Shortly after closing its second venture fund on $262 million, Defy Partners has hired Brian Rothenberg from Eventbrite to invest in Series A startups.
Defy was launched in 2017 by former Kleiner Perkins general partner Trae Vassallo and Neil Sequeira, a managing director at General Catalyst for more than a decade. Rothenberg represents the pair’s first outside addition to the general partnership.
Rothenberg joins from Eventbrite, where he spent the last 6.5 years in several different roles, most recently as the ticketing and event platform’s vice president of growth. This is his first full-time investing role, though Rothenberg tells TechCrunch he’s had plenty of practice through investing his personal capital and scouting for venture funds like Sequoia Capital, First Round Capital and Y Combinator.
“I’ve talked to almost every firm in the valley and through that, I got to see what was really important to me,” Rothenberg said. “Defy has enough capital to make targeted and meaningful investments but not so much capital they feel they have to shove money into deals.”
Nearly a decade ago, Rothenberg interned at Canaan Partners before co-founding a local services marketplace called SkillSlate. The business raised $1.5 million in equity funding before selling to TaskRabbit in 2011.
“Having been a founder myself, at the Series A is when you start to see the growth levers emerging,” he said. “But what a Series A was 10 years ago is not what it looks like today. I’ve seen a lot of companies that are overfunded at the Series A, which on the surface seems great because they have a lot of runway but it can be very destructive.”
Focusing on the “Series A gap,” Defy provides between $3 million and $10 million in Series A companies across industries. Defy’s founders Vassallo and Sequeira are known for high-profile investments earlier in their careers, including Bustle, The Honest Company, Dropcam and Nest. Through Defy they’ve backed Owl, which sells security cameras for vehicles; cloud security compliance platform Shujinko; Securly, a tool meant to help kids stay safe on their devices; and others.
With its second fund, Defy looks to be scaling its practice. In addition to raising more capital and hiring its first non-founding partner, the firm introduced a new scout program to help with deal sourcing. Dubbed the “Sage” program, Defy has tapped Brian Lee and Sujal Patel to help with investing and to mentor its portfolio companies.
“Our goal is to create a right-sized firm, that means we can’t bring on lots of people or we end up in the same slope of everyone else where more people equals bigger fund which ultimately leads to larger checks,” the Defy founders wrote in a blog post announcing the program.