New York venture capital firm FirstMark Capital has tapped Beth Ferreira to join as a managing director, its second female partner addition in two months.
Ferreira joins FirstMark after more than two years at WME Ventures, where she’d launched a $50 million fund announced last November. Her arrival at FirstMark comes as the firm has restocked its investor bench in recent weeks, adding Catherine Ulrich in October.
“There are just not that many seats in venture, and this was an opportunity to go to a firm aligned with how I was investing,” says Ferreira, who says she’ll focus on commerce, marketplace and services startups for the firm. “We created a successful portfolio at WME Ventures and I’m proud we were able to do that while investing half in women-founded businesses.”
While FirstMark isn’t quite as well known nationally as New York-based Union Square Ventures or First Round, a firm with significant operations in the city, it’s established itself in the tech community through a network of events the firm manages in big data, design, frontier tech and artificial intelligence, with a combined 32,000 members. Ulrich, the former chief product officer at Shutterstock and a former product executive at Weight Watchers, met the firm through such an event.
Ulrich explains the appeal of FirstMark’s network by invoking Clark Vahlberg, CEO of FirstMark portfolio company InVision, which raised $100 million at a valuation of just under $1 billion in November. “Clark has said that as CEO, you don’t love your employees wasting time at events. You want them working on the product you want to ship,” says Ulrich. “But these are the events he makes his employees go to. When you hear that, that’s sign of something special, and something you can hear build out even more.”
FirstMark launched in 2008 as a spinout from hedge fund Pequot Capital Management, led by Rick Heitzmann and Amish Jani. “When we started, people thought you couldn’t build a VC firm in New York with a New York focus,” Heitzmann says. But Heitzmann Jani scored big through early investments in Pinterest, League of Legends creator Riot Games and Shopify, and added managing director Matt Turck in 2013. More recent breakouts include Dashlane, DraftKings and InVision as the firm now invests out of its fourth fund.
Heitzmann and Jani argue that while FirstMark may lack the marketing clout of firms like First Round or Andreessen Horowitz on the West Coast, the firm has proven its value to its entrepreneurs by meticulously tracking data on every introduction or action they take on a startup’s behalf. “What some firms try to do with hundreds of people, we try to drive with software and four people,” says Jani. That means making more than 1,000 introductions per year and tracking every conversation set up by FirstMark with a portfolio company, then providing each founder with a report on the firm’s efficacy at year’s end.
Reference calls with FirstMark’s founders helped Ulrich make the jump from her product executive career track. With Ferreira, they helped reunite her with a firm she previous served as a venture partner at the firm before stints in executive roles at Etsy, Fab.com and then WME.
WME Ventures will not continue as a fund after Ferreira’s departure. The first $50 million fund had been nearly all invested by that time in companies such as Daily Harvest, Hooked, Glossier and MasterClass. Talent agency William Morris Endeavor will now manage that portfolio and any future startup bets from within its main investment organization. “We’re grateful to Beth for helping us develop an impressive and high-performing portfolio, which we will continue to support,” a company spokesperson said. “We wish Beth all the best in her new role.”
At FirstMark, Ferreira and Ulrich will look to keep up a track record set by the firm’s first fund, which is ranked in the top quartile of funds of its size in the past fifteen years with a net multiple of 6.75 x and net IRR of 36.1%, according to data from Preqin.
FirstMark maintains that such returns are among the best in venture capital, even if they come without much techie buzz. “When you’re only doing eight deals a year, it’s easy to stay heads down,” admits Jani. That’s now up to Ferreira and Ulrich to change as part of a rising tide of female investment partners in New York tech.
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