Exclusive: Venture firm ATV slims down

June 10, 2011, 7:53 PM UTC

The venture capital shakeout continues.

Advanced Technology Ventures, an early-stage investment firm founded more than 30 years ago, is slimming down. The bi-coastal shop has basically let go of its entire investment staff below the general partner level, including principals Christian Cortis and Andrew Friendly. Its four venture partners vice presidents left at the end of last year.

Cortis joined ATV in 2006 to focus on healthcare investments, after having served as senior director for oncology drug developer Gemin X Biotechnologies. His ATV deals include Apoptos (drug dev using G protein-coupled receptor tech) and Hydra Biosciences (drug dev using ion channels).

Friendly is a onetime aide to President Clinton who joined ATV’s Boston-area office in 2007 to focus on cleantech investments. He previously had been a West Coast director with Idealab. Investments include AltaRock Energy (geothermal), Rive Technology (catalyst tech for petroleum refining), Solar Junction (tech for concentrated photovoltaic industry) and Oasys Water (platform for reducing cost in the production of clean water).

No word yet on where either Cortis or Friendly are headed, although a source tells me that both have (at least tentative) plans.

ATV last raised a new fund in 2007, when it secured $300 million for ATV VIII. According to data from UTIMCO, its prior fund was sporting a meager IRR of 1.14% through the end of February. No word yet on if formal marketing for ATV VIII has begun but, judging by the personnel moves, hopes can’t be high for a quick raise.

UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Mike Carusi, an ATV general partner who focuses on healthcare out of the firm’s Palo Alto office. He made four primary points:

  1. ATV concluded that it wanted partners leading deals, rather than lower-level investment staff. It also decided that it didn’t want or need more than six partners for a $300 million fund. For the vice presidents, that meant cycling them over after a 12-18 month period. Once has since landed at portfolio company X+1, while two others have taken corporate VC jobs.
  2. Carusi said that healthcare VC is so soft right now that he and fellow partner Jean George “can see just about any potential deal we want to.” As such, the firm didn’t really need a healthcare-focused principal like Cortis. There are plans, however, to hire additional operating/venture partners going forward.
  3. Despite rumors to the contrary, ATV will continue making new cleantech investments. But they will be done by partner Bill Wiberg.
  4. Carusi did acknowledge that cost-cutting played a supporting role in the moves. He added that ATV VIII is just under 60% committed, which means the plan would be to begin raising a successor fund of similar size in the next 12 to 18 months.