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Lightspeed preps next fund without key member

Leaving Lightspeed

Lightspeed Venture Partners plans to begin marketing its ninth fund later this year, but will be doing so without longtime managing director Eric O’Brien.

Multiple sources tell me that O’Brien has decided not to participate in the next effort, with one saying that he will be heading Midwest to invest in farmland alongside an old friend (part of me thinks I’m getting my leg pulled on that, so let’s consider that a rumor for now). He originally joined the firm in February 2000, and works out of Lightspeed’s Silicon Valley office.

Neither O’Brien nor Lightspeed partner Chris Schaepe returned requests for comment.

According to Lightspeed’s website, O’Brien’s investments include:

* Aquantia : 10G ethernet semiconductors
* Bling Nation: Mobile payments platform
* Evolv: Talent intelligence SaaS platform
* Exclara: Power management for LED lighting
* Gmedia: Mobile marketing platform
* Lucky Pai (LOTTE): China TV home shopping network
* PCH: Global supply chain mgmt services
* Pivot 3: Scalable virtualized storage
* Project Slice: Organizes online purchases
* Streamlite: Technology-enabled mail services

No word yet on how much Lightspeed will be seeking for the new fund, but there is a decent chance that it could vary significantly from the $800 million it raised in 2008.

For example, it could decide to follow the Benchmark Capital model, retrenching to a U.S.-only model. This would require less than $800 million. It also could decide that it wants enough flexibility to participate in large later-stage rounds — like the recent $400 million infusion for portfolio company Living Social — which could bump the total ask to around $1 billion. But, again, no final decisions have been made.