ff Venture Capital has been giving new meaning to word stealth mode. Tucked into an interview on TechCrunch yesterday was the news, reported for the first time, that the New York City-based seed investment firm had raised a $27 million fund last November. What’s more, it had already invested in 23 companies and expected to finish its goal of 30 to 40 companies perhaps by the end of the year.
According to ff Venture’s—the fund insists on the cummings-style “ff”—Form D filing, which sneakily offers a Roseland, New Jersey address, rather than its Midtown headquarters, the company filed an intent to raise on November, 29, 2010. Partner John Frankel says the firm was already deploying capital from the new “silver” fund even as it was raising the dough. Of the 23 investments, which includes startups like Klout, ThinkNear, Livefyre, Voxy, and Kohort, four have had up rounds. “So, it looks like performance is accelerating,” he told Erick Schonfeld in a video interview.
But ff has another feather in their cap, their previous $6.3 million fund, raised in 2008 “two months after Lehman collapsed,” as Mr. Frankel, a Goldman Sachs refugee, points out. According to him, Prequin ranked that fund, called “ff blue,” the top-performing VC fund through the end of 2010.
David Teten, a partner with ff as well as a former entrepreneur and banker, said despite the firm’s obvious concentration in social, the firm’s philosophy is not to think thematically:
“I’m new to VC, I just joined this side of the table in the middle of last year and what I’ve seen is a a lot of VCs say, ‘This sector is hot, therefore I’m going to find a company in that sector.’ We think that’s not a healthy approach. If the sector is defined, that means there’s already some players in it, so you’re probably investing in player four and someone else has defined it and is going to take the lead. Our approach is the people who know the most about the growth sectors of 2017 are the entrepreneurs. As they come to us, we filter the ones that are really promising with a promising industries and then we’ll invest in them.
It happens to be that Internet companies have great economics, so we’re very happy to invest primarily in Internet companies, but our mandate is invest where there are growth opportunities which will produce great returns for our investors and of course for the entrepenrue who have most of the equity.”
So invest in people, not themes and the future, not the present. Yeah, we think we got that. Earlier this week, Betabeat dropped by the ff offices for one of the firm’s rousing idea dinners. The discussion was certainly future-facing covering outer space, health informatics, lucid dreaming, but, we’re sorry to report, off-the-record.