Under-the-Radar Firm Aims to Stay That Way

Tom Barton says that his firm likes to go after early stage deals that are “Under the radar.” That description is an apt one for Barton’s firm, too.

Barton is one of two founding general partners of Broken Arrow Venture Capital, a venture firm based in Los Altos, Calif. (a few miles southwest of Sand Hill Road) that has so far invested in five companies, three of which are disclosed on Broken Arrow’s website.

One of those disclosed investments was announced last week when Broken Arrow revealed it took part in the $4.5 million Series A funding for Conveneer, a Swedish company with a Palo Alto, Calif., locale. Conveneer provides mobile technology so that users can access their cell phones from the Web. The company’s Mikz platform technology makes it easier to manage pictures and ringtones, among other content, that’s stored on cell phones.

As interesting as the technology is, I wanted to hear more about Broken Arrow, a firm I hadn’t come across and which is not in our VC database.

Barton and Broken Arrow co-founder Todd Ford were formerly CEO and president, respectively of Rackable Systems, a Milpitas, Calif.-based storage provider that went public in 2005.

A couple of years after Rackable went IPO, Barton and Ford set up Broken Arrow with their personal fortunes, though Barton admits they sometimes ask friends and family contribute to investments, too.

Barton says he expects the two-person VC firm to make one or two more investments this year.

I asked Barton what he was seeing in the market now and whether this was a good time to pursue early stage deals. He said that in addition to pursuing startups that may fall under the radar of most other VCs, Broken Arrow will only invest in companies that have some revenue or validation, such as Conveneer, which already has signed contracts with vendors.

“Absolutely we’ve seen a lot of VCs pull back and some firms are struggling,” Barton says. “But if we avoid risky investments, we should be fine.”