Fund briefs, Oct. 9, 2006

Maxwell Gets Smart on new fundScott Maxwell is once again posting items on his blog (, which can mean only thing—he has launched his new venture firm and is free to talk about.

Maxwell last week announced the launch of Boston-based OpenView Venture Partners, which has raised a $100 million fund to invest in expansion stage deals. Maxwell, who is a former managing director at Insight Venture Partners, formed the new fund with many of his Insight colleagues, such as Venture Partner Firas Raouf; and Associates Kobie Fuller and Igor Altman. Maxwell expects OpenView to collaborate with Insight on existing Insight portfolio companies and other deals. Also, Maxwell will remain on the board of his previous portfolio companies and Insight founder Jeff Horing will act as special advisor to OpenView.

Maxwell says his new firm will focus on infotech deals, particularly companies that configure software, data, and/or hardware into packages that provide meaningful value to their users. He says that OpenView will seek a minority ownership of $5 million to $10 million in companies with good historic growth. —Alastair GoldfisherNASA formally launches VC arm

At the beginning of the year, NASA announced it was forming a VC fund called Red Capital to invest in innovative technologies related to the nation’s space exploration agenda, such as a manned mission to Mars.

The agency last month quietly announced that it has its management team in place and is ready to review business plans.

Heading up the VC unit is Peter Banks, co-founder and formerly partner of XR Ventures in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Graham Burnette, general partner of the EA-Capital Fund family; and Jacques Vallee, co-founder of EA-Capital Fund.

NASA says that Red Planet Capital Inc., based in San Mateo, Calif., will invest about $75 million in startups over the next five years. The principals will invest as much as $5 million per company over multiple rounds of financing, with seed funding as low as $250,000.

Red Planet has been likened to In-Q-Tel, the VC unit of the Central Intelligence Agency. In fact, the nonprofit NASA fund features Gilman Louie—former CEO of In-Q-Tel and co-founder of Alsop Louie Partners—who will serve on the firm’s board of trustees. Joining him on the board is Ruann Ernst, the retired CEO of Digital Island. —Alastair GoldfisherSharmrock beats targetShamrock Capital closed its second fund with $311.5 million in capital commitments this quarter, beating the $275 million target. “There are many firms out there raising capital today, and it is more difficult to get in front of limited partners. We were successful in getting through the clutter based upon our strong track record in Fund I, the consistency of our team, and our sector-focused, value-added strategy,” Managing Director Bob Perille told Buyouts, an affiliated publication to PE Week.