Fund performance: MassPRIM’s push into venture slowed last year

The Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management’s venture portfolio includes top name funds from Union Square Ventures, Spark Capital and Index Ventures, but after stepping on the gas early this decade, the board’s pace of commitments shifted to a lower gear last year.

MassPRIM has been rewarded for a steady exposure to the asset class with handsome returns from 2004 and 2008 funds from Union Square, Spark’s 2007 fund, as well as funds from Battery Ventures and Insight Venture Partners.

Investments jumped in 2010, 2011 and 2012, as annual commitments rose to $135 million, $110 million and $195 million, respectively, according to a recent portfolio report.

But last year caution set in. Annual commitments fell to $91.1 million with only long-time managers Union Square, Battery and Spark receiving money, the report requested by VCJ shows.

Overall, MassPRIM has invested $638.6 million in 29 venture funds since the start of 2008. Both 2008 and 2009 were relatively lean years. Commitments totaled only $24 million in 2008 and rose to $83.5 million in 2009.

The accompanying table lists the entire six-year portfolio by vintage year and illustrates how Battery and Union Square were beneficiaries during these years of financial downturn.

Since then, investments jumped, to seven funds in 2010 and six in both 2011 and 2012. Firms such as Spark, Index, Polaris Partners, Institutional Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures got the nod. The largest commitment during the period, of $100 million, went to Technology Crossover Ventures in 2012.

Last year, five funds received investments, and in some cases at a modest level. Union Square’s USV 2014 and USV Opportunity 2014 received $11.25 million each. Battery Ventures X Side Fund won $13.6 million.

During the six-year period, MassPRIM has pretty evenly distributed money among early, late and balanced, or generalist, funds. Twelve of its funds are classified as early stage and nine are balanced or have a generalist strategy, according to data from Thomson Reuters (publisher of VCJ). That distribution has steered $190.8 million to early funds and $201.6 million to balanced ones.

Eight later-stage funds attracted the most money, totaling $246.3 million, but without the TCV commitment, the later-stage commitment picture would look quite different.

The accompanying table lists the funds with their commitments, stage strategies and vintage years.