Jim McCann, who made his fortune with 1-800-Flowers, seeks innovation through family office

• Why this is important: Clarim believes services for the affluent are a viable investment.

• Previous Deals: Has backed RRE Ventures, Compound VC and Insight Ventures, among others.

In the 1980s, Jim McCann made his fortune when he took his small floral business and branded it on a national level as 1-800-Flowers, making it one of the first companies to integrate an 800 number into its identity.

“If we weren’t out front on things and thinking two or three steps ahead, we would eventually have been left behind,” McCann told VCJ affiliate publication Active LPs.

After handing day-to-day operations of that company over to his brother Chris a few years ago, McCann has focused on running the family office, Clarim Holdings LLC, as a vehicle through which to encourage more innovation.

“While Chris and I built [1-800-Flowers], we’d often know about new technologies early on, and all we would do is say ‘How can we become a better floral and gift company?,’” McCann recalled. “The one thing we were guilty of is not saying ‘Hey, this is a great technology, let’s invest in it.’”

McCann has also found himself in many conversations about how to maintain family wealth in the long run, including staffing a family office, developing the next generation of talent within a family and how to handle philanthropy. Through Clarim (the name comes from a combination of his parents’ names, Jim and Claire), he works to address those concerns.

“We thought with Clarim we’d have two pieces, one is the investment side, the second is standing up businesses that would begin to professionalize the answers to those questions,” McCann said.

On the investment side, Clarim does both direct investments and funds, with more money being devoted to funds up until now but more direct investments on the horizon.

“We don’t have the infrastructure to be very strong in direct investment, [so] those will be the exceptions rather than the rule,” McCann said.

Skylark Travel, a recent Clarim direct investment, caters to affluent travelers, specifically what McCann dubbed “the next generation of affluent travelers that think online first.”

Clarim prefers funds where they know the principals. Previous investments include RRE Ventures, Compound VC, Insight Ventures and Tiger Global Management.

But Clarim also operates as a holding company, billing itself on its website as “a family of companies serving today’s leaders.” Its operating companies include Worth magazine, now called Worth Media, which focuses on affluent people throughout the world; Techonomy, a technology conference company; and Copperfield Advisory, a marketing, communications and strategy consulting firm.

When asked about the focus on services for the affluent, McCann points to Clarim’s growing team, including managing partner Paul Stamoulis and recent recruit Steve Roberts, a managing partner at SR Capital Advisers who joined Clarim in January to manage its private investments.

McCann sums it all up as “fun, interesting, exciting investments built around key people that we think really could do even bigger and better things if they had the opportunity.”

Clarim also gives McCann the opportunity to get younger family members involved. McCann has one son working in private equity, another running a startup within 1-800-Flowers and a son-in-law who is a banker.

“It just gives us great satisfaction to have the next generation really feel that they can wade in,” McCann said. “It also gives us the opportunity to lever a broader sense of knowledge that exists in the family.”

McCann also expressed interest in co-investing with other family offices.

“It’s more and more becoming apparent to us that those opportunities are real and distinct,” he said.

Action item: reach out to Jim McCann at jmccann@1800flowers.com or Paul Stamoulis at paul.stamoulis@clarim.com.