Ludlow Ventures: A Family Venture “Without Ego”

4/9/12Follow @XconomyDET

Ludlow Ventures, the Detroit-based firm, has a motto: “VC without ego.”

Managing partner Jonathon Triest certainly lives up to that ideal of selflessness when describing the influence his partners—his father, Brent Triest, and his great-uncle, Warren Coville—have had on his life. “They’re successful, humble, super smart, and philanthopic. They bring extraordinary talent to the table, but they also give me breathing room. It’s a blessing.”

The 30-year-old father of two came back to join the family business two years ago after living all over the world, including in New York and Jerusalem. (The name Ludlow refers to the street Triest grew up on.) Ludlow focuses on early stage tech companies, and so far has invested in 20 companies.

“We’re really founder-focused,” Triest says. “We invest in teams. We’ll invest in the right combination of people even if we’re not 100 percent sold on their product.”

Triest says 25 percent the companies in Ludlow’s portfolio are in Michigan, and 75 percent are on the East and West coasts. He speaks to nearly all of the CEOs of his portfolio companies weekly. “I have had the great privilege of becoming friendly with the people we invest in,” he explains. “We don’t invest in people we can’t be friends with.”

Ludlow invests between $25,000 and $150,000 in each company, and has had some notable successes. Hipster, a geolocation/photosharing app funded by a group of investors that included Ludlow, was recently acquired by AOL, which paid in the low seven figures for it. Other up-and-coming companies in Ludlow’s portfolio include UpTo, a social calendar-sharing app; Flud, a social news aggregation ap; Graphic.ly, which has recently pivoted to allow independent authors to publish e-books across all platforms;  and Fundly, a fundraising platform that is already being used as the back-end system for major political candidates and nonprofits.

Triest says Ludlow, for the most part, chooses not to lead deals. In fact, many of Ludlow’s local investments are syndicated with Detroit Venture Partners, building on Triest’s childhood friendship with DVP vice president Jake Cohen. Triest also counts Naval Ravikant of AngelList as a mentor, and says a lot of Ludlow’s deal flow has come through the site.

Triest has a background in advertising and photojournalism, and, because of that, he loves tech companies with good design and strong user interface/experience capabilities. His ultimate goal is to build Ludlow like he would build a brand, where he leverages his relationships with Ludlow’s portfolio companies to get into more deals.

“Spending time with veteran entrepreneurs like Micah Baldwin from Graphic.ly has really allowed me to break into networking,” he says.

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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