Geoff Entress, the Go-To Startup Investor, Weaves Himself Deeper Into Seattle Tech Community With Founder’s Co-op
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to the trend of social media compared to other folks in town,” he says.
As for the future of venture capital, Entress sees a “barbell” trend taking shape, with VCs moving to both later-stage, lower-risk, bigger-money deals and smaller, earlier-stage, higher-risk investments. He calls the latter “the future of consumer Web investing.” With Founder’s Co-op, Entress says, “We hope we can be the dominant player in that space in the Pacific Northwest. But the trends hold all over the country. Venture investing is a local business. At the early stage it’s even more so.”
In his usual diplomatic way, Entress also defends the traditional venture model and doesn’t try to position his seed-stage fund as a direct competitor. “I don’t think [the venture model] is completely broken,” he says. “There will be fewer VCs and less money in it. But our end of the market will still be much smaller than that.” DeVore echoes that sentiment, saying, “Venture firms aren’t obsolete. But we’re most excited about this [seed-stage] tier of entrepreneurship.”
Entress says his new position will “help me leverage myself” so he can have greater reach beyond “just being one guy.” He breaks down his investment preferences into two non-exclusive buckets. One is companies that can “bootstrap their way to significant traction” and need a little bit of capital to grow. Some recent examples would be Bonanzle in e-commerce, and Nirvaha in software-as-a-service for billing and pricing. Another bucket, he says, is “deals where I see the technology and I say, ‘Wow, this is really cool, I see a need in the market.’” Examples of those are Swype, Elemental, and Isilon, back in the day.
Being in faraway Seattle, of course, means Entress still doesn’t get as much attention as the big-name angels in Silicon Valley, New York, or Boston. But that might be changing soon. He has been doing more outreach to the innovation communities in places like San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Vancouver BC, and South Bend, IN—places where he has some personal connections.
“We have a great ecosystem in Seattle,” he says. “It’s the envy of a lot of other cities and regions around the country…They say, ‘How do we do what [Seattle has] done with the University of Washington, which has spun out a ton of great companies? How can we get some of the magic here?’” Entress says he tells university officials in other cities, “You have to keep your students there…so they can start companies there. And encourage the ecosystem, and the angel investors.”
Entress would know. On his way to helping shape the future of early-stage technology investing, he seems more dedicated than ever to building the innovation ecosystem here in the Northwest. And that’s something people will always remember, no matter how big he gets, or where he goes.
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