Venrock builds media team with latest fund

Flush with $600 million and three strategic hires for its fifth fund, Venrock will make a bigger push into digital media.

The firm’s new additions include:

  • General Partner David Siminoff, who made a mint in Web 1.0 with early investments in AOL, Amazon, eBay and Yahoo and most recently was CEO of Spark Networks, a provider of on-line personal services such as JDate. “We’ve been wanting to do media for a while, but didn’t have the right DNA until David came on board,” says Ray Rothrock, one of Venrock’s three managing general partners.
  • Partner Rich Moran,a longtime Silicon Valley business consultant and author of five best selling books, including “Nuts, Bolts and Jolts.”
  • And Vice President David Beisel, who is best known for his “Genuine VC” blog. Beisel previously spent several years with Masthead Venture Partners. He says most of his deal sourcing will be on the East Coast, with a particular focus on the greater Boston area. “Boston is a historic technology hub, but you need to inject media into it, whereas New York is almost the exact opposite,” he says. “Both areas have some work to do, obviously, but I think there are great opportunities here, particularly in Cambridge.”

The additions to the investment team will allow longtime Managing General Partner Tony Evnin to reduce his role. Evnin, who has the title of GP in the new fund, will remain active with Venrock and his portfolio of 11 companies, but he does not plan to do new deals, Rothrock says.

Besides digital media deals, Venrock expects to boost its number of energy-related investments with fund V. Rothrock and Matt Trevithick, who was promoted from associate to partner, will head up the firm’s energy practice.

Venrock considers New York to be its U.S. headquarters, but nearly half of its investments are in California. A little more than 6% of the money from its previous funds has gone to New York-based startups, according to Thomson Financial (publisher of VCJ). In addition to Cambridge, the firm has an office in Herzelya Pituach, Israel.

Venrock is among the most active investors in the industry, having invested nearly $34 million in 14 deals in the first three months of this year, according to Thomson. Venrock was the 12th most active VC firm nationwide last year, having invested about $130 million in 45 companies.

Nine of Venrock’s portfolio companies were acquired last year, while one, Trubion Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: TRBN), went public, according to Thomson. Porfolio company Infinera Corp. filed registration papers in March for a $150 million IPO.

Venrock branched out from the Rockefeller family in 1995 when it started taking third-party capital. Its raised $550 million in 2003 for its fourth fund and $650 million in 2000 for its third.

Limited partners in previous Venrock funds include FLAG Venture Partners, Harvard Management Co., Princeton University Investment Co., Montagu Newhall Associates and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, according to research firm CapitalIQ. —Dan Primack and Alexander Haislip