Running on Two-Year Cycle, Avalon Ventures Lands $200M for Tenth Fund

Xconomy San Diego — 

Healthy venture firms typically raise new funds every three to four years, but Avalon Ventures, which is based in San Diego and Cambridge, MA, appears to be operating closer to a two-year cycle.

The venture firm, which invests early in both life sciences and Web technology startups, has secured $201.6 million for its tenth fund, according to a recent regulatory filing. The notice that Avalon submitted to regulators comes less than two years after Avalon raised the biggest chunk of its ninth fund. Avalon closed on its eighth fund in early 2008.

One factor affecting the faster pace is that Avalon, founded some 30 years ago by life sciences investor Kevin Kinsella, has traditionally operated as a boutique firm that raised smaller funds. Of course, the firm’s success with early investments in Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA), Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), and Aurora Biosciences (now part of Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX)) has been attracting more interest from college endowments, pension funds, and other institutional investors. Kinsella told me a couple years ago that he had initially planned to raise $150 million for the previous fund, but a stronger-than-expected response from limited partners pushed Avalon IX to $200 million.

That was Kinsella’s biggest fund at the time, but the firm now plans to raise at least $250 million for Avalon X, according to its recent filing.

Amid an overall contraction in the U.S. venture capital industry, another explanation for Avalon’s fast fund cycle is a proliferation of targets. Investments from Avalon’s ninth fund include MOGL, Awarepoint, RQx Pharmaceuticals, and Sova Pharmaceuticals in the San Diego region, and Nanigans, Cloudant, Kinvey, Pingup, and Backupify in the greater Boston area.