Flybridge Capital Expands New York Office, Keeps Boston Roots
After investing in New York startups such as social targeting technology company 33Across, database software developer 10gen, and social media management system developer tracx, Boston’s Flybridge Capital Partners quietly set up an office on Broadway in February, led by general partner David Aronoff.
On Monday Flybridge said it sent Matt Witheiler, a principal with the firm, to join Aronoff in New York. Flybridge also hired Caitlin Strandberg as associate. She most recently served as director of business development for New York-based LearnVest, a personal finance and lifestyle website aimed at women.
With his local team now in place, Aronoff spoke to Xconomy about expanding Flybridge’s presence in New York—though he plans to maintain his love of the Red Sox while cheering for the Mets a little.
Xconomy: Why did your firm establish a New York office?
David Aronoff: Most of us had been spending a lot of time in New York over the past few years. Our deal flow, as well as the number of new investment companies, has been growing steadily here. It was clear that New York was more than an experiment. From a Flybridge standpoint, this community established itself as a center of gravity. Opening up the New York office became natural.
X: Was there a tipping point that signaled a need for an office in town?
DA: Our deal flow at the end of 2011 was equivalent in Boston and New York. We spent enough time developing our networks here in New York that the flywheel had begun [turning]. Boston deal flow had not declined, all the indications were upward. It’s just that New York had risen and we’d been paying more attention compared with the previous four years.
X: Some of Flybridge’s prior investments in NY have been related to big data in some way. Will you continue to look for opportunities in this sector?
DA: The focus of what we do is divided into two broad categories: enterprise 2.0 and consumer infrastructure. When you unpack those big topics into subthemes such as critical infrastructure for next-generation enterprise or big consumer services, 10gen and other types of platforms that support both consumer and enterprise are interesting to us.
There are companies that leverage big data and sell their services to enterprises, or in the case of tracx they leverage consumer data for an enterprise-type sale. I think there’s an emerging enterprise technology opportunity here in New York that is probably underserved by the investment and venture community.
X: The New York office is a recent addition for Flybridge, but your firm is no stranger to this community. How do you plan to further extend your reach in the local scene?
DA: By making ourselves available. Whether it’s open office hours or participating in and sponsoring hackathons. Those are probably the easy things that all venture capitalists have done for several years now. We’ve been involved in mentorship roles with TechStars in New York and Boston for a while. There are at least 23 incubators in New York; there are a number of them that we’ll get more involved with.
There’s a very vibrant community led by Evan Korth at NYU and Chris Wiggins at Columbia called HackNY. They’re aiming to keep good engineers off the street—Wall Street.
Over the next few years you are going to see things evolve in New York that have the potential to be meaningful and differentiating versus the rest of the country. Mayor Bloomberg has launched this multipronged effort to promote entrepreneurship and innovation among younger people. It starts with the Academy for Software Engineering, which is a high school for teaching students about software. Through the major academic universities here and the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute, there will be at least 5,000 graduates with engineering degrees coming out of New York starting in the next couple of years. These are meaningful, long-term efforts that are really focused on keeping entrepreneurship in the city. Getting involved in those types of activities is something we’re eager to do. We have a history of being involved with MIT and Harvard.
X: Have you hired all the staff you need for your New York operations?
DA: We’re at full strength for the time being. You may see us hire more advisors as we become more embedded in the community here. That’s something we’ve routinely done in Boston. We’ve done it in other regions we’re active in? though don’t have offices.