Geoff Entress Joins Voyager Capital, Looks to Strengthen the VC Firm’s Internet Plays

3/4/09Follow @gthuang

The newest face at Seattle-based Voyager Capital is a familiar one to Northwest techies. Voyager is announcing today that Geoff Entress, one of the region’s most active and prominent angel investors, has joined the firm as a venture partner. He will focus primarily on consumer Internet and digital media investments in Washington state.

Entress was a venture partner at Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group for eight-plus years before leaving last June to focus on angel investing. His previous investments include Isilon Systems (NASDAQ: ISLN), Seadragon Software, The Coffee Equipment Company, Shelfari, and World Wide Packets. Entress’s current portfolio includes notable Northwest companies like BuddyTV, Elemental Technologies, Liquid Planner, Pet Holdings (ICanHasCheezburger.com), Geospiza, Pressplane, CultureMob, and Sandlot Games. He is also on the board of drugstore.com (NASDAQ: DSCM).

In the past few months, Entress (an Xconomist) has spoken with us on a wide range of topics, from trends in angel investing to why startups fail. In an interview yesterday, he and Voyager managing director Erik Benson spoke about Entress’s new role (he started last month) and what it means for both parties. Bottom line: it sounds like a strategic hire that will make Voyager more competitive, as well as increase Entress’s reach and influence among entrepreneurs and the startup community.

My initial reaction to the news, however, was that angel investing is in trouble—because of what Entress’s going back to the VC world might signify. But he strongly downplayed that notion. “Angel investing is hurt, but it’s not dead. The dollars will go down, the number of deals will go down,” Entress says. “I’ll continue my angel activities.” He adds that when he left Madrona in June, “it was to focus on my own investments. I didn’t know I’d go back to VC…but I realized, hey, I can do both because it’s beneficial to Voyager.” Entress also says the recession played no role in his decision.

There have not been many cases of VCs switching firms in Seattle—in part because there just aren’t that many firms. “We have a longstanding relationship with Geoff,” says Benson, who adds that Voyager started talking with Entress last summer. “It took a while for him to be in the right place, for us to be in the right place, for the stars to be aligned…What Geoff does as an angel sets up nicely for what we do as a venture firm…and his expertise is complementary to other partners here.” The two got to know each other while working together with Portland, OR-based Elemental Technologies, a video-processing software firm in which both Entress and Voyager are investors.

As for the strategic implications of the hire, time will tell—but it certainly looks good on paper. “Great foundations are built in times of distress,” Benson says. “We’ve been building our team over the past year.” Indeed, Voyager has been adding new staff up and down the West Coast—the firm announced the hires of managing director Daniel Ahn in Silicon Valley and venture partner Diane Fraiman in Portland last summer.

Lastly, I asked Entress what he’s finding most interesting in the tech community these days. He mentioned a number of local startups, including some, like Gist (led by T.A. McCann), that offer new kinds of messaging and online-information services. He also said he’s been playing around with his new Kindle 2 e-book reader. “I’ve been thinking about business models for the Kindle,” he says, intriguingly. “I think books are going to disappear.”

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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