Greg Bettinelli bet his future on the continuing growth of the L.A. tech scene nearly three years ago. That’s when he decided to stop working for tech firms and start investing in them full time.
“I took this job because I was bullish on what was happening in L.A. and thought it was a great opportunity to be an investor and active member developing the tech community,” said Bettinelli, 43, a partner in Santa Monica venture capital firm Upfront Ventures, No. 1 on the Business Journal’s list of venture capital firms ranked by capital under management.
Greg Bettinelli, 43
Firm: Upfront Ventures
Rank: Venture capital, No. 1
Years at firm: 2.5
He credits local businesses such as Tinder, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), Honest Co., Hulu, and, especially, Snapchat with enticing talent from Seattle, New York, and the Bay Area while pushing the envelope with commerce, content, and communication technology. As the local landscape has evolved, the same forces shaping those tech firms are changing how their investors and other deal makers do their jobs.
Whether they are pouring cash into doorbells that talk to your smartphone, scouring records for the next investment opportunity, or vetting a platform for mobile gamers to talk to each other, everyone is doing business in a more connected world.
One recent example is the Santa Monica smart doorbell maker Bot Home Automation Inc., better known as Ring. Upfront participated in the startup’s recent $61 million Series C round, led by San Francisco-based Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, as well as its $28 million Series B funding round last year and a 2014 Series A. Upfront also led a $4 million seed round for downtown L.A. family ridesharing app HopSkipDrive in 2015 and participated in a recent Series A.
Bettinelli said half of Upfront’s investments are in Southern California companies.
“Interesting companies are being built with billions of dollars being deployed in Southern California each year,” he said. “Five years or six years ago, to think about L.A. having this much impact on tech innovation, a lot of people wouldn’t have believed you.”
Mountains of data
That also means that all deal makers have mountains of data at their fingertips and must be more resourceful to set themselves apart from competitors.
“You need to capture the acquirer’s interest with fewer words and creative, impactful messages and data,” noted Ed Bagdasarian, chief executive of Brentwood-based Intrepid Investment Bankers, which ranked No. 7 on the Business Journal’s list of investment banks. “You cannot out-Google your competitor.”
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