Ben Narasin joins Canvas Venture Fund as General Partner

Steven Loeb · September 15, 2015 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/401a

Narasin had been doing seed deals at TriplePoint Ventures, but will now be doing Series A and B

Canvas Venture Fund, the early-stage investment firm that spun out of Morgenthaler Ventures back in 2013, announced on Tuesday that it has added a new member: Ben Narasin, who has joined the firm as a general partner.

Before joining Canvas, Narasin worked an institutional seed investor, specifically as  President, Seed Stage Investments and oversees seed funding investment activities at TriplePoint Ventures where he made investments in approximately 75 companies over eight years.

Some of the companies he backed included Lending Club, Zenefits, Dropcam, Check, Branch Metrics, Kabbage,  Realty Mogul and Enigma, and more. The startups that he seeded have a combined market value of over $10 billion.

At Canvas, Narasin will be moving to slightly later stage deals, going Series A and B rather than seed, and in an interview, he explained why he decided to take that leap.

"In the first three years that I was doing seed investments, 50% raised a Series A. In the second three years, another 50% raised a Series A. Often it was with my help, and I had gotten good about getting companies to the right people, learning who could provide value," he said.

The moment he decided to switch to Series A, though, came when Renaud Laplanche, founder and CEO of Lending Club, invited Narasin to come to the New York Stock Exchange on the day the company went public in 2014.

"That was a moment of extreme pride for me, but, at the same time, I was standing on the floor not the podium. Renaud always said I should be given credit because I was the first to see the opportunity, and I should have gone along for the entire ride. I wanted to be able to travel this whole journey, and that is what got me intrigued about doing Series A."

When he decided to make the switch, Narasin told me that there were a variety of firms romancing him, but he chose Canvas for a variety of reasons.

First, it is a "small, elite, focused firm," he said, and "small is beautiful."  Second was their style of investing.

"There are two styles of seed investing. There's the spray and pray method, which is like the Russian Army, where you take an unlimited number of citizens carrying pitchfork, and send them to battle and you hope they can win. You do it again and again without stopping. That's not interesting to me," he said. 

"The other is like the Israeli Army, or Navy SEALS, who are highly trained and at the top of their game, and who fight valiantly to win battles. I like to have a smaller fund and a smaller team. I'm fascinated by Navy SEALS because you always know the person by your side is watching your back. The idea that they make each other strong has always appealed to me."

It also helped that he knew the partners well, including Canvas partners Gary Little and Rebecca Lynn, for the last eight years. Narasin has invested in three of Canvas' portfolio companies: Lending Club, Check, and Eden.

"We are like a cloverlieaf, as in we share center, but the leaves are of different expertise. Paul and I know marketplaces, but  he has things I don't do, like the healthcare space. Rebecca and I have fintech," said Narasin.

"I get along with them quite well so it seemed like the absolute right place for me in the end."

"Ben, as a seed investor, brings more institutional rigor to the process of investing. Also, unlike most angels, Ben provided constant support of his entrepreneurs, meaning he was always on his 'bat phone' whenever entrepreneurs needed him and met with founders at least quarterly," Lynn told me.

"Given his institutional background, the transition into venture will be far easier. We also have a history of mentoring here at Canvas. Gary mentored me when I first started out eight years ago with no venture experience; Gary attended board meetings and did due diligence alongside me until I became expert at it."

Narasin will be investing out of Canvas Fund 1, which is a $175 million fund, and will be making one to two investments per year. Initial checks will be between $5 million to $8 million, possibly as high as $10 million, for Series A investments, and $8 million to $15 million for Series B investments. 

The Canvas partnership was formed in August 2013 and is focused on early-stage technology
companies in software and services. It has invested and joined the boards of companies that include FutureAdvisor, HealthLoop, Viewics, CrowdFlower, Totango and Eden.

Narasin started investing when he was 12 years-old, when he turned a $50 investment in his comic-book resale company into more than $1500 at a single trade show. His company FashionMall.com, a New York City-based e-commerce startup he founded in 1993, went public in 1999.

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