“In The Studio” ends April by welcoming Tim Sullivan, the CEO of MicroVentures, a San Francisco-based crowdfunding venture firm that connects retail angel investors with startups. While the venture industry itself continues to undergo a long series of shifts, contractions and market corrections, the larger trend of crowdfounding — ranging all the way from the Kickerstarters of the world to modern political campaigns — has also come into play when thinking about limited partners and investors in early-stage companies. Once upon a time, only certain people and institutions had access to invest into funds that could invest into startups, but now with secondary markets like, well, Second Market, and shifting rules in Washington D.C., the door seems to have opened for a new class of retail angel investors.
In this discussion, Sullivan sits down with me to explain his career in startups and investing, how he helped start MicroVentures, how they select investors, how they communicate with them, and how they identify, vet, and perform due diligence on startups his firm invests in. Additionally, MicroVentures purchases shares on secondary markets — not just early-stage startups. MicroVentures also doesn’t lead deals, but participates to help fill out a round. The firm calls capital on a per-deal basis, giving its own LPs a chance to review deals one by one. While there are many different twists to crowdfunding for startups and surely more to emerge, this conversation with Sullivan sheds light on one interesting angle on the trend.