Scouting for LPs at 30,000 Feet
Like the main character in the new Tom Hanks movie, The Terminal, Joseph Tzeng spends a lot of down time in airport lobbies. But he knows how to put his flying time to good use.
Tzeng, managing director and co-founder of Crystal Ventures, has been flying a lot between Asia and Silicon Valley during the last few months, raising a third fund. During a stopover in Taiwan last month, he called to say how he found a new LP. Recently, he was taking a U.S.-bound flight from Taipei and wanted nothing more than to relax, read books and listen to his MP3 player. However, a business associate who happened to be on the same flight spotted the VC, tapped him on the shoulder, said, “Hello,” and brought him over to meet some people. When all was said and done, Tzeng didn’t get to listen to too much music during that flight.
But one of the people he met-who represents a large, Taipei-based manufacturer of consumer electronics-invited Tzeng to return to Taiwan. Tzeng flew back and signed up the LP for a $10 million commitment for Fund III. Tzeng expects to have a first close of around $40 million on the fund in July. The fund is targeted between $100 million and $120 million.
Tzeng says he’d rather meet the actress Heather Locklear on a flight, but he’s happy to have found an LP. “A few more flights like that, and this fund will be closed,” he says.
He (Still) Got Game
Former Duke basketball forward Mark Alarie was easy to spot at the Mid Atlantic Venture Association conference last month. The 6-foot-8-inch Wharton grad literally stands above the other investors.
The 40-year-old is now a principal with Arlington, Va.-based CrossHill Financial Group, which provides bridge loans to fund early-stage tech companies. Unlike fellow Duke teammates Johnny Dawkins and Tommy Amaker, who are both coaches, and Jay Bilas, an ESPN analyst, Alarie appears to be more than happy outside of sports.
Having worked previously at places like Alex Brown and Legg Mason, Alarie says it was his lifelong dream to succeed as a financier and an entrepreneur. And despite three knee surgeries, which hastened the decline of his NBA career after six seasons, he appears to be in good enough shape to get up and down the court if he wants to. Game, anyone?
Da Vinci Mania
Dan Burstein, founder and managing partner of Millennium Technology Ventures, has found himself atop of the New York Times bestseller list. And it has nothing to do with being a VC. Burstein entered the non-fiction hardcover best seller’s list on May 30 in 9th place with Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind the Da Vinci Code.
The 400-page tome is the latest in a series of books about the popular Dan Brown novel, The Da Vinci Code. In it, Burstein compiles essays and interviews with scholars to explore the mysteries that inspired the novel. “I assume there are a lot of other readers out there like myself who want to know what is fact and what is fiction in The Da Vinci Code,” Burstein says.
Roger & Me
The next time you get a chance to see Roger McNamee and his band, the Flying Other Brothers (FOB), don’t pass up the opportunity. U2’s Bono just might sit in on the gig. Bono’s “people” confirmed in June that he had joined a $1 billion private equity fund being formed by McNamee and five others called Elevation Partners. (“Elevation” is the name of a song on U2’s last album and the band’s last tour.) The fund is still being raised, so the principals are keeping mum. And so we’re left to speculate on matters of much more import, like whether Bono might one day sit in with FOB, which started out as a Grateful Dead cover band. Hey, if Bono can become a PE investor, nothing’s out of the question.
Follow the Silk Road
After 19 years of scouting for deals and sitting in board meetings, Tom McConnell is finally going to take a break. McConnell, who for nearly the last two decades has been a general partner at New Enterprise Associates (NEA), is planning to take his family to China, Mongolia and Tibet later this summer. The month-long vacation will have the McConnells following the Silk Road, the same route that Marco Polo took on his Asian travels in the 13th century.
McConnell won’t have much time to sort through slides when he returns. Even though he isn’t part of NEA’s new $1 billion fund, he has already begun work as a GP of seed- and early stage investor Vanguard Ventures. At Vanguard, McConnell will oversee medical device deals. In other words, he expects to be busy. “I’m going to enjoy the trip to China, since I may not take another one again anytime soon,” he says.