Bisnow has a Halloween suggestion for Mark Frantz, General Partner at RedShift Ventures: Put on a Captain America outfit. It would hardly be a stretch—not only was Mark an All-American swimmer at Allegheny College (brawn, check), he also served as Managing General Partner at In-Q-Tel, the CIA's vc fund (defender of America, check). With a history like that, you’d think the guy would be immune to pressure. But Mark says that building a vc firm is a “wonderful, frightening” experience like he’s never known before. “I wake up at two in the morning with the entrepreneur sweats.”
Mark at Starbucks yesterday. He should get used to waking up in the night: He and his wife Megan are expecting their first baby next year. Megan is no stranger to the tech field; she works at Silicon Valley Bank.
Mark and his three partners—Rich Harris, Randy Parker, and Sirini Mirmira—cut the ribbon at RedShift 18 months ago, and Mark would be sweating a lot more if he weren’t so comfortable with the business model they’ve hit on. RedShift is focusing on spinout companies and tech transfers from universities, federal labs, and corporations. Their last four deals involved spinouts like DigitalBridge Communications, a Verizon offshoot that brings broadband access to rural areas using WiMAX technology. RedShift is also invested in a spinout from Harvard, now in stealth mode.
Mark set up our meeting in a Starbucks because he was “on the go” and away from RedShift’s new Arlington digs, but it turns out he’s simply addicted to the stuff and had scheduled a whole slate of appointments at the coffee joint.
Mark says that getting involved with projects that already have some R&D funding benefits all sides. Having a source of funds other than venture capital usually means that owners give up less of a stake to RedShift, which reduces its own risk. RedShift is currently deploying its third fund and looks mostly in the fields of software, communications, and microelectronics—a function, in part, of the materials science background of some RedShift partners.
Mark was sporting a wrist-splint this week from a fall he took while running. But hey, we aren’t about to call a nine-time qualifier for the US Triathlon Championships clumsy. He’s tearing up the bike portion of a race, above.
RedShift has made investments in a few online companies—like Imaginova, which delivers science and technology info to its readers at Spacenews.com, Aviation.com, and other online outlets. Still, Mark is wary of the “froth and hype” that surround the Internet like foam on a latte. (Exhibit A, Mark says, is Facebook’s new $15 billion valuation, courtesy of Microsoft.)
Mark was at Carlyle Venture Partners before In-Q-Tel, and says he hasn’t made this little money since he served as a tech and policy advisor to then-Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania—though it’s worth the sacrifice to “try to build something for the next 25 years and more.” And night sweats aside, Mark’s enjoying the ride. “I get paid to read, meet interesting people, and think about how the world is going to change. What’s better than that?” Starbucks?