A new VC firm, Indicator Ventures, arrives in Boston with plans for a unique accelerator

Geoff Bernstein of Indicator Ventures (photo by Kyle Alspach)
Geoff Bernstein of Indicator Ventures (photo by Kyle Alspach)

Yesterday, Scott Kirsner reported on one of the Boston area’s newest early-stage investment firms, Procyon Ventures. Today I have another one for you — Indicator Ventures, which has a co-founding partner in Boston and will take part in launching a new startup accelerator in the fall.

Indicator Ventures’ partner in Boston is Geoffrey Bernstein, formerly of Boston hedge fund HighVista Strategies; the firm has two other partners in New York City. Indicator is targeting a $20 million initial fund and is “well on the way there” with a number of commitments from individuals, Bernstein said.

The firm’s portfolio so far includes news app Circa and social CRM startup Nimble. The plan is to make seed and Series A investments with a focus on the social and mobile space.

Among those involved with Indicator Ventures is Drew Volpe, previously the co-founder of Locately, acquired by Service Management Group in 2012. Volpe is a venture partner and CTO-in-residence with Indicator, assisting with due diligence on potential investments and serving as a resource for portfolio companies on the technology side.

Bernstein said he and his partners opted to launch the fund after finding success at working together on angel deals, with investments including restaurant wait list app BuzzTable, which was acquired by Sysco. Raising an early-stage fund, he said, has seemed the best way to take their investing efforts to the next level.

Differentiating

But as Bernstein said, “there are a lot of people trying to do this.” To differentiate, Indicator Ventures offers other benefits (beyond just a check) that aim to help portfolio companies take off.

For one, the firm has partnerships that can help startups lower their own costs, Bernstein said. Law firm Perkins Coie will offer legal services to portfolio companies while startup co-working chain WeWork will provide discounted office space, he said.

The parent company of Indicator Ventures (aka, the firm’s “management company”) has also acquired a pre-existing startup accelerator program, Advise.me, which had gone dormant but is now planned for a re-launch, Bernstein said.

Advise.me was founded several years ago with a focus on connecting startups with veteran executives from the tech industry. The executives take part because, while they’d like to help out new startups, they are inundated with requests for advisory roles; Advise.me takes the headache out by matching advisors with startups, Bernstein said.

The Advise.me program also doesn’t have a specific duration — it can last as long as the startup and advisor want it to, he said. The program provides no funding and doesn’t have a specific location, though participating startups will also be able to get discounted space at WeWork. Companies will give up “a fraction” of the typical 6 percent to 10 percent of equity that startups give to take part in accelerator programs, Bernstein said.

The plan for the accelerator, he said, is really to “become an expert network for early-stage companies — to build your advisory board.” Among the dozens of executives that are part of Advise.me are a bunch from Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Spotify, as well as Evernote chief executive Phil Libin and Twitter engineering VP Raffi Krikorian.

The Indicator Ventures fund has the right to make an investment in any company that comes through the program, and will also assist startups with raising their initial round, Bernstein said. The goal is to launch the program in the fall with five to 10 companies at first.

Boston investing

So far, Indicator Ventures hasn’t done any deals in Boston but is certainly on the lookout for them, Bernstein said. He is currently based out of the WeWork office near South Station.

The other partners in the firm are Ben Luntz and Jonathan Struhl, both veterans of the advertising and marketing industry.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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