New York, famously the home of Wall Street, is a financial nerve center of North America.
And not only is it economically powerful, but it is also a hub for up-and-coming entrepreneurs—like those we covered in our article on the top ten startup founders in New York City.
The combination of big money and big ideas makes the Big Apple a fantastic place to get a promising startup funded. But as in any location, knowing who’s who in the scene is a big part of success when it comes to finding investors.
We have put together a list of nine investors you should know about in NYC.
Geoff is an up-and-coming investor in New York. He has roots in Founders Fund, where he was a partner for five years. At Founders Fund, he led a sizable venture round into tech unicorn Lyft, as well as several other high-profile investments.
Before Founders Fund, Geoff was an executive at Peter Thiel's Clarium Capital. In 2017, Geoff founded Bedrock Capital with Eric Stromberg and immediately led Lambda School’s Series B. Bedrock has since raised $122 million for their first fund and most recently raised 350M for their second fund. Geoff is known for wanting to back founders who have found—and can exploit—narrative violations.
“The search business is actually monopolistic. When you search for hotels on Google, you get the Google travel products, when you search for restaurants, it’s showing you the Google reviews and maps.” — Geoff Lewis in Cantech Letter
Hayley is one of the newest additions to the prolific VC firm First Round Capital. They most recently opened up an office in New York, with Hayley helping to lead investments efforts in the area. Before First Round, Hayley was a cofounder and co-CEO of Birchbox, which is a very popular subscription box service for beauty products. Hayley is well equipped to help founders, as she raised $70 million and scaled the company globally.
Prior to Birchbox, she got her HBA at Harvard Business School. Although newer to the First Round team, she had made angels investments in companies like The Wing and Bombas. First Round is known for its investments in the likes of Notion, Superhuman, Snackpass, and Atrium. It is a good sign that First Round is setting up roots in NYC. It only helps more ambitious founders looking to scale their idea.
“As a founder, I relished brainstorming, executing and iterating on ideas — having the ownership and accountability to create results. As an investor, I appreciate the leverage I have to contribute across multiple companies, share learnings, make connections and provide resources. I can still do both at First Round.” — Hayley on Medium
Fred Wilson is among the most legendary investors in the world of VC. Known around the world for his blog, AVC, he is a thought leader in San Francisco as much as he is in New York. He founded the firm Union Square Ventures which is one of the east coast’s most successful venture capital firms. USV has invested in companies like Twitter, Tumblr, MongoDB, and Kickstarter. Before USV, he founded VC firm Flatiron Partners. Fred shut it down in 2001, only to start USV in 2004.
Fred also got his firm in the Libra Network, which is the currency that Facebook announced earlier this year. Whatever Facebook is up to, USV will be at the forefront to get the benefit of it.
“Probably the biggest change I have seen in my 30+ years in VC is the huge amounts of capital that are available to “big ideas” like WeWork, Uber, Bird, etc. And the questions to ponder are whether this is a temporary phase based on global macroeconomic conditions or the new normal and whether it is only true for companies at certain stages of their development.” — Fred’s Blog
Zavain is a partner at Lux Capital, a firm that invests in emerging markets within the science and technology fields. According to Lux’s website, Zavain looks for companies using AI and machine learning that solves problems in the real physical world.
Before Lux Capital, Zavain working alongside Eric Schmidt, sourcing deals for him. This is where he cut his teeth as a VC. Before that, he was an engineer and founder, working on companies instead of investing in them. The experience of being a founder and being a VC with Eric has prepped him well to excel at his role within Lux.
“My mom raised me and my sister. She was a graduate student working on a Master’s in CS at Cal Berkeley, where she then did a Ph.D. in Feminist Studies. She instilled in me an insatiable curiosity, love of learning, and desire to fight for social justice and the underdog.” —Zavain on Lux’s website.
Joshua is the founder of Thrive Capital, the New York venture capital firm with over a billion dollars under management. Joshua started Thrive Capital in 2009, when he was in his 20s. Thrive’s billion-dollar hit was Instagram; he helped to lead their series B round. Instagram was bought soon after by Facebook, leading to an excellent return for Thrive.
Kusher has since started unicorn company Oscar, as well as a real estate investment company called Cadre. Kushner’s name has been in the limelight for a while, as his brother is President Trump’s advisor, but Joshua does a fair job keeping his personal life from his business one. Thrive is one of the most successful firms in New York.
Sound bite (indirect)
In 2018, New York State’s Empire State Development economic corporation gave Oscar $3.5 million in performance-based tax credits in return for a commitment from the company to create jobs. According to an Oscar spokeswoman, the company has been growing rapidly in New York City and needed the new space immediately.
David’s involvement in the New York tech scene has been crucial for its growth over recent years. David makes investments through the Box Group, an investment firm backed with personal capital, not LPs—which they claim is their superpower. He also leads the startup studio at Cornell. On top of that, he also founded Techstars in New York. David is aiming to use his money and power to push the New York tech scene forward, and it has ripple effects.
Before his entry into startups he was an executive vice president at KPG, and was an associate at several law firms before that. New York is better off with David spending most of his time (and money) on investing in startups and educating students at Cornell, who are the founders of tomorrow.
“Every morning, you get an email in your inbox and there’s a bunch of deals news and I feel like our job as a seed-stage is to know every moving piece of the (startup ecosystem)... if we didn’t see it, or if we looked at a company and passed, then we screwed something up.” — David in Fortune
Anu is a founding partner of venture firm Female Founders Fund (F3). F3 is a fund dedicated to investing in female founders who are building scalable businesses. Before starting her own fund, she was the founder of Doonya, which was a Bollywood/fitness-focused company. She’s been operating Female Founders Fund for five years and they’ve made some excellent investments, many of them based in New York.
\One of Anu’s primary goals with the fund is to help level the playing field in the tech industry and provide more opportunity to female founders. In addition to her role at F3, she is on the board of directors of Rubin Museum of Art, which is based in New York City.
“I was really facing two major challenges. As a first-time fund manager, it’s incredibly difficult to raise capital, particularly without venture capital experience. That’s because you’re asking investors basically to invest in both your ability to get access to great deals, and then your ability to pick well. Plus, this whole concept of “female founders being back-able” didn’t exist at that point.” — Anu to Inc Magazine
Charlie O'Donnell is the founder of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, a firm with $23 million under management. Don’t let the small fund size fool you, Charlie comes from firms First Round Capital and Union Square ventures, making him a valuable asset to any founder that he funds. Charlie blogs on his personal website.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, he is involved in his home state in more ways than just investing. He co-founded a nonprofit called Brooklyn Bridge Boat House, which is still operating today. Some of Charlie’s investments include The Wing and the Financial Gym.
“If a startup pitches me, for example, they’re not asking — they’re selling their equity. That’s a fair tradeoff (at least, if they don’t think it is, they probably shouldn’t have quit their job to start this company). If no one ever pitches me, then I’ll have no companies to invest.” — His blog
Jim started off his career by obtaining an MBA from Harvard Business School. After working at a few corporate giants and founding a startup of his own, one that was ten years too early, he took his talents to venture capital and started RRE ventures. He has had an incredible run while being a partner at RRE. Looking at his portfolio shows that he is an early believer in blockchain technology, with investments in Bitnomial, Ripple, and Earn.com.
Jim is also fairly involved in NYC’s tech scene. He is involved with the New York City Partnership Investment Fund and was an early advisor to the Chamber of Digital Commerce. Jim has also in the past earned a spot on the Forbes Midas List of top 100 VCs, which most would agree is a fantastic accomplishment.
“All my life I have been fascinated with change and the way people, companies, and governments respond to it — or don’t… The biggest basket in which change occurs is in technology, whether you are talking about Bitcoin and blockchain or fintech, virtual reality, or robotics.” — Jim III in Institutional Investor
These nine notable investors are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding funding in New York. Knowing these names, however, may help you to navigate the scene as you begin an entrepreneurial journey in the city that never sleeps.
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