SAN FRANCISCO – Venture catalyst Greg Stikeleather became a managing director at Sofinnova Inc. in November, joining the firm on the road to help raise Sofinnova V.
Stikeleather has an information-technology background and will work on information technology deals for the venture firm with Managing directors Alain Azan and Robert Carr.
Carr and Stikeleather have known each other since the early 1980s, having worked at several companies together, including Forefront Technologies Corp. Inc., a software company that was sold to Ashton-Tate.
Stikeleather, who has a degree in experimental psychology, began his career working on user-interface design at Apple Computer Inc. and later switched into more of a marketing role. He was an “evangelist” for GO! Corp., a hand-held computer company, where Carr also worked.
Stikeleather started his own company aha! Software Inc. in 1991, and he sold it to Microsoft Corp. in 1996. He then joined Portola Communications Inc. as chief executive. Netscape Communications Inc. bought Portola in 1997 and since its sale, Stikeleather has worked as a venture catalyst at Conductive Ventures, helping very young companies get organized and funded. Indeed, he brought two companies to Sofinnova that the firm funded: EMusic.com Inc., an online MP3 music seller, and eStar Inc., a Web content-community-commerce site concentrating on celebrities from the film, television, music and athletics worlds. Stikeleather also served as a consultant to Sofinnova portfolio company StockPower Inc., which automates direct stock-purchase programs. Stikeleather noted that he also is a limited partner in Sofinnova IV, a $72.7 million fund that wrapped in 1998.
Sofinnova, an early-stage IT and life sciences firm, was in the market for a managing director several months ago when Mike Powell, Sofinnova’s life sciences-oriented managing director, suggested the firm consider bringing Stikeleather on board. Powell had watched Stikeleather work with the firm’s IT companies and develop a good reputation, which led to the suggestion, Carr said.
Stikeleather said he was interested in joining Sofinnova for several reasons, one being his long-standing personal and professional relationship with Carr. Stikeleather also likes that the firm is small – four managing directors, including him – because it makes the group more nimble, which is a competitive advantage. “You don’t have to write an investment memorandum and run it past the East Coast office.”
He will help the firm find deals, he said, noting that he and Carr were good at “tag-teaming.”
Carr expressed similar thoughts, noting that while he has a technical IT background, Stikeleather has complementary skills in high-tech marketing.
The firm launched Sofinnova V with a $150 million target last fall (VCJ, November 1999, page 28). The vehicle will make investments of about $5 million each, and about four-fifths of the capital will go toward IT companies. The remaining 20% will go into life sciences enterprises.