5 Questions for Ray Rothrock

Venrock Associates today is announcing that it has raised $600 million for its fifth fund, and also that it has hired former Spark Networks (a.k.a. JDate) CEO David Siminoff as a partner in charge of media investments. Oh, and it’s also dropped “Associates” from its masthead. So let’s play 5 Questions with Ray Rothrock, one of Venrock’s three managing general partners (and you thought there were four…)

1. Your firm’s U.S. staff is split between New York and Menlo Park, but our records show that West Coast companies are more likely to get Venrock funding than are East Coast companies. Is this an overall venture shift, or is it specific to Venrock?

Rothrock: I don’t think it’s specific to us, and our analysis actually doesn’t show that. Each year we calculate where our money is going and where our profits are coming from, and it’s about half and half. I’ve personally been involved in a number of successful East Coast deals, even though I’m based here [Menlo Park]. We also have some overseas investments, including out of our office in Israel.

2. One reason I asked is that Tony Evnin — Venrock’s only managing general partner outside of Menlo Park – is not listed on the new fund filings with the SEC. Is that an inadvertent omission, or is it accurate?

Rothrock:It’s accurate. Tony will be a general partner of Fund V, and has a strong portfolio of about eleven companies he will continue to work with. He also will provide some senior leadership in New York… He does not plan to do new deals, but we’ll probably have to glue his feet to the ground to stop him… We do not plan to add another managing general partner to the New York office at this time. The three managing partners are me, Tony Sun and Bryan Roberts. Bryan is our healthcare lead, which was a role Tony had played.

3. You also have a new partner in David Siminoff. Had he agreed to join Venrock prior to resigning from Spark Networks in February, or did discussions begin afterward?

Rothrock:I’m not sure of the exact timing, but can certainly say that we’ve had a search on for someone like David for a while now. We were already recruiting when we went out on our road-show from October to December, and showed LPs a blank slide that we said was where our new media partner would go.

4. Will Fund VI follow the same investment strategy as Fund V, in terms of deal size and target sectors?

Rothrock:Deal size yes, sectors no. Specifically, in our pitch to LPs, we broke out energy as a separate category, and promoted Matt Trevithick to partner. He and I will head up the energy practice, with Matt spending about 80% of his time on energy and me spending about 40% of my time. We also made it official that we’re doing small-cap public healthcare investments, and of course media deals. We’ve been wanting to do media for a while, but didn’t have the right DNA until David Siminoff came on board.

5. In conjunction with the fund close, Venrock Associates is dropping the “Associates.” Why the name change?

Rothrock:When we branched out from the Rockefeller family in 1995 and started taking third-party capital, we kept the Venrock Associates moniker. But now we have Venrock Associates, and the Venrock Entrepreneurs’ Fund and the Venrock Partners fund. The result is that we use the term “Venrock” to describe everything, so thought we should just name the firm that. We talked to the family, and they were fine with it.