Ridgelift Returns to Earth

Updated Ridgelift Ventures is shutting down, after a fruitless year spent marketing its debut fund.

The Woodside, Calif.-based firm was formed around 14 months ago by former USVP partner Stu Phillips and former Idealab managing director Robert Goldberg. The pair originally met seven years earlier, when Phillips led a USVP investment in browser add-on company FlySwat. It would later be acquired by NBCi, where Goldberg was serving as senior VP of sales, marketing and operations. They later served together on the boards of ClickShift and X1 Technologies.

Ridgelift 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. But Ridgelift wasn’t able to secure even $100 million in commitments, let alone twice that.

“It was just a very difficult environment to raise a fund in,” Phillips told me this morning. “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, a number of LPs did not believe the investment thesis necessitated a $200 million fund.  

“I’ve had conversations with a number of prospective LP’s and have been encouraged by their interest in the original Ridgelift investment thesis,” Goldberg wrote in an email. “They find it compelling and timely and some appear wiling to consider participating in a smaller fund than we originally set out to raise. I’m continuing to explore that.”

The formal decision to close shop came nearly two months ago, and was first reported today by Private Equity Insider.

Phillips has not planned his next move, but I presented him with a laundry list of options – angel investing, joining an existing firm or trying again to launch a new firm – and he only responded that it could involve “all of the above.”

Update: Stu clarifies: “My comment about ‘all of the above’ was in reference to keeping an open mind about what I do next – in the meantime, I have strong deal flow and am focused as a seed investor and venture advisor.”

At least he’s got his Soaring on Ridgelift blog to keep him occupied in the interim. No plans to change the name, since he continues to enjoy aviation (“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).