Armory Square Ventures and the Evolution of Tech and Venture Capital
Reflections from Skaneateles, New York
Rise of the Micro VC
Last summer, journalist Spencer Ante explained to us, in his talk with Sree Sreenivasan, how First Round Capital’s efforts a decade ago largely spurred the rise of the Micro VC industry. The firm identified an underserved market for VC at the seed and Series A stages and was able to capitalize on the opportunity thoughtfully.
Georges Doriot’s fund, too, ARD—the very first venture capital firm of its kind—was notably also a Micro VC. Though his team tried hard to raise more, they first came together with $3.5 million ($45 million in today’s dollars). Post WWII, banks no longer wanted to bet on innovation so half the money for ARD came from universities. (Wait, who was Doriot again? See our first post.)
There are two connections, especially, between Upstate New York and Georges Doriot. The first is that the University of Rochester was one of four original LPs in his early fund.
The other three investors to participate were MIT, the University of Pennsylvania and Rice. Next up, answers to our Twitter quiz from last month:
- Did Doriot believe tomatoes instill depth + character? No. But the tomatoes upstate remain unmatched, as do Finger Lakes wines. Both are sweet and undoubtedly delicious.
- Did Doriot counsel both CEOs and their spouses? Yes, true.
See Spencer discuss Doriot’s unique approaches to due-diligence.
- Did he hire a home economics major to run his firm? Also, true. Dorothy Rowe was a Syracuse University graduate who majored in home economics. For two decades, she was the highest ranking woman in the VC industry. She was also on the board of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), a company that pioneered much of the computing we rely so heavily upon today.
- Did Doriot raise 3 micro-VC funds that made history? No. Doriot’s team raised a single, evergreen fund, and then supplemented that by raising additional funds from the public markets several times. ARD also re-directed and re-invested the proceeds from those funds to sustain Doriot’s next round of startup founders, once ARD’s earliest investments began to thrive.
Spencer was the first to tell us how inextricably linked ARD and Upstate New York were. See that video clip below. (His book, Creative Capital, recounts all of Georges Doriot’s story, from his childhood in France to his journey and career successes in America.)
As part of our next installment, we plan to highlight our own, particular take on the Micro VC industry, so stay tuned.