Meakem Becker launches inaugural fund

Meakem Becker Venture Capital, which closed a $75.2 million inaugural venture fund earlier this month, is rapidly putting its new money to work. The firm has already backed four early stage startup companies.

Meakem Becker plans to finance at least one more company this year and to back 15 early stage companies across the life of its new fund. “A number of deals that we’ve done we’ve gone head to head against well known venture funds and won them over with our expertise,” says Managing Director David Becker. “Instead of working with a junior principal at some brand name firm, you’re working with the real partner who built his own company.”

The Sewickley, Pa.-based firm has already backed LiquidTalk, HotPads, Shipwire and a stealth startup with multi-million-dollar Series A financing rounds.

LiquidTalk, which sells a service that turns corporate documents and presentations into mobile formats, raised $2.4 million from Meakem Becker in March.

HotPads, which operates a rental property locator online, raised $2.3 million from Meakem Becker in March.

And Shipwire, which operates an outsourced warehouse and shipping service for small businesses, raised $4 million from the firm in July.

The firm found favor from limited partners thanks to its founders’ history as entrepreneurs and their experience investing a pool of their own money. “They love our portfolio and they like our story,” Becker says of the firm’s LPs. More than two-thirds of the firm’s backers were individual investors, and the firm lists 90 investors on a regulatory filing associated with its first fund.

The firm did not take money from public institutions, but did secure funding from a New York-based institution called Emigrant Alternative Investments.

Becker and Glen Meakem worked together as entrepreneurs, starting business-to-business auction company FreeMarkets. Their company went public in 1999 and was bought by enterprise-spend management company Ariba in 2004.

After the Ariba acquisition, Becker invested his own money in early stage companies through a $10 million vehicle called Clearwater Capital Management (which is unrelated to the private equity firm Clearwater Capital Partners. “We discovered we were quite good at making investments, so we decided to bring the band back together,” Becker says.

The partners’ experience as entrepreneurs impressed Shipwire founder Damon Schechter. He chose the firm for his financing based on the strength of the partners, he says. “Dave was running the logistics for Dole Foods before doing FreeMarkets. He single-handedly knows more about this business than anyone else I’ve met. These are entrepreneurs who invest in entrepreneurs.”