More direct secondary funds arrive, including another one for Facebook

October 27, 2010, 9:46 PM UTC

A few weeks back, I wrote about an emerging class of funds that were designed to let investors buy up shares of private Internet wunderkids like Facebook and Twitter.

Today there are reports of two more such efforts.

The first is called BrownSavano, a Baltimore-based firm formed as a joint venture between Brown Advisory (successor to Alex. Brown & Sons) and direct secondaries firm SmithDefieux Capital Partners. An SEC filing indicates that the group is raising $100 million for its debut fund, which VentureWire reports will acquire shares in a “a broad range of companies.” So far it already has banked just over $20 million.

The other comes from Atlanta-based brokerage J.P. Turner & Co., which Private Equity Insider reports is raising $25 million to buy up shares in Facebook. This is similar to Facebook-specific funds from New York-based Felix Investments. Both firms promise access to Facebook shares, but neither claim to have any non-public information on Facebook’s finances.

I have yet to see any data on how many such funds exist, nor on their performance. But I think it’s fair to draw two symbiotic conclusions:

1. The direct secondaries market — established funds, new funds and online marketplaces — is allowing companies like Facebook to stay private longer. Were this five or six years ago, option-laden employees might have lit torches and headed for Casa de Zuck.

2. The direct secondaries market — particularly the newbies — is heavily reliant on a small number of private companies. Were Facebook, LinkedIn, Zynga and Twitter to go public tomorrow (or be acquired), there would be a massive shakeout. In fact, it’s safe to say that well over half of the new direct secondaries business can be tied to fewer than one dozen companies.