It’s easy for venture firms to succumb to the temptation to creep up-market. The bigger the fund, the greater the fees, after all. The ones that choose to stay small like to preach the gospel of discipline. They could have gone bigger, you see, but they chose not to because small is good.
Small has been good to one such firm, ff Venture Capital. Since its creation in 2008, the company has invested in 85 companies. Around a dozen have been write-downs and around a dozen, including Cornerstone, Klout and Infochimps, have exited. Now on its third fund, a $52 million vehicle, the New York-based firm boasts returns higher than 30% IRR.
The firm offers a full-service model, recruiting, PR, office space, a mentor network, and fundraising services from 20 full-time staff. The model is similar to that of larger full-service firms like Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, First Round Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.
Today ffVC announces a big expansion to those offerings: The firm has added two new partners to its lineup, giving it a total of five partners. Adam Plotkin, who previously served as Entrepreneur-in-Residence, and Michael Faber, who was a general partner at NextPoint VC for nearly two decades, will join the firm.
ffVC adds 17 to 18 new companies per year. In order to better support its portfolio companies, the firm has done away with the convention of Monday morning partner meetings. “People are calling us and now we can focus on having open office hours for them, rather than locking ourselves in a room for five hours,” partner John Frankel says.
The move comes at a time when venture investing, particularly at the very early and very late stages, is incredibly competitive, and venture returns are increasingly poor. Some firms have admitted that they’re paying higher valuations for good companies, accepting they’re sacrificing returns in the process. Others are competing by going even earlier, even identifying founders before they become founders.
But many are boosting their image as founder-friendly by offering more and more services for their portfolio companies. (Indeed, the “ff” in ffVC stands for “founder friendly.”) Last week, when Felicis Ventures announced its latest fund, the firm stated it would forgo its right to vote against the founders in its portfolio in any business matter. The New York Times declared the move evidence that venture capitalists were “coddling entrepreneurs as royalty.”
ffVC’s founder-friendly approach resonated with Faber. “I think [John Frankel] is the best-loved VC in the nation,” he says. “I’ve known a lot of VCs over the years and I hate most of them.”