It’s November. We’re eleven years into a bull run. And a protracted trade war with China — not to mention the impeachment proceedings — is causing some nervousness about what next year will hold.
Little wonder that venture firms, which have been writing checks faster than ever in recent years, are also stocking up on dry powder. In the last 10 days alone, some of the many firms to announce new funds include Boldstart Ventures, Drive Capital, .406 Ventures, CAVU Venture Partners, Unusual Ventures, Northzone, Kindred Ventures, EQT Ventures, Inspired Capital and Norwest Venture Partners.
Newly in the same company is Next Coast Ventures, a firm that just closed on $130 million in fresh capital commitments to pursue a thematic approach and that is focused for right now on the future of work, the rise of digital natives, the death of traditional retail and the ways that ubiquitous connectivity is changing marketplaces.
It’s the second fund for the firm, which closed its debut fund with a very respectable $85 million, thanks in large part to the backgrounds of its two managing directors. Michael Smerklo previously bought a technology services company called ServiceSource that he ran for 12 years and eventually took public. His co-founder, Thomas Ball, previously spent more than a decade with Austin Ventures.
Interestingly, for many years, Austin Ventures was the only game in town in Austin, but that has changed meaningfully since it announced in 2015 that it wouldn’t be raising more capital. Not only has Next Coast just gathered up more capital, but so have numerous other regional firms this year. In April, for example, we reported on the newest, $105 million, fund raised by LiveOak Ventures. Meanwhile, Silverton Partners, one of the city’s most active investors, is zeroing in on a new $120 million fund just one year after closing a $108 million fund, and several other firms — including ATX Ventures and Quake Capital — are trying to raise sizable new funds.
As for Next Coast, some of its many current bets include Everlywell, a company that sells tens of in-home diagnostic tests and that closed on $50 million in funding earlier this year, and AlertMedia, a cloud-based mass notification system that aims to streamline notifications across devices and platforms and which raised $25 million in Series C funding back in January. (You can check out a longer list of its investments here.)
The firm has also seen five companies in its portfolio sell to acquirers (all for undisclosed terms). While one has yet to be announced, the other four are OnRamp, a cloud hosting company that sold last year to a data and IT company called LightEdge; the personal finance startup Clarity Money, which sold to Goldman Sachs last year; the wardrobe tech company Finery, which sold to Stitch Fix in September; and the smart oven maker Brava, which just yesterday disclosed that it’s being acquired by Middleby, an industrial equipment company.
We were in touch yesterday with Smerklo to learn how Next Coast’s new and bigger fund might differ from its predecessor, and the answer seems to be: not much. He said check sizes will increase, from a range of $3 million to $7 million into Series A-stage companies to more like $5 million to $10 million at the upper end.
He also suggested that Next Coast remains as committed as ever to uncovering and funding talent regionally, something that’s getting easier all the time, evidently. “Austin’s entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem is absolutely booming,” Smerklo wrote us via email. “It’s never been cheaper to start a company, and places like Austin with a high quality of life, growing available capital and a strong entrepreneurial spirit will continue to be a hotbed for founders and tech talent.”