Investing In Today's Economy
Owen Davis ’08, the managing director of NYC Seed, a fund that supports seed-stage technology ventures, talks about his approach to investing, how the economic climate is affecting entrepreneurs and the benefits of the Columbia network.
How was idea for NYC Seed Fund born?
I was a software entrepreneur in NYC and always felt that really early stage venture capital was scarce in NYC. I imagined that a firm that funded companies at a truly early stage (i.e. working software and a good founder or two) with a good network and professional venture guidance would be very valuable.
The fund is an intersection of that hope and the mission of our partner/investors (www.nycseed.com), who are interested in early stage funding and economic development in NYC. We hope to create a better environment in NYC for startups.
What makes the company different?
We try to take a highly sophisticated approach to seed investing. Because the fund will invest in only 10-12 companies, each choice we make is an important one. We also try to work closely with each company by putting them in touch with potential customers, help with the recruiting and offer guidance and mentorship from an incredible group of mentors.
What trends have you seen in your area in this economic climate? Has the environment changed the way you do business?
NYC is one of the great cities to be an entrepreneur! It has incredible intellectual capital, access to customers and capital available for funding.
Given the economic climate, many more people are considering starting their own business or working for a startup. There are lots of startups being launched in NYC and given that employment opportunities in general are stretched, people have started thinking about alternative paths. Startup companies are a great alternative for highly skilled, smart people looking for a great challenge.
What are some of the ingredients a tech-based concept must have to succeed?
There are numerous facets of a business and the competitive landscape that create successful businesses. It is hard to reduce it down to just a few, but some of those factors include smart, motivated founders, a large market opportunity, proprietary technology, a competitive landscape that creates an opportunity and the right team to execute on the right vision.
How do you stay connected to the Columbia entrepreneurial community?
We try to stay involved with the various projects and students at Columbia. Our interns this year were from Columbia Business School.
I am up to date on The Greenhouse Program, The DFJ East Coast Venture Challenge, and remain in contact with various professors who are the entrepreneurial champions at the School. I also have begun talking with the Computer Science and Engineering departments.
What’s NYC Seed Fund working on now?
We have launched a summer program to help small teams build a product and launch a company in 8 weeks. This program will provide lots of mentorship and guidance to help first time entrepreneurs focus on their product and strategy.
To contact Owen, send him an email at owennycseed.com.