In that time, with $3.5 million in launch money, the firm has made 12 investments, three of which have either been acquired or raised additional money at a higher valuation resulting “in a nice return,” he told Technical.ly Brooklyn earlier this month. Six of the 12 were founded in Brooklyn, and he has active conversations with two startups in Greenpoint.
From private equity to Union Square Ventures to a two-year tenure as First Round Capital’s man in New York, Bensonhurst-native O’Donnell, 34, left to strike out on his own, investing in ‘Greater Brooklyn.’
More than a decade into his time here, he’s one of the young fathers of the nascent, if super charged, New York tech scene, a self-described ‘concierge’ to the big and growing network. Raising this first fund — small by a traditional institutional standard but meaningful for its intentions — is an important step in establishing an outpost for early-stage funding in the borough.
That said, O’Donnell is surprised he has to make clear that he does deals throughout the city, and perhaps beyond if the right conditions were there.
“When I launched, I had this fear that people wouldn’t take me seriously if my office was on this side of the bridge, so I probably over-indexed for Brooklyn in the marketing,” he said in a conference room near his desk at the NYU-Poly Dumbo incubator, fresh off a frigid bicycle ride from his Bay Ridge home. “I won’t turn down a meeting with the next Google because it’s a longer bike ride.”
In raising Brooklyn Bridge Ventures I, he learned plenty about raising a small one-man early-stage fund for the first time, as he wrote for Fortune:
- Broaden your network: Just 10 percent of his fund came from people he already knew. “Half my fund came from three entities and the other half came from 47 individuals.”
- Be interesting: Wealthy investors also want the experience, in addition to the return, if they’re involved in venture capital. O’Donnell got $2 million from his earlier investors after showing off his compelling founders
- Give up control: O’Donnell updates his investors regularly via an email list on which they too can communicate. That discussion allows greater ownership, he said.