Tugboat Ventures pulls in $64M for fund II

Tugboat Ventures, an early stage venture fund run by a sole general partner, received $64 million from the same institutional limited partners that invested two years ago in the solo-GP firm, according to a regulatory filing.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm was founded in 2006 by David Whorton, a former general partner at Texas Pacific Group Ventures and a onetime associate at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Whorton raised $43 million for the first fund and has invested in seven startups to date, according to data from Thomson Reuters (publisher of PE Week). Whorton has not realized any exits from fund I, which is not surprising, given that the fund is less than two years old.

Tugboat also raised a sidecar fund called Tugboat Labs, though no details were immediately available about its size or aim. The target amount on the main fund is also not known.

Whorton could not be reached for comment.

For fund II, Wharton raised commitments from such LPs as Horsley Bridge, Knightsbridge Venture Capital, The Vanderbilt University and Legacy Ventures—the same institutions that backed his first fund.

Raising Tugboat’s first fund two years ago was not easy. “It looks strange to almost everybody,” he told affiliated publication VCJ last fall. “There are some people out there who believed in the type of model I proposed. It was a wonderful vote of confidence.”

Whorton has had experience working with early stage companies both as an investor and as an entrepreneur. He founded Good Technology, a wireless messaging company; co-founded Drugstore.com, an online retailer; and helped launch the Newschools Venture Fund, a philanthropy group.

He’s had a knack for getting in on some of the most interesting recent tech deals, too. Earlier this year, he was an investor in the startup Cuill, which is developing a search engine product and was co-founded by a handful of former Google engineers. Tugboat invested in the startup’s $8.25 million Series A next to Greylock Partners and then again in its $25 million Series B with Greylock and Madrone Capital.

Other investments include participation in a $4 million Series A for social networking job site Doostang; a $4.3 million Series B for advertising startup Edvert (which is doing business as RichRelevance); and a $1.5 million Series A for on-site car wash company Siteler.

Whorton has also put small amounts of money into companies that have no other operations than to be “a vehicle for entrepreneurship,” according to regulatory filings. For example, he invested $100,000 in Five Apes, run by French software researcher Williams Paquier, and $3,000 into Spitfire Labs, which lists Whorton as the company president.

The early stage firm promises, on its website, to “get under the young company’s skin” and help it through its “‘drunken walk’ phase.”

Whorton manages one of at least five solo-GP venture firms that have launched within the last two years. Others include KPG Ventures, run by former VSP Capital Partner Vince Vannelli; Maples Investments, run by former entrepreneur Mike Maples Jr.; SoftTech VC, run by Jeff Clavier, former president of RVC Capital; and Kepha Partners, managed by Jo Tango, formerly a general partner at Highland Capital Partners.