"Ed Zimmerman, chair of the tech practice at the law firm Lowenstein Sandler, says he texted Theresia Gouw, founding partner at Acrew Capital, in November about the idea of teaming up to invest in underrepresented fund managers.
The newly formed firm, First Close Partners, has already backed about two dozen venture funds and expects to invest in more than 60 by the end of the year, Mr. Zimmerman said. These include Avid Ventures, Base Ventures, Cleo Capital, Marcy Venture Partners and Slauson & Co., among many others. The majority of fund managers that First Close has committed to are Black and a majority are women, Mr. Zimmerman said. Some contacted First Close cold, with no prior introductions.
Founding partners in First Close also include Regina Benjamin, a former U.S. Surgeon General, as well as Josh Kopelman, co-founder of First Round Capital, and Betsy Zimmerman, partner at GrapeArbor Ventures and Mr. Zimmerman’s wife.
“We are trying to have an impact that exceeds our dollars, and also to make money with the underrepresented managers that we are backing,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “We’ve seen instances of our money being dramatically multiplied by other [limited partners] coming in, either where we introduced them or served as a reference,” he added.
He declined to state how much capital First Close Partners has in total, but said that his family is investing $1 million into it.
Well-connected people in the venture industry can act on diversifying who gets to play in the market. While there’s an aspect of social good in the effort, Mr. Zimmerman says that it’s also about financial benefit: “When a fund has been successful, it’s hard to get into fund three or fund four. Being an early backer enables you to follow on.”