The Creation and Evolution of a Strategic VC
By David Goldberg, an investor at Corigin Ventures, a New York-based early stage Venture Capital firm that focuses on Seed and Series A consumer startups.
Up to this point, I’ve treated Corigin Ventures as a startup. In June 2014, Ryan Freedman and I had a vision, a hypotheses around building a successful value-add venture firm from scratch, and spent the next 18 months building, learning, testing, and adapting. Like any startup, we’ve made mistakes, and have had our ups and downs (fortunately many more ups!). We’ve been careful not to pigeonhole ourselves with a brand and outward-facing message, as it was ever-evolving. While it’s still a continuous process and feedback loop, we are confident we have found our own ‘product/market fit’. What follows here is a transparent look inside Corigin Ventures, including our core values and processes. Given one of those values is transparency, we’ve redesigned our website to provide this information to the public – hopefully other investors and founders, along with the rest of the amazing people that make up the startup ecosystem, will understand who we are, what we do, and why/how we do it.
A LITTLE HISTORY
To understand Corigin Ventures, it helps to understand its ‘backer,’ Corigin, a NYC-based, privately held real estate developer, owner, and operator, led by Ryan Freedman, its Chairman & Chief Executive Officer. The Company’s platforms span development, multi-family rental apartments, student housing, property management and lending. Each platform operates under a culture based on innovation and excellence focused on delivering the highest standards within their respective asset classes.
Always a forward-thinking CEO, and appreciator of technology and its impact on businesses, Ryan dipped his toes in early-stage venture investing. Leveraging his own experience as an operator and company-builder, as well as the cross-industry relationships he built throughout the years, his early ‘portfolio’ looked strong: Lending Club (IPO’d 2014) , Compass, Zeel, Wheels Up, Zopa, Kashable, and Singularity University.
CORIGIN VENTURES 1.0
I came on as Director of the venture group (then called CPEG Ventures) in June 2014, and while I hit the ground running making investments and helping portfolio companies, a fair amount of my bandwith went to thinking bigger about our firm, the vision, and strategy to execute. I spent countless hours researching successful VC firms and best practices, and speaking to countless mentors who have been in this game way longer than I have (I’ve especially enjoyed reading posts from Mark Suster, Semil Shah, and Rob Go). The first decision was to better understand our mission, given our unique dynamic as what many would call a corporate VC. We realized it was best to keep the venture business somewhat separate (its own full-time employees, with a focus solely on bottom-line returns), but to leverage the resources, expertise, and network of the ‘other side of the business.’ We also realized quickly that we needed to narrow our focus, both in company stage and sector. We couldn’t be experts in everything, and it would be impossible to be top-of-mind with founders and other investors if we were a jack-of-all-trades, but master-of-none.
So we re-branded as Corigin Ventures, and focused on Seed investments, dealing mostly with consumer companies. We spent the next 18 months making a name for ourselves in the industry, building out an exceptional team, and learning by doing (read about my first 18 investments, and how they were sourced, here). Overall, it has been a success, and like a true startup, it’s time to take this to the next level.
CORIGIN VENTURES 2.0
As of today, our portfolio consists of 28 companies. Though there is an obvious concentration in New York, investments span San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and Israel. Sectors include on-demand services, real estate technology, marketplaces, IoT, CPG, fintech, wellness, retail innovation, and more. I’m most proud of the amazing network of founders that we’ve been fortunate enough to partner with, and the progress we’ve witnessed first-hand. Many of our companies have raised follow-on funding, and we’ve co-invested alongside amazing firms: Arena Ventures, Bowery Capital, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Canvas Ventures, Corcoran Venture Partners, Expansion Venture Capital, Founder Collective, Galvanize, Grace Beauty Capital, FinTech Collective, First Round, ForeRunner, Khosla Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Lightbank, Lux Capital, Mayfield Fund, NAV, Primary Venture Partners, Partech, Prolog, QueensBridge, Sherpa Capital, Slow Ventures, Techstars, Thrive, Tribeca Venture Partners, Vast Ventures, 645 Ventures, and more!
We now have the data, and the time, to properly reflect on the past, and to refine for the future. What follows is an overview of our learnings, insights, and strategies moving forward. Some of these may be obvious, and relevant to VC in general, and some are specific to us.
Stage: We can’t do it all, and we’re not the right fit for every founder. I meet amazing people every day, who are tackling problems and opportunities in almost every sector imaginable, but we need to stick to what we know well. This helps us gauge deals better, and provide meaningful value post-investment. So moving forward, Corigin Ventures will be focusing mostly on true Seed investments, with a bit of Pre-Seed and Series A.
Check Sizes: while we’ll still be writing $100k-$500k first checks, we’ve honed in on the variables that factor into this, including our potential value-add. Our time spent on a company should be correlated to that investment, so it only makes sense to spend time on the companies where that time is most effective.
#FundProblems – There are real advantages to being free of LPs and a fund. It helps us act quicker and be more flexible, as well as align ourselves completely with founders. (more on this topic to come, including the disadvantages)
People are everything in this business. Our team, our founders, their teams, and our collective networks, are the baseline for everything we do. It is an asset that can differentiate a VC firm, and needs to be cultivated over time.
Real Estate touches everything – While we’ve now made only 3 investments that are truly RE Tech, we have been able to leverage our multi-family and retail portfolio to move the needle for a variety of companies. Access to physical (and digital) mailboxes, pop-ups, permanent physical space, not to mention the cross-industry relationships that are involved with real estate. One of our goals for 2016 is to make this type of value-add more of a turnkey operation, as opposed to creative one-offs.
The values that drive us: Transparency, Authenticity, Collaboration, Curiosity, Integrity. If you’re not on-board with those, we’re not the right fit.
Please visit the newly designed website (www.CoriginVentures.com) to get the complete picture and vision. We welcome any and all feedback, positive and negative. And as always, if our story resonates with you, please don’t hesitate to reach out directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Goldberg is an investor at Corigin Ventures, a New York-based early stage Venture Capital firm that focuses on Seed and Series A consumer startups. David sourced and led investments in Perch Interactive (Board Seat), Transfix, Poshly, Legal Funding Central, Chicory, Fitmob (acquired by ClassPass), Aloha, DeepLink, Vixxenn, Stylisted, SherpaShare, Brad's Raw Foods, VNTANA, and Latch.