Introducing Notation II

Our New Fund and Expanding our Mission

Feb 7, 2018 · 4 min read

Tl;dr — (1) We raised a new $27M fund, (2) We’re doubling down on our strategy as “first-check” investors, but leaving the “pre-seed” nomenclature behind, and (3) We’re expanding our strategy (just a bit) to serve other non-SV startup ecosystems.

When we launched Notation I a few years ago, we wrote about the maturation of the NYC technology ecosystem. We believed there was a need for a dedicated “pre-seed” venture firm in NYC, based on a few predictions for how the ecosystem here would evolve, namely that: (1) A critical mass of talent in NYC would continue to grow, particularly technical and design expertise, (2) The traditional seed firms, just like the venture firms before them, would raise larger funds and move up the stack, and (3) Unlike Silicon Valley, the NYC angel ecosystem was and is not deep enough to fill this emerging capital gap.

In the last few years, these assumptions have largely proven true. Seed stage deal volume has dropped meaningfully while round size and firm size continues to expand. The talent pool in NYC continues to grow— large companies like Facebook and Google have bolstered their offices here, startups like MongoDB and Etsy continue to scale as public companies, and Cornell Tech just recently unveiled their new engineering campus on Roosevelt Island, to name a few examples. We too have grown up in the NYC startup community over the past decade, and our plan is to continue to invest our time and money in this thriving ecosystem.

So today, we’re announcing the launch of Notation II: a $27M “first-check” venture firm focused on partnering with technical teams in underestimated markets like NYC at the earliest stages of company creation.

Since the launch of Notation I, we’ve invested in 28 high quality teams working on impressive technical projects —almost always as the first investor, carving out a special niche for Notation at this stage in NYC. We’ve learned a lot during this time, and we’re working hard every day to improve how we make decisions, and how we support the companies we work with. We’ve built a small but mighty community around Notation in NYC, and nothing makes us happier than seeing this community step up to support one another.

We also learned that as we continued to push the “pre-seed” fund narrative, and considered it for Notation II (1) we struggled to define what the heck “pre-seed” actually means, particularly as the seed ecosystem continues to splinter, (2) it’s often times confusing for founders, and (3) our ambition as a firm goes beyond what the term might imply.

What got us hyped about starting a “pre-seed” firm in the first place?

We’ve always loved working with founders on “day zero” of a new company. We’ve always loved being the first investor to say “YES!” We’ve always loved being in the trenches, through good and bad, during the really early days of building a prototype, hiring key people, winning the first few customers, and raising capital. We’ve always loved founding teams that are technologists first — working to uncover non-obvious opportunities in new markets, or mature markets that don’t work the way they should.

All of these same things still get us psyched to work on Notation today, but we realized there’s a much simpler way to describe what we do: Our mission is to be “first check investors” and the best possible partners to technical founding teams on day zero of a new project.

While we continue to focus on the NYC ecosystem, we’re also expanding our purview to include other underestimated geographies.

The funding environment in Silicon Valley is unique. There are numerous options available for founders raising the first $500k or $1M— angels, YC, pre-seed and seed funds, scout funds, AngelList — these are the financial and human support structures that have matured over many generations of companies in SV. There aren’t many acute and underserved pain points we can address for founders in Silicon Valley, but we do believe the service and capital we offer to founders in NYC is mission critical, and we think we can do this in other non-SV ecosystems as well.

How about the founders building a creative new bio software startup in Toronto? How about the interesting new cryptography startup that’s still in research phase up in Boston? How about the music startup down in Austin? We think these types of founding teams might be just as likely, or perhaps more likely, to discover the new new thing that transforms an industry in the next decade. So if you’re a founder outside Silicon Valley that fits this description, we want to meet you!

To be clear — We’re still really (really) excited about the technology startups getting started in NYC, and because we’re here, that’s where we’ll continue to focus. We’re also still really (really) excited about working with technical founding teams on day zero. The terminology that founders must navigate for early-stage funding is as confusing as it’s ever been, so we hope our mission is crystal clear— to partner with technical founding teams in underestimated geographies on day zero, before the opportunity is obvious. Notation is a “first check” venture firm. We’ve been building and investing with this same strategy for almost a decade now, and Notation II means we’ll be at it for at least a decade to come.

We’ll end here by saying thank you to all of the founders, advisors, part-time partners and limited partners that have taken a chance on us to date. Y’all put us in business, and we’re forever grateful for it. Now…Onwards!

Nick + Alex


A first-check venture firm in Brooklyn, NY

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