By Tim Hunt
Tri-Valley Ventures launches valley's first venture capital fundUploaded: Dec 7, 2017
There a common theme among the founders of Tri-Valley Ventures when they publicly introduced their first venture fund for Tri-Valley companies Tuesday evening at the Ruby Hill Country Club.
“Talk to Hitch.”
Hitch is Greg Hitchan, co-managing partner of Tri-Valley Ventures, and a former partner with Blum Associates in San Francisco. Hitchan and his wife, Juliette Goodrich, who grew up in Pleasanton have raised their family here. Juliette is the well-known the weekend anchor on KPIX.
Hitchan described how 5 ½ years ago he was intrigued by the Tri-Valley as a center or innovation. The two national labs, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia, have provided the backbone—Hitch said how much he learned on a lab advisory board about transferring its technology into the private sector.
He also was involved with the area’s first incubator, I-Gate in Livermore, and operated his own 30,000-square-foot co-working space in Pleasanton. He invested his family’s resources in six firms and had 30 different firms in the space.
When wealth advisor Don Garman was considering his career path after 20 years in financial services, he considered how many of the “unicorn” deals (private companies valued at $1 billion) in the last decade with his major Wall Street firm. There were 12 companies and he and his clients has access to one.
That was one of the factors that led him to form Mirador Capital Partners in 2013 and develop the Tri-Valley Index that compared the performance of local public companies with the stock market. The local companies have performed better by a significant margin over the last several years.
As he was talking to people about the valley, he was advised “Talk to Hitch.”
That conversation moved them forward along the path that led to Tuesday’s introduction.
Along the way, they came across a study of the Bay Area by MIT that predicted the success of start-ups. Not surpisingly, it favored the Silicon Valley, but also showed the Tri-Valley as a very favorable area for start-up success.
Hitchan came to a couple of conclusions during his time:
1. There was a business case for a venture capital firm here.
2. He could not do it my himself.
Thus, others who “talked to Hitch.”
The founders include: Dave Selinger, a co-founder of Redfin; John Murphy, a Ruby Hill resident for more than 15 years with a rich pedigree of running companies; and Tim Harkness, the CEO of Unchained Labs, his third start-up.
Selinger started his career with Amazon and focused on artificial intelligence. He went on to RedFin and now is running his third start-up with one major change. During his prior jobs, he flew more than 200,000 miles annually and had premier status on seven different airlines. He did not see much of his family. After talking to Hitch, he was convinced he could build his next company here and see his family.
He has two children under 10 years old and he takes them to school before launching into his 16- to 18-hour day at Deep Sentinel, an artificial intelligence firm focused on home security. He also related how he has just recruited a key executive away from a major South Bay firm—that guy had nearly a two-hour commute each way from his home in Walnut Creek. Now he works in downtown Pleasanton with a commute of less than 30 minutes—you can guess how much better his family life has become.
For this first fund, the founders have contributed $1.1 million of the $10 million goal and Garman said they were about one-third of the way to the goal. They are seeking limited partners to invest a minimum of $100,000.
The founders also said they have already invested five companies and anticipated investing in 15 to 20 firms over the first three years of the 10-year fund.
Summing it up, they pointed out that Silicon Valley has about 300 venture capital firms—some of which have invested in valley firms—Tri-Valley Ventures is the only local firm.