Los Angeles Business Journal

GRP Announces $200 Million Fund, Changes Name

By Tom Dotan Thursday, June 27, 2013
The new logo is meant to evoke literal transparency through the see-through "f" and "r."

The new logo is meant to evoke literal transparency through the see-through "f" and "r."

GRP Partners, one of L.A.'s most prominent local venture capital firms, announced a bevy of changes recently including a new name, a new location and a new fund.

As of today, the firm will be known as Upfront Ventures, with a new logo to boot. And come next February, Upfront will be fully moved into a 12,000-square-foot office in Santa Monica, away from the current space in Century City.

Mark Suster, GRP/Upfront's general partner, said the changes are more than cosmetic. There has been renewed emphasis on transparency in the venture capital industry since the mid-1990s, when GRP raised its first fund. The firm is addressing that reality upfront with a name that implies openness and a new logo that includes literal transparency (the "f" and "r" are see-through).

“It's a lot more transparent of an industry than it used to be," Suster said. "When entrepreneurs decide who they want to have as investors, brand matters."

The most significant announcement for the Los Angeles tech scene is the closure of a new investment fund worth $200 million. Upfront has been one of the few local investors that can take the lead on bigger spending rounds. As opposed to the mass of seed funds that have sprung up, GRP writes checks of up to $12 million.

While L.A. tech has grown significantly over the past few years, the number of funds in the area that are large enough to participate in A rounds and beyond has shrunk considerably. Right now, only Greycroft Partners and Rustic Canyon Partners in Santa Monica have funds of comparable size.

GRP, which stood for General Retail Partners, has investments in YouTube network Maker Studios, mobile app TextPlus and microloan service ZestFinance. Suster said more than two-thirds of the fund's investments go toward local companies.

Upfront's move to Santa Monica has not been a particularly well-kept secret in the industry. It follows the westward march of the local scene in the past decade. The new office, at Seventh Street and Arizona Boulevard, is 15,000 square feet in the center of the L.A. tech hotbed.