Ridgelift cancels inaugural fund

Ridgelift Ventures has shut down, after a fruitless year spent marketing its debut fund.

The Woodside, Calif.-based firm was co-founded about 14 months ago by former U.S. Venture Partners Partner Stu Phillips and former Idealab Managing Director Robert Goldberg. The team set a $200 million target for its inaugural fund, and added former Charles River Ventures Partner Dave Newman and former Dominion Ventures CFO Kendall Cooper to its roster. But Ridgelift wasn’t able to secure even $100 million in limited partner commitments, let alone twice that.

“It was just a very difficult environment to raise a fund in,” Phillips said last week. “The LBO guys are taking up a lot of the LPs’ attention and capital.”

It also didn’t help that while both Phillips and Goldberg were generally well-regarded among LPs, neither had an abundance of investment home runs to trumpet on their roadshow. Two of Phillips’ best returns came from CacheFlow (renamed as Blue Coat Systems Inc. and launched a $120 million IPO in 1999) and @Road Inc. ($63 million IPO in 2000). Meanwhile, Goldberg’s highlight reel has included investments in X1 Technologies Inc., Snap.com and Insider Pages (which was acquired for an undisclosed amount by CitySearch in March 2007). X1 and Snap remain active portfolio companies for Idealab.

The decision to close shop came nearly two months ago, but news of the Ridgelift’s folding was first reported last week by Private Equity Insider.

Phillips and Goldberg had met more than eight years ago, when Phillips led a USVP investment in browser add-on company FlySwat, which was later acquired by NBCi, where Goldberg was serving as senior VP of sales, marketing and operations. The two later served together on the boards of ClickShift and X1 Technologies.

Neither Phillips nor Goldberg have revealed their plans. When Phillips was asked by a reporter to choose from a long list of options, such as angel investing, joining an existing firm or trying again to launch a new firm, he responded that his future could involve “all of the above.” He says that he will continue to maintain his Soaring on Ridgelift blog (located at http://1vc.typepad.com/) to keep him occupied in the interim.

He says that there are no plans to change the name of the blog, since he is an avid pilot. (“Ridge lift” is a term used when a prevailing wind rushes against a long hill or ridge of hills and the air is forced upward.)