Former Hummer Winblad team relaunches as Aspenwood

The San Francisco firm, more recently known as HWVP, says it closed on a $70m fund and will invest under a new brand: Aspenwood Ventures.

The 32-year-old San Francisco firm once known as Hummer Winblad Venture Partners has renamed itself Aspenwood Ventures and closed a new $70 million fund.

Leading the newly launched Aspenwood, which invests in early-stage software companies, are managing directors Lars Leckie and Steve Kishi. The two held similar roles at Hummer Winblad, which for the last six years went by the name HWVP. At Aspenwood, they are joined by other former HWVP employees, including chief financial officer Maria Mulcahy, investment associate Louis Van Hove and office manager Alicia Urizar.

Mitchell Kertzman, who was a managing director with HWVP, will not be involved in Aspenwood. Kertzman joined Hummer Winblad in 2003 after 30 years of running public and private companies as a chief executive. His LinkedIn profile states that he has retired from evaluating and leading new investments.  

HWVP filed to raise Fund VIII in May 2020, with a target of $75 million, according to its regulatory filing. There is no updated filing for Aspenwood, although the firm’s Twitter handle was changed last week and indicated that it had raised $70 million while rebranding. Kertzman was not listed on last year’s HWVP VIII filing and shortly after he told Venture Capital Journal he intended to spend more time traveling and visiting with his adult children.

Kertzman sits on the boards of AspireIQ, Blissfully, 6connect and Symbium, and is expected to continue managing those investments.

Leckie and others have not returned requests for comment.

The relaunch as Aspenwood comes about six years after the firm rebranded as HWVP. Shortly after that previous rebranding, it raised its seventh fund in 2016 at $80 million.

Fund VII was the firm’s first that did not list co-founders John Hummer and Ann Winblad as GPs.

The firm had been moving to smaller-focused funds for several years. Its sixth fund raised about $200 million in 2007 and Fund V raised $450 million in 2000, according to the database of affiliate title Private Equity International.

Founded by Hummer and Winblad in 1989, the firm was noteworthy for its investments and is considered the first venture firm to have focused solely on software. It also garnered attention for its GPs.

The six-foot-nine-inch Hummer was a basketball player who played six seasons in the NBA, before ending his career with the Seattle SuperSonics when he retired from the sport in 1976. He remains based in Seattle.

Winblad, one of the first female VCs, had been a consultant for such tech giants as Microsoft, Apple and IBM, and dated Bill Gates in the late 1980s. He was subsequently an LP in an early Hummer Winblad fund.

Most people in VC will recall Hummer Winblad for its investments from the dot-com era that did not turn out so well. One of these was eHow, which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2001. Another was Pets.com, a San Francisco ecommerce company for pet services and products that raised only one round of financing, but which grew quickly to about 300 employees and then folded in 2000 and became a poster child for the dot-com crash.

Hummer Winblad was also an investor in the peer-to-peer music file-sharing service Napster, which was involved in a controversial copyright infringement case. The venture firm led Napster’s $15 million fundraising round in 2000 and became embroiled in the start-up’s legal troubles. The firm agreed to a settlement years later after Napster had filed for bankruptcy.

However, the firm went on to invest in such companies as Five9, which went public in 2014; Marketo, which held an IPO in 2013; and Wind River, which TPG purchased in 2018.

In another success, Hummer Winblad led the Series A round for MuleSoft in 2006. The company went public in 2017 and was bought by Salesforce for $6.5 billion in 2018.

Update: The above story was updated to include a link to a post in VCJ last year in which Kertzman said he was not intending to be a part of the next fund.