People Briefs, April 2011

Secondary Investor Millennium Revs Up with Ferrara

Millennium Technology Value Partners is betting that 2011 will be a banner year for secondary trading in private technology companies. To gear up, the firm raised a $284 million second fund last year and, most recently, bolstered its investment team by hiring Alex Ferrara away from Bessemer Venture Partners.

During his six years at Bessemer, Ferrara worked on such high-profile investments as Pure Networks (maker of the Flip video camera and acquired by Cisco Systems in 2008 for $120 million) and VoIP provider Skype (bought by eBay bought in 2005 for $2.6 billion).

Ferrara, who was a partner in Bessemer’s New York-based office, also served as a director for such companies as ecommerce site Shopify and advertising startup Yodle.

Though he has primarily focused on traditional VC investing, Ferrara says he noticed an increasing desire among founders and investors for liquidity through secondary transactions, especially as the average timeline for a startup to achieve an exit through IPO or acquisition grows.

“When I started in venture capital, ‘secondaries’ was something of a dirty word. People just were not that excited about them,” Ferrara says. “But over time we are seeing more and more secondary capital, and more opportunity.”

New York-based Millennium invests a mix of growth equity and venture debt, but its most recent fund is focused solely on providing alternative liquidity to the shareholders of venture-backed companies. With that strategy, Millennium has already built a portfolio of Internet superstars, including Twitter and Facebook.

In the past seven months, the firm has also seen a slew of public offerings from portfolio companies, including Green Dot, NetSpend and RigNet.

In his new role, Ferrara will stick to a familiar mix of financial services software and digital technology investments. And he is optimistic that a growing number of opportunities will come from successful, mid-sized companies.

“There’s an opportunity [to invest] in smaller transactions and in smaller companies with high-quality management teams,” he tells VCJ. “It doesn’t have to be companies raising a billion dollars.”

Canaan Adds to Indian Team

Canaan Partners has named Rahul Khanna managing director of Canaan India. He will lead investments in early stage, India-based tech companies in the consumer Internet, mobile, software and managed services industries. Previously, Khanna was a founding director of Mumbai-based Clearstone Venture Advisors, the India advisory practice of Clearstone Venture Partners.

Split Rock Hires EIRDaniel Ryan has joined Minneapolis-based Split Rock Partners as an entrepreneur-in-residence. Ryan worked previously as executive vice president and general manager of the network security unit at McAfee. He joined McAfee after the security giant bought Secure Computing, where Ryan was president and CEO. In the new role, Ryan will look at opportunities in enterprise security and cloud services.

Silicon Valley Bank Ventures into the Midwest

Silicon Valley Bank has hired John Hoesley to run its venture capital and private equity services group in the Midwest. Based in Chicago, Hoesley will work to build relationships with venture and private equity firms across the region. For the last 10 years, Hoesley was at Prism Capital in Chicago, where he was a partner, and launched the firm’s health care initiative.

Edison Powers Up with SklarinChris Sklarin has joined Edison Ventures as an investment manager, focusing on mobile, health care IT and ecommerce deals in Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Sklarin is also director of business development with BioEnterprise, a Cleveland-based venture accelerator. Prior to BioEnterprise, he was director of business development at Chrysalis Ventures.

Atlas Promotes Mahadevia

Cambridge, Mass.-based Atlas Venture promoted Ankit Mahadevia to principal. Mahadevia joined in 2008 and worked most recently on Atlas Venture Development Corp., an effort by the firm to develop early stage drugs from pharmaceutical companies. Mahadevia, who has earned a medical degree and MBA, is part of the firm’s life sciences team, focusing on biotech and medtech.