DFJ, ex-AOL chief plan fund

Early stage investor Draper Fisher Jurvetson is set to close on its first late stage fund at month’s end, according to sources familiar with the fund.

Dubbed the Draper Fisher Jurvetson Growth 2005 Fund, the effort is led by DFJ co-founder John Fisher, onetime America Online CEO Barry Schuler and venture capitalist Mark Bailey. Each of them is listed as a managing partner of the new fund in a regulatory filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

The SEC filing doesn’t list a fund-raising target or say how much the fund has raised to date. It shows that 10 accredited investors, all based in California, have made commitments to the fund. None of the investors are named.

DFJ co-founder Tim Draper told PE Week he couldn’t comment on the fund until it is closed.

The new fund would take DFJ beyond its early stage focus. Three quarters of its initial investments since 1997 have been in seed or first rounds. The firm raised its eighth early stage fund in February 2005, capping it at $400 million.

While DFJ isn’t discussing the reason for its move into late stage deals, plenty of early stage firms have been making increasingly bigger investments. The average investment per firm jumped 17%, from $6.7 million in the first quarter of last year to $7.8 million in the first quarter of this year, a boost partly explained by a lingering venture capital overhang, according to data released by Thomson Financial (owner of PE Week).

The team for DFJ’s late stage fund has strong ties to the firm.

Fisher is the “F” in DFJ, having co-founded the firm with Draper and Steve Jurvetson in 1985. He sits on the boards of several companies, including wireless email company Visto, mobile entertainment publisher Hands On Mobile and CMI Marketing, which hosts a platform for affinity group marketing.

Schuler is well known in Silicon Valley, having previously served as the president of America Online’s Interactive Services Group in 1998. He was CEO and chairman of AOL Time Warner’s America Online division following the companies’ merger in 2000. He relinquished that role to Bob Pittman in 2002.

Schuler is no stranger to DFJ. The venture firm backed Medior, an interactive media startup Schuler co-founded and later sold to AOL for an undisclosed amount in 1995. Medior, founded in 1989, raised just under $1 million in financing from DFJ and Labrador Ventures before disappearing into AOL. Fisher was one of its board members. More recently, Schuler has been working with Fisher on the board of Hands On, which has raised more than $94 million from DFJ, General Catalyst Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Institutional Venture Partners and the Meteor Group, Schuler’s investment vehicle.

Bailey also has a history with DFJ. Most recently, he was a venture partner with DFJ ePlanet Ventures, which backed global successes Baidu, Skype and Focus Media before ePlanet and DFJ announced that they would go their separate ways after their current fund is fully invested.

Bailey’s VC experience dates back to 1985, when he joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as an associate. He served in that role for four years. He also served as a general partner at Venrock Associates in New York from 1997 to 1998.