New York rising: Brooklyn gets its first VC fund

With all the momentum around New York’s burgeoning tech scene, the focus has been on Manhattan and various startups taking off there. But Charlie O’Donnell, a principal at First Round Capital, thinks Brooklyn is increasingly where the action is, and he’s launching the first Brooklyn-based venture capital fund to help kick-start companies on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The new fund, appropriately called Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, will look to provide early- and seed-stage funding to start-ups in the “great Brooklyn area,” which may still include startups from Manhattan and other boroughs. But the priority will be to invest in the Brooklyn scene, which is home to many emerging companies and is where a lot of  startup workers call home, said O’Donnell, who’s leaving his position at First Round.
“I’m a Brooklyn native and resident and I thought it would be cool to put a fund there. Brooklyn is a freight train of startup development. I would guess 60 percent of people at venture-backed startups live in Brooklyn, particularly in the technical and design community. A number of startups have turned up there, and it’s a more economical place.”
O’Donnell told me the fund will be about $7 million to $10 million and is being funded by unnamed investors, who first approached him about his own fund. He said even with the rise of seed-stage and angel investors, there’s room for an investor who can build deep relationships with startups and provide critical help along the way, including addressing the ever-present need for procuring good talent. O’Donnell is known for hustling and working closely with entrepreneurs and should be a major catalyst for the Brooklyn tech scene, said Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, in a statement.
O’Donnell said he’s not interested in hardware-intensive or pure content startups but otherwise, he’s open to all ideas. At First Round, where he helped the firm get settled in New York, he invested in GroupMe, Backupify and Single Platform. He previously helped source deals at Union Square Ventures including Etsy,, Bug Labs and Oddcast. O’Donnell has been a big force in the New York tech scene, founding nextNY, an organization that connects people in the local tech scene and writing a must-read email newsletter, highlighting local events. He also founded Path 101, a career guidance start-up.
O’Donnell plans on staying close to First Round Capital and sees opportunities to collaborate on deals. And he has the blessing of Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital, who wished him luck. After all the hard work in helping build the New York tech landscape, O’Donnell said there’s still a lot of work to be done to keep the momentum going.
“This is the second inning of New York. The fact that companies like Facebook and eBay (s ebay) and hopefully Twitter and Amazon(s amzn) are coming to New York means we’ll see more companies build engineering groups here. Google(s goog) has been a big boon for the engineering culture here, and it’ll only continue,” O’Donnell said.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Garbowski