Zone Names Sankey Partner, Raises Fund –

LOS ANGELES – Zone Ventures late last summer promoted Associate Darius Sankey to partner as the firm prepared to wrap its second fund in early November.

Zone hired Sankey, who had worked as an adviser to companies seeking venture capital, in February. He previously held positions at information-technology companies including Portland Software, AT&T Solutions and AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Attraction to the Field

Sankey said he was drawn to venture capital because it gave him the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and not focus only on one industry sector. At Zone, he pursues investments in a number of technology sectors, including optical communication networks, broadband services, data storage and management and wireless communication. “He’s just a star; he’s going to be huge,” said Managing Director Frank Creer, referring to Sankey.

Sankey will continue to source deals and help with fund raising, and his role at Zone is not expected to change much with his new title. The new title will make it easier for Sankey to do his job, as entrepreneurs and other VCs will know Sankey has some authority within the firm regarding investment decisions and other matters.

Zone, which backs seed-stage IT companies in Southern California, at press time had about halfway completed raising Zone Ventures II, which targets $75 million to $100 million. The vehicle reached a second close on $32 million at the end of August, Sankey said.

Zone is affiliated with Redwood City, Calif.’s Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and the venture firm’s Tim Draper is a managing director at Zone, along with Creer. David Cremin and Sankey are partners. Sankey said the firm might hire an associate once the fund wraps.

The firm typically invests about $1 million in a first round of financing, but can pour some $5 million to $10 million in a company over time. Because of its seed-stage focus, Sankey views incubators rather than Southern California venture firms as Zone’s primary competitors.

Zone I, a $25 million vehicle, is almost fully invested, except for reserves, Sankey said. That vehicle was an economic development fund whose focus was to bring companies into downtown Los Angeles. Although the second vehicle will not be an economic development fund, Sankey still thought the firm would bring very early-stage operations to downtown L.A., where rents are often one-third to one-half the cost of trendier technology pockets such as Santa Monica, he explained.