Venture capital

Brett Topche launched a new venture firm (well, kinda)

The active part of MentorTech Ventures is now Red + Blue Ventures. It will also spot companies from within the Penn community, but there's a sharper focus.

Brett Topche speaks with a group of Wharton students. (Photo via @startupleaders on Twitter)

A couple of weeks back we took a sneak-peek media tour of Pennovation, the new University of Pennsylvania innovation hub.
And who did we find?

That’s right. Turns out Brett Topche, managing director at MentorTech Ventures since 2013, has a new gig: alongside managing partner Michael Aronson, he started Red + Blue Ventures, a seed and early-stage VC fund that invests solely in companies from the Penn ecosystem.
But wait, what? Wasn’t that MentorTech’s bread and butter?
Topche said the new Pennovation-based firm is simply a “continuation” of the IT side of MentorTech’s strategy, and that all new investments will come through the new firm.
“It was more of an evolution in the strategy, so eventually it made sense to make it a formal change,” Topche said. “It would probably feel more like a parting of ways if we weren’t continuing on a very similar strategy, but it feels more like an evolution than a hard stop.”
Topche declined to comment on whether or not there was an ongoing fundraising process in place for the new firm, but since early 2016, it has made investments in a trio of companies, namely:

  • AptDeco — an online platform to buy and sell used furniture.
  • Burrow — the makers of a three-seat modular couch you can assemble yourself.
  • Leo Health — a digital system that lets parents manage pediatric care.

So what prompted the rebrand? Well, MentorTech had been focusing more and more on IT companies instead of life sciences, and then Boris Kalandar — the managing director who looked after most investments in that space — went on to do some life sciences investments in Israel from a fund that he raised, which sealed the argument for starting Red + Blue.
Speaking of the firm’s name: yes, it’s a reference to Penn’s official colors, but also to this beautiful, moving college song, which is Penn’s unofficial anthem.
Here’s a nice lil rendition by Penn’s Glee Club:

As for its Pennovation space, Topche said although the firm is independent from Penn, it just made the most sense to be near its biggest tech hub.
“We’ve built our entire strategy around investing in the Penn ecosystem, and Penn is working hard to make Pennovation the heart of its entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Topche said. “So if we’re going to be focused around Penn and entrepreneurship, this is the most logical place for us to be.”
So what’s going to happen with MentorTech, the firm that cashed in on that big exit last August? There won’t be any new investments, and any new checks would be follow-up investments on existing portfolio companies.
And just like we asked Bob Moore when Magento bought RJMetrics, does Topche feel any nostalgia to no longer being associated with his old firm?
“MentorTech was a great platform and we’re very proud of what we did there but nothing stays the same forever,” Topche said. “Things evolve and things move on. My MentorTech email still works and if people still want to reach out to me that way, that still totally fine.”

Companies: Pennovation Center / MentorTech Ventures / University of Pennsylvania

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