Tuesday, May 22, 2001

A Significant Point in Silicon Alley

Every cloud has its silver lining and even the darkest moments have a glimmer of hope. And this week Silicon Alley was treated to a bright burst of hope and inspiration as Silicon Valley-based VantagePoint Venture Partners opened their New York offices. Their opening celebration, on Tuesday May 22nd, drew a powerful collection of significant investors, bankers, journalists and entrepreneurs. The smooth inlaid wood paneled elevators quietly carried you up to their 39th floor space that greeted you with a lovely jazz band playing classic songs, a waiter offering champagne or white wine and two outstanding Alexander Creswell watercolors--"Astor Hall" of the New York Public Library and "Main Memorial" of Columbus Circle--above a tastefully appointed seating area.

Upon arrival partners Alan Salzman, Jeff Marshal, Ken Kharbanda, John Kain greeted guests at the various ends of the long rectangular space. Partner Jim Marver was still yet to arrive from his interview on CNNfn's N.E.W. Show, which everyone waited for eagerly to hear how it went. As I walked past the glass-encased conference room I saw Silicon Alley veterans I-Hatch co-founders and managing principals Chip Austin and Brad Farkas chat with Unplugged Games president and founder chatting with various guests and enjoying some of the tasty hors d'oeuvres. Exquisite prints of old New York city and state landmarks lined the walls and showcased the city's early commerce centers, trade marinas and pastoral fields north of 42nd Street. The various offices and conference rooms were decorated with more stunning black and white photographs of more New York landmarks from the 1800s, 1930s and other decades.

While the firm's interior design was classic old New York, their investment sense and approach is one with an eye on the future. Adding to the import of their office opening was the announcement of their VantagePoint New York Fund (VP NY), of which there is apparently $150 million committed and is focused entirely on technology innovations, applications and services related to data networking, optics, semi-conductors, wireless and voice in New York State. Hurrah! Another Silicon Valley-based firm sees the talent in New York as a significant draw to establish a presence here! Another noteworthy element of the opening and event was VantagePoint's "party-favor." As opposed to handing out gift-bags with branded tchotchkes, the partners made personal donations to the Literacy Volunteers of America for its work within New York State.

Executive director of the New York State Teachers' Retirement System George M. Philip as well as his colleagues Joseph Vet and Thomas Rest were at the party and were enthusiastic about their involvement with VantagePoint on this fund. NYSTRS is a limited partner in the $1.6 billion VantagePoint Venture Partners IV fund and the anchor limited partner in the new VantagePoint New York fund. Several of the journalists like AlleyCat News Anna Wheatley there held considerable interest in talking with them and the VantagePoint partners. Other guests that came to celebrate with the partners were Sanders Morris Harris managing director Humbert Powell III, Besemer Venture Partners' Christopher Chesney, Brobeck Phleger & Harrison Brian Margolis, Pillsbury & Winthrop's Emily Campbell and Lori Hoberman and White & Case's Neal Grenley.

I chatted for a bit with PriceWaterhouseCoopers' Technology/VC partner Murray Alter, Primary Knowledge's Peter Adams and Ted Schlissel and Primedia Ventures' Larry Phillips. Sumptuous hors d'oeuvres like caviar purses and eggplant on risotto passed by and were sampled by guests as the fine wines (chosen by the partners from their extensive wine knowledge) were sipped. The Daily Deal's Kim Jacobs and Institutional Investor Kellie Carey and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter executive director John Fildes mixed and mingled and I had a delightful conversation with Starweaver's managing partner Paul Siegel and managing director Frederick Schlosser and lawyer David Cohen.

Private Equity Week associate editor Robyn Kurdek was a hit with not only her inquisitive questions but with her creative fashion statement. It was a unique break from the sea of Hermes ties and dark blue suits. With over 100 guests filling up the elegant offices and rooms, the party's buzz carried through till the tail end. And even afterwards, when the partners celebrated the end of yet another successful day with a bit more champagne, there was a buzz in the air and joy at future opportunities.