “spray and pray” strategy of some super angels and the “seed and cherry-pick” approach of some traditional VCs. “Each company is a true investment,” Beisel says. “We syndicate with other venture firms and micro-VCs. We look to proactively lead deals as well. We want to be aligned with the entrepreneur after the seed-stage round.”

While many tech startups are looking at the eventuality of being acquired for $50-100 million, he says, “we make our investments [with the goal] that they will become truly transformative companies and will pursue a venture scale opportunity.”

Here’s some more background on the partners. Beisel previously co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing startup, and learned the VC ropes at Venrock and Masthead Venture Partners. Go was previously at eBay, Fidelity, and BzzAgent, and most recently worked at Spark Capital. Hower, for his part, came from the early days of PayPal and LinkedIn (watch for that IPO), and was most recently with Point Judith Capital. “We see Boston as an underserved market opportunity,” Beisel says.

Entrepreneurs and investors I’ve talked to say NextView is a welcome addition to the seed-stage ecosystem. They also point out that the firm needs to differentiate itself from … 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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