Nov 132014

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Dr. Earl R. Smith II


Jack Biddle, Co-Founder and General partner, Novak Biddle Venture Partners

In this series of articles, I describe interviews with investors in the Washington DC area. They range from angel investors to managing partners in well established funds. I have known most of them for many years. That allowed us to cut through the usual PR crap and get to the heart of how they review investment opportunities. When I told them that my objective was to provide a series of articles which would help companies seeking funding, each was very willing to help – it is, after all, in their interest to improve the process. I owe each of them a debt of thanks for agreeing to sit down and ‘open the kimono’ so to speak.

Jack BiddleThe first article in the series – Conversations with Investors – Chapter One – focused on Jim Hunt of The MITA Group. Jim is a fairly typical angel investor – a successful entrepreneur who has turned to investing on early-stage companies. The second interview – Conversations with Investors – Chapter Two – was with a close associate of Jim’s, JS Gamble. My next interview was with Jack Biddle. Jack is co-founder of Novak Biddle Partners and one of the major players in the private equity game in the Washington DC area.

Interview with a Venture Capitalist

Prior to co-founding NBVP in 1996, Jack was President and CEO of InterCAP, a venture-backed computer software company. InterCAP was number 18 on the “Fast 50” list of the mid-Atlantic’s fastest growing companies and was acquired by Intergraph in 1995. From 1987 to 1990, Jack rose from Senior Associate to Partner at Vanguard Atlantic, Ltd., a merchant banking group focused on M&A advisory work and control investments in software companies. At VAL, he served as turnaround CEO of a system software company and then as COO of an application software company. Earlier in his career he was an IT Industry Generalist, focused on Telecommunications Technology, at the Gartner Group, where he was also Executive Assistant to the CEO, Gideon Gartner. He began his career in 1983 in Austin, Texas at Business Development Partners, an early stage venture capital partnership. Jack holds a BA in Economics from the University of Virginia.

Jack currently serves on the Boards of WealthEngine, Vision Chain (Chairman), CorasWorks (Chairman), Triumfant, eMinor, ObjectVideo, Starfish Retention Solutions and Appian Corporation. Past Board or Observer seats include SafeView, Inc. (acquired by L3 Communications), Matrics (acquired by Symbol Technologies), Giga Information Group (Nasdaq: GIGX) (Lead Director), acquired by Forrester), Telogy Networks, (acquired by Texas Instruments), Tantivy (acquired by Interdigital), AnswerLogic (acquired by Primus Knowledge Systems), and Blackboard, Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB). He is a Director of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a member of Business Executives for National Security (BENS), and advises the U.S. Department of Defense on technology and innovation.

He is on the Investment Committee of the University of Maryland’s New Markets Growth Fund, an SBA leveraged fund targeting private equity investments in disadvantaged areas. Jack is a board member of TiE-DC. He is a frequent speaker on entrepreneurship for the U.S. Department of Commerce, and has made presentations for them in Russia, China and Japan. Jack is a Director and former Vice Chairman of the Board of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He is a Trustee serving as Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair of the Sibley Memorial Hospital Foundation and also serves on the Hospital’s Investment Committee.

Novak Biddle Venture Partners was established in 1997 to provide equity financing and assistance to the management of young, information technology companies. NBVP provides equity financing and assistance to the management of early-stage, information technology companies principally located in the Mid-Atlantic region. It is backed by a number of the country’s most prestigious limited partners, and has over $580 million under management. They seek investment opportunities where the combination of ideas, dollars, experience, and relationships can create long-term, sustainable value. While they believe that the vast majority of business plans they receive have the makings of viable companies, they are looking for additional key features in the businesses in which they invest.

The Initial Screen

We met at the Novak Biddle offices in Bethesda. That was the first of many differences from the prior interviews. Jim and Jay run what are for all intents and purposes virtual operations. Like most angel investors, they keep overhead to a minimum. But Novak Biddle is a different kind of operation all together. They maintain a core staff of over a dozen professionals. NBVP prefers to be the first institutional capital brought into a business. Their target investment is from $100,000 to $10,000,000. While they focus mainly on information technology companies in the very early stage through first round, they will consider financing later stage opportunities and spin-outs where they can add significant value. They also will syndicate larger or later stage rounds through their limited partners and other firms in the venture community. Overhead is unavoidable consequence of their business model. With only two of us present, the Novak Biddle main conference room seemed positively palatial.

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