MENLO PARK, Calif. – Nokia Venture Partners (NVP) recently announced the hiring of John Zeisler, a former general partner at InterWest Partners and successful technology executive, as the firm’s sixth general partner. The firm had been looking to add another partner to ramp-up its management capabilities in order to keep up with its growing capital under management, said John Malloy, managing partner. In December, the firm closed on its second fund, the $500 million NVP II, he added.
Nokia, which focuses on early-stage, mobile Internet companies, added Zeisler to its team because the firm was impressed with his varied background and experiences, Malloy said. “He has great operational experience, a Silicon Valley background and experience as a venture capitalist,” he added. It also helped that Malloy and Zeisler, who has been working as independent venture investor and advisor to venture funds over the last three years, had sat together on the board of Nokia portfolio company eVoice Inc., Malloy said. “We found that we were both similar people and that he fit the way we work, plus he brings a whole new set of contacts and his own network of relationships with him,” he added.
Zeisler decided to join NVP because he believes the opportunities in the mobile Internet market over the next 10 years should be tremendous, and that if he had remained a private venture investor he would not have had the clout or deal flow to really participate in this market. The fact that Nokia turned out not to be a corporate fund, but a traditionally structured venture firm with outside limited partners and traditional partner economics also appealed to him, Zeisler said. Founded in 1998 with mobile communications giant Nokia Corp. as its sole LP, NVP opened itself up to investment from other LPs for its sophomore fund, Malloy explained. While Nokia Corp. remained the firm’s single largest LP in Fund II, other investors participating in the vehicle include Goldman Sachs Group Inc., cdb web tech SpA and BMC Software Inc., he noted.
The firm retains great contacts in Nokia Corp., Malloy said. “We still share our views with each other about where the mobile Internet is today and where it might go,” he said, adding “and we can still give our portfolio companies access to Nokia.” However, NVP does not do this just for the sake of it, he said. “Without a plan this is not worth a whole lot. We want to bring value to our portfolio companies and we do whatever it takes [to accomplish that],” he added.
Zeisler’s responsibilities will include the regular run of tasks – sourcing deals, leading investments, sitting on boards – for a partner level professional at a VC firm, Malloy said. “Entrepreneurs should find my background consistent with what they need: Someone who knows how to build companies, particularly in emerging markets,” Zeisler added.
Prior to his time as an individual investor focusing on telephony, wireless and infrastructure deals, Zeisler spent two years at InterWest Partners, where he helped invest the firm’s $175 million sixth fund. He focused on software and services deals. Zeisler left the firm to strike out on his own when InterWest changed its investment strategy to de-emphasize software and services, he said. “I wasn’t going to add much value to their medical technology deals or retailing opportunities,” he said, adding “I enjoyed pure-play investments in one area.”
Zeisler got his start in Silicon Valley at Apple Computer Inc. in 1980, where he worked in a variety of roles at the company. When he left in 1987, he was director of marketing for the company’s Macintosh computers. After Apple, he co-founded and was vice president of marketing at Claris Corp., a software company that spun-out of his previous employer. In 1991, he joined Pensoft Corp., one of the first mobile communications companies, where he was chairman and chief executive officer until 1994. In 1995, he joined Netcom Online Communications Services Inc., at that time the largest Internet service provider in the country according to Zeisler, as a senior vice president of marketing.
To date, NVP II has done 10 deals for approximately $45 million, Malloy said. Ultimately, the vehicle should back about 40 companies with initial investments ranging between $4 million and $6 million, he said. Follow-on investing should push the average deal size up to $12 million, he added. The firm’s $150 million debut vehicle is now fully committed to 19 companies.