4490 Ventures Head Brings Silicon Valley Experience, Midwest Mindset

Greg Robinson spent 12 years in the Silicon Valley venture capital world, where the amount of money constantly being pumped into startups can at times seem almost unreal to Wisconsin observers.

But Robinson says he brings a Midwest-like mindset of prudence to his role as general partner of the new 4490 Ventures fund based in Madison, WI.

Robinson is already busily meeting with Wisconsin entrepreneurs and stakeholders as he prepares to begin making investments from the $30 million early-stage information technology fund, backed by the State of Wisconsin Investment Board and Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The fund will make seed and Series A investments in primarily Wisconsin-based IT startups that offer enterprise and other business-to-business software products, Robinson said. Forming deal syndicates with investors from around the Midwest and the coasts will also be a priority.

4490 recruited Robinson from Peninsula Ventures, an early-stage VC firm in Redwood City, CA, where he worked for 12 years, including eight as a partner. The $75 million fund primarily led Series A rounds in enterprise software startups, usually investing about $6 million in each deal, Robinson said. Peninsula’s portfolio companies have achieved more than a dozen exits, including the $1.7 billion sale of Xylan to Alcatel in 1999, the $280 million sale of Perceptive Software to Lexmark International in 2010, and the sale of BroadHop to Cisco for undisclosed terms in 2012.

Peninsula was contemplating raising its next fund in a mid-sized city like Portland, OR, when Robinson was approached by 4490 officials. He was one of two partners, so his departure likely signals the end for Peninsula, Robinson said.

I met with Robinson in Madison this week to talk about his vision for 4490. The following is an edited transcript.

Xconomy: Is $30 million the right size for this fund? Why not start bigger?

Greg Robinson: Given the set of opportunities in front of us, and making sure that we wanted to be prudent deploying the capital and not feeling too much pressure to put a lot of money out, we felt like $30 million was the right size fund for where 4490 is today and also where the [Wisconsin] ecosystem is today. The hope is over time, the startup ecosystem will expand, and so will 4490 to be able to support that.

X: You were considering raising Peninsula’s next fund in a mid-tier market. Was Madison on your radar?

GR: When I was approached by … Next Page »

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