These 30-year-old tech investors just brought a $50M fund to San Diego
Young blood is stepping into San Diego’s tech scene with the arrival of a new VC fund. The venture capitalists — all in their 30s and younger — have launched with $50 million in cash to invest in software startups.
The fund, called Blueprint Equity, is led by founders Bobby Ocampo, 33, and Sheldon Lewis, 34. The duo met more than a decade ago while working as investment bankers. Since then, Lewis went on to become a Silicon Valley venture capitalist for MainSail Partners. He moved to San Diego in 2013 to help lead PayLease, one of MainSail’s portfolio companies. Ocampo also moved into the VC world, most recently working with Revolution Ventures, an East Coast fund launched by AOL founder and longtime CEO Steve Case.
Ocampo and Lewis collaborated on a few local investments, including construction software startup eSUB and agtech company SlantRange, over the past few years.
After rallying their own investors, the two decided to step out on their own with a software-focused fund. Ocampo moved to San Diego earlier this year to join Lewis, and the two have already hired two associates to get started. Although the duo wouldn’t say how much they’ve raised, a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission shows they have closed on $54 million, with plans to raise $75 million total.
Blueprint will be a bit of an island in San Diego, as the city is not home to many technology-focused funds apart from JMI Equity and TVC Capital. San Diego’s money is hyper-focused on the life science industry, and several tech funds of yesteryear died out with the dot-com demise. Although groups like Enterprise Partners, Mission Ventures and Forward Ventures used to place big bets in the tech world, those funds disappeared more than a decade ago.
But that’s the selling point for Blueprint.
Escaping the “microcosm” of Silicon Valley and Boston
Ocampo and Lewis said their main goal is to step outside traditional tech hubs like Silicon Valley and Boston and instead search through secondary markets like San Diego, Austin and other up-and-coming tech cities.
“The ecosystem in Silicon Valley feeds on itself, and not always in a good way,” Lewis said. “Being in a place like San Diego enables us to make decisions outside the influence of those microcosm bubbles.”
San Diego has seen recent traction in software, the investors said, illustrated by local software startup Seismic’s recent $1 billion valuation.
Dave Titus, who’s been tapped into the local startup scene for the past few decades as a venture capitalist, entrepreneur and civic leader, said Blueprint’s arrival to San Diego is indicative of recent shifts in the software industry. The trend of consumer-facing apps is over, and now investors are more interested in business-to-business software.
“Five or even 10 years ago, social media and mobile apps were all the rage,” Titus said. “We’re not a social media and apps kind of town, though. We’re an enterprise software kind of town. Now that enterprise software is the popular thing today, money is following where the opportunities are.”
Ocampo and Lewis said they were strongly influenced to choose San Diego as their home base by Mike Krenn, who leads the San Diego Venture Group, a nonprofit that tries to connect startups with investors. Krenn has been sinking resources into campaigns that help rebrand San Diego as a technology hub, including a memorable effort in 2016 involving a digital billboard on one of Silicon Valley’s busiest (and most gridlocked) freeways. The sign displayed eye-catching one-liners to bait technology workers during their commute (For example, “Hey engineers: Remember how much fun you used to be?” and “Today’s surf report: San Diego is better”).
“We thought about it and decided San Diego is the best place in the world to live,” Lewis said. “Mike Krenn talks about that all the time. Why move to the valley and pay twice as much in rent to hire talent that we’ll lose a few months later? Here there’s cheaper rent and great talent that’s loyal and sticks around.”
Who do they invest in and how much?
Blueprint wants to catch companies before other VCs have arrived, so they’re focusing on early stage deals. The firm wants to see startups that are earning $1 million to $5 million in revenue, primarily those in business-to-business software.
Blueprint plans to make investments of $3 million to $10 million per deal, starting with one to three investments per year. They’re planning on hiring two more associates to help take on the work.