What was one of your most unusual investments of the year and why?

Idealab’s Bill Gross thought of a quite incredible idea around the next generation of mobile search, Quick.ly, which is very ambitious and a big swing. We led the $6 million Series A. It is great to work with him again.

James T. Armstrong, 50

Title: Managing Director

Firm: March Capital Partners

Rank: Venture capital, No. 11

Years at firm: 2

Residence: Manhattan Beach

How do you stay ahead of the game and find investments before others?

I work very hard. I try to understand the entrepreneurs and I have been told that is an important part of why entrepreneurs want to work with me. And I think you are a better investor if you realize it is very difficult to see the future of an early stage company. Luck also plays a factor.

What trends are you seeing in the sectors in which you specialize?

I love marketplaces, especially around the big business-to-business areas of the economy that have not really tackled their obvious inefficiencies. The trend and disruption here is enterprise software-as-a-service evolving into marketplace software-as-a-service, which some have termed “industry cloud.”

How have declining valuations impacted your existing portfolio companies and the way you’re looking at potential investments?

We push our portfolio companies to capitalize for the long term and to sharpen their pencils on milestones. For the larger companies, we push them to look at M&A.

What advice would you give to a venture capitalist just starting out today?

Three things: become an expert in a few industries by spending time out with companies and away from the VC crowd; learn to understand your instincts and develop them so you can trust them; and start finding other VCs that you enjoy working with and create a plan to make them your partners someday.

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