Time to raise capital is now (Making the New York City VC rounds)

Sitting in a Charbucks somewhere in midtown blogging this, turns out someone left their wifi open for me so I don’t have to pay T-Mobile or Verizon for the bandwidth. Thanks to all the unnamed free bandwidth providers out there. I salute you.

Spent the last couple of days visiting with some local VC firms here in New York getting some perspective on where they see the industry.

Nooooooooo, I’m not raising capital for a new project (not even Weblogs, Inc.). I’m just getting the pulse on where the industry is and where it is going. Really, you gotta believe me.

Just finished breakfast at the Yale club with Ed Goodman of Milestone Ventures, a smart guy.

Ed runs a $13 million fund that puts $250K to $500K into small tech and services firms. Of course in New York there aren’t that many deals to be done. Turns out that many of the Silicon Alley entrepreneurs I used to cover in Silicon Alley Reporter have all run for the hills (or more specifically run to the turntables to spin records and take drugsI kid you not). Go figure: now is the best time to raise capital in the past four years.

On my way now to meet up with my old friends Tom Phillips, formerly of Deja News and Spy Magazine, and Deven Parekh of Insight Venture Partners (http://www.insightpartners.com/).

Met with Howard Morgan of idealab! (who is also an angel investor), as well as Steve Brotman of Silicon Alley Venture Partners and Stonehenge (two different funds). They are both doing smaller investments, $250K to $500K. The valuations are not huge, $1 to $3m, but that gives the entrepreneur enough room to raise further capital and still own a 1/3 to 1/4 of their firm after two or three rounds when an exit might happen.

Dropped by to see Stuart Ellman of RRE Ventures, one of the largest firms in New York City (they did their third fund of $225m recently). Of course, with that kind of money they need to invest big (think $5-10m a pop), and that really doesn’t work in New York anymore. Of course, if Howard, Ed and Steve do their job they will have deals to feed up to folks like RRE Ventures over the next year or two.

The interesting thing is that in order to raise capital you need to have some the business built outcomplete with revenue. As one person told me “come to me with a client who loves you and is spending five to six figures with you and I’ll invest.”

This is, of course, the way it should have always been. I never really understood the idea of investing in an idea, with the possible exception of a handful of entrepreneurs who have hit it big in the past. Having a couple of hurdles to hit before getting a wire transfer is a nice check and balance for a venture business that has been, frankly, lazy and loose in recent history.

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