Brooklyn / Investing / Startups

Notation Capital announces first public investment, 6 more to come

Six months in, the founders of the Gowanus-based pre-seed investment firm say Brooklyn is where they'll stay “for a long time.”

A look down East Pratt Street along Baltimore's Inner Harbor. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)
To grow an ecosystem faster, you need those who are willing to push forward the adaptation.

So, though making bets on early-stage companies is the stuff of network TV, it’s fitting that the ways Nicholas Chirls and Alex Lines want to make Notation Capital stand out mirror how the New York tech community continues to take shape.
Though Chirls and Lines, two veterans of the multifaceted Betaworks, have talked about launching Notation for years, said Chirls, now is the right moment for at least three reasons:

  1. In the last decade, New York has established a true network of technical talent, not just the sales and marketing stars of old.
  2. The next wave of these technical stars are leaving the first generation of successful New York tech firms, places like Tumblr, Etsy, MongoDB and Kickstarter.
  3. Some seed-stage investors have in recent years gone to later financings as they’ve raised larger funds (as more money comes into tech looking for a return amid historically low interest rates).

Consider this month’s announcement of the first public investment from Notation’s initial $8 million fund. They’ve bet on Manhattan-based, on-demand prescription delivery service Zipdrug. The founding team is made of technical leads, they met while working at other New York tech companies and this money came before the product even launched.

That’s right where Notation Capital says it want to be, focusing on so-called pre-seed investments in technical founders.
True, that doesn’t sound like a seismic shift, Chirls himself notes that he and Lines did similar work at Betaworks and elsewhere.
But “Notation Capital is our own remix on it,” said Chirls. He said they’ve made six other pre-seed investments since launching at the beginning of this year, and they expect to make announcements of those deals in the coming weeks.
Chirls, 30, comes from the class of bookish Brooklyn natives — his family lives in Dumbo now, and he lives in Prospect Heights. At an event at a coworking space last year, he took thoughtful pauses after being asked a question, perhaps adjusting his glasses or scratching his beard.
He’s living the full cycle of Brooklyn creative community expansion, he and Lines are working out of an upstairs storage room above new Gowanus bar Threes Brewing, founded by a friend of theirs.
“Alex and I spent a bunch of time hanging here while they were still building it out and we basically never left,” said Chirls. “It won’t be forever, but for now it works really well.”
Where might an expansion take them? Chirls has no immediate plans there.
“We considered having an office in Manhattan, but so many people and founders now live and work in Brooklyn that having an office here is totally doable, if not preferable for many,” he said. “Six months in, safe to say we’ll be in BK for a long time.”

Companies: Notation Capital / Betaworks
Series: Brooklyn

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