Ambitious Entrepreneur Has Urge to Emerge

Monday, I mentioned the current project of GoFish founder Michael Downing. Yesterday, I interviewed another person trying to raise an early-stage venture fund based on the strength of a network of venture partners that he has assembled.

The entrepreneur is Geoff Schneider of Wilton, Connecticut. Schneider was most recently a vice president of sales at the consumer advisory services startup Iconoculture and earlier worked in marketing at Gartner, in sales for now-defunct software company Centrport, and as managing director for the dot.com-era consultancy Scient.

Schneider hasn’t founded a company before or worked as a VC, but that’s not stopping him from trying to raise a $150 million fund at his newly minted firm, Emerge Venture Capital. In fact, Schneider, who’s been fundraising for months around a digital media/marketing and advertising/financial services technology mandate, is getting close to a $50 million first close, he tells me.

If you’re wondering how, Schneider credits the model he’s pitching, which centers on an organized network of 20 venture partners that includes former Scient CEO Bob Howe and former Priceline cofounder and CTO Scott Case.

The plan is for every venture partner with, say, a financial services background, to get involved with every related startup in Emerge’s portfolio — at least initially. (Amazingly, Emerge is structured so that seven or eight venture partners might swoop into one startup to deliver feedback, make introductions, and help map out strategy at once. “It’s a high-touch, value-add model,” says Schneider.)

Meanwhile, the idea is for Emerge to enjoy low operating costs, while its venture partners enjoy some financial upside. (Some will earn a slice of the firm’s profits over a 12- to 36-month-long period. Others have already bought a percentage of the general partnership.)

Schneider hasn’t bothered cold-calling institutional investors; he knows they wouldn’t pick up. Instead, his fundraising efforts have focused on high-net-worth individuals, including some later-stage VC partners, family offices, hedge funds, and “a lot of overseas money.”