Bridgescale beats target for inaugural effort

Bridgescale Capital Partners, an expansion stage venture firm co-founded by Managing Partners Robert Chaplinsky and Matthew Cowan, has raised $160 million for its first fund, beating its $150 million target.

Bridgescale joins a number of first-timers who have launched firms or have closed their inaugural funds within the last year, such as Maven Venture Partners, Ridgelift Ventures and Spark Capital. In the past four years, roughly 30% of U.S. funds that have come to market have been inaugural funds, according to Thomson Financial (publisher of VCJ). And more than half of the funds that raised money last year were, like Bridgescale, under $200 million in size.

Bridgescale, based in Menlo Park, Calif., focuses on mid- to late-stage technology deals, but it may also consider some earlier stage opportunities with similar risk profiles. For example, certain Web 2.0 companies operating with capital efficient business models may interest the firm.

Bridgescale currently has four companies in its portfolio, including one that remains unannounced. The firm has backed communications chip company Cortina Systems, mobile game maker Digital Chocolate and messaging security company ProofPoint.

In addition to Chaplinksy (previously with Mohr Davidow Ventures) and Cowan (formerly with BayStar Capital), the Bridgescale team includes Principal John DeLoche (formerly with Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse), Associate Lak Anath (formerly with 3i Group), and Venture Partner James Joaquin.

Together at last

Joaquin and Cowan met in 1999, when Joaquin was with When.com and Cowan was looking to invest in When.com on behalf of Bowman Capital. The deal fell apart when Joaquin and his team opted for an acquisition offer from AOL, but the two crossed paths again last year when Joaquin was CEO of Xoom Inc. and Cowan was in his new role at Bridgescale Partners. But again no deal, because Xoom was a bit too early in its revenue stage for a later-stage shop like Bridgescale.

Rather than hoping the third time is a charm, Joaquin has switched sides of the table. “I think it took Matthew a while to forgive me for turning down that term sheet while I was with When,” jokes Joaquin. “Yeah,” says Cowan. “Eight years.”

Cowan says Joaquin will give Bridgescale more credibility among entrepreneurs and will augment the firm’s post-deal operational expertise. In addition to co-founding When.com and running Xoom, Joaquin is a former Mac-based programmer who co-founded Clearview Software (later acquired by Apple). He is also the former president and CEO of Ofoto (acquired by Eastman Kodak).

Joaquin says that he has been considering a move to venture capital for a while and has participated in some angel deals. “I love working with entrepreneurs, and wanted to find a team where I really fit,” he explains. —Dan PrimackAlexander Haislip contributed to this story.