Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we give a profile overview of our many diverse members. For this deep dive, we spoke to Oliver B. Libby, Managing Partner of Hatzimemos / Libby.
1. Tell us about your firm. What makes it different?
Hatzimemos / Libby, or H/L Ventures for short, is one of the early venture studios, and we think one of the first focused on the nexus between growth, impact, and diversity. On the spectrum of active support of portfolio companies, we would be on the most engaged side of co-building, providing consistent support to our founders throughout their entrepreneurial journey. The core of our investment thesis is daily active engagement with founders, hosting weekly calls with senior leadership to ensure that we remain helpful and relevant to our portfolio companies.
At H/L Ventures, we passionately believe that the best companies will have both high impact and high returns. It’s our experience that sustainable businesses and diverse founding teams enhance returns, and we believe that investing in companies that make positive societal impacts makes good business.
2. Where did your firm’s name come from?
Eric Hatzimemos and I have been working together, building an extraordinary partnership for 17 years. Eric has been a mentor, friend, and partner for all those years. When we started H/L Ventures in 2009, we agreed on the importance of integrity and being present for our portfolio company partners. So, even though we occasionally have to spell the company name out on calls, we keep both on the door as a sign of the very personal commitment we have to our entrepreneurs, investors, and team.
3. What defines your portfolio?
H/L Ventures is focused on the very relevant overlap between growth, impact, and diversity. As a venture studio, we are involved from nearly the very beginning (including sometimes co-founding!) to the exit. We are industry-agnostic, relying on our team and expert Trusted Partner Network to diligence and support companies from energy to health, and from food to AI. All of our portfolio companies track to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and 70% of our founders are of minorities that are underrepresented in tech.
4. How is the firm different today than when you first started?
When we started, Eric and I had the intention to create a firm that allowed us to co-build companies and have – as much as possible – aligned interests with founders. We wanted to win alongside our entrepreneurs and partners. We didn’t know exactly the form that our model would take – and launching the month after the market lows of the ’08 financial crisis forced us to be dynamic. We would not have been able to predict that H/L Ventures would evolve into what people now recognize as a venture studio over the last 11 years. We experimented with the very structure of the venture firm, emerging as a holding company with a true company-building ecosystem. From Eric and me on Day 1 to a team of staff, Venture Partners, Advisors, and partners that is around 60 people, we have come a long way (and yet, somehow, it still feels new!).
One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is our dedication to active engagement and our commitment to finding value at the nexus of growth, impact, and diversity – those through-lines have remained constant since we shook hands in 2009.
5. Why is your firm a part of NVCA?
I’ve found that people outside of the venture capital industry seldom understand how collaborative the ecosystem of investors and company builders truly is. And in order to best take part in building community for both our entrepreneurs and our firm, we felt that it was crucially important to be a part of the leading industry group in venture capital. Furthermore, we are big believers in the evolution of venture capital toward greater focus on impact and diversity and a more hands-on approach with portfolio companies. NVCA clearly represents one of the best platforms for promoting change within this exciting industry.
6. Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.
It’s difficult to say exactly what the current landscape is as a result of the coronavirus, but we believe that New York City and the broader tri state region is the most vibrant ecosystem for entrepreneurs in the U.S. today.
From an active angel investment environment, to a growing proliferation of funds at various stages, to proximity to the extremely active IPO markets, New York remains the capital of capital. The case is being made every day, as more and more companies from the early days of Silicon Alley experience valuable exits. In addition, the proximity of startups and companies across many valuable industries is undeniably the best in the world.
As Silicon Valley has made clear over the years, successive generations of extremely valuable companies generate the vibrant innovation and talent pools necessary to propagate entrepreneurship at an ever-greater scale. New York has intentionally invested heavily in its entrepreneurship ecosystem, and not even Covid-19 can dampen its spirit.
It is also very clear that NY investors and entrepreneurs are truly committed to building companies that have world-positive impacts, global views, and diverse founders and teams.
7.What’s ahead for your firm in 2020?
We anticipate both continued investment activity in our existing portfolio, as well as new activity from our robust pipeline. It’s important to note that investing in diverse founders has never been more important – a moment that we have been waiting for for more than a decade. We have recently added stellar team members to our H/L family to support this growth.
8. Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less.
Hardworking, trustworthy, responsive, diverse, impactful.
Cassie Ann Hodges serves as Director of Communications at NVCA where she leads NVCA’s strategic communications, branding and content development, and media efforts to better support and empower the venture community, startups, and entrepreneurs. She also oversees the NVCA StratComm Peer Group network and programming.