Alsop Louie normally keeps its operations, fund-raising and financing a secret. The firm won’t disclose the location of its office, the partners’ email addresses or even a phone number. The firm has not publicly disclosed who its limited partners are or listed its portfolio investments. On its website, the firm tells prospective entrepreneurs that it prefers to “hear about your company from someone else.”
The early stage venture firm was launched as a partnership more than two years ago between Stewart Alsop, a former a general partner with New Enterprise Associates and onetime editor of InfoWorld, and Gilman Louie, former CEO of In-Q-Tel.
Despite keeping its activities close to the vest, the firm has been vocal about the way it works with universities. The firm hired a “campus associate” to source deals at the University of California at Berkeley in 2006. The associate has successfully sourced deals, including friend recommendation social networking site Redux, and the partners opted to expand the program and hired three other campus associates to canvas the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Berkeley this fall. Each typically gets $1,000 a month, paid expenses and a finder’s fee for any deal that gets done.
Alsop Louie raised $75 million from a small set of institutional limited partners in 2006, branding itself as an alternative to the increasingly hands-off investment strategies of larger, established funds.
The firm has put about half of its money to work already in fewer than 15 startups, according to the source. Three of those companies have been little more than exploratory ventures, incubated inside the firm’s San Francisco offices and financed with revolving debt notes of about $25,000 each.
Other investments include:
• telephone software company Ribbit, which raised a $3 million Series A in October 2006;
• enterprise communications software company Duality, which raised a $2 million Series A in October 2006;
• open-source software developer Acquia, which raised a $3 million Series A in October 2006;
• live Internet TV company Justin.TV, which raised an undisclosed early stage financing round in October 2007;
• storage software company Cleversafe, which raised a $5.1 million Series C in November 2007;
• online gaming company Alamofire, which raised a $2 million Series A in January 2008;
• friend recommendation engine Redux, which raised $1.65 million Series A in the Spring of 2007, followed by a $3.5 million Series B March 2008;
• and software-as-a-service education company TopSchool, which raised a $3.2 million Series A in May 2008.
In addition, the firm also participated in the financing of Cake Financial. The company raised a series of bridge debt financings for development of its asset tracking software under the name Project Hi-Fi during 2006. Alsop-Louie has never disclosed the nature of its investment.
The firm has also reportedly financed FlickIM (a.k.a. Facematch), but no details are available on the startup or the funding.