Steve Nash Drives Into Venture Capital

Each summer, advertising firm Deutsch Inc. has dozens of interns scurrying around its Manhattan offices. Most are in their early 20s, unpaid and (so far) relatively unaccomplished. But two years ago, the group also included a 34 year-old whose bank account would dwarf that of firm boss Donny Deutsch.

That intern was Steve Nash, the future basketball Hall of Famer who still slings passes for the Phoenix Suns. His boss that summer was Mike Duda, Deutsch’s chief strategy officer (and occasional peHUB contributor). The pair kept in touch after the internship ended — including work on an annual charity event — and late last year began discussing the creation of a new type of firm: One that would meld brand consulting with venture capital.

The result is Consigliere, a New York-based group that has been meeting with potential investors and partners for the past several months (it also was the answer to a recent blind item).

“There are a lot of guys who finish playing and then have no idea what to do with themselves,” Nash told me during a recent phone call. “I’m not done yet but, when I am, I do not want to become one of them.”

Consigliere plans to invest in seed-stage, consumer-oriented companies with “scalable, large-growth brand potential.” It also will do select Series A and Series B deals, and occasionally sign on as a strategic partner (i.e., the consulting piece) for larger transactions. Those latter deals are designed, in part, to help forge partnerships with large brands that can help out Consigliere’s younger investments.

Here is how the firm explains its strategy, from some marketing materials:

We will invest in consumer sectors such as ecommerce, sports, durables and performance categories. Our marketing consultancy prowess can exist in tandem with investments or as stand-alone engagements derived from relationships with innovation-seeking established brands or financial institutions who might purchase them. In essence, our marketing consultancy provides us with a “sharper blade” approach in making more knowledgeable investments with the fund.

“A lot of VC firms are extremely good at identifying the next great technology or entrepreneur, but don’t necessarily have great networks when it comes to building brand for consumer-focused startups,” Duda explains. “That’s what we’re offering, and really plan to be a partner to the VC community rather than just a new competitor.”

Duda is slowly transitioning out of Deutsche, but on very amicable terms. We hear that a lot, but there seems to be some actual evidence in this case: Donny Deutsch is among the expected investors in Consigliere’s debut fund, which is targeted at $20 million.