A New York VC Spotlight: Mike Brown Jr.



Mike Brown Jr. may well be one of the youngest players in the venture capital game. After starting his career at Morgan Stanley, Brown then worked in the investment wing of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, co-founded AOL Ventures with Jon Brod in 2010, then started his own venture capital firm, Bowery Capital, this year.

And he’s only 29 years old.

At Virgin, the investments were made in early stage internet startups while at AOL, the focus was on advertising and content syndication, among other things.

But Brown has other ideas for the future.

He believes that as CTOs and CMOs move up the management and decision-making food chain in companies, they would value “new” technologies over existing models. Which is why Bowery Capital will look to invest in early stage startups focused on enterprise solutions and business-oriented ideas with a marketing or technology focus.

For the past year, Brown has been travelling the country, trying to convince investors to believe in his investment theory and has been quite successful at it – he raised $33 million. According to interviews given by Brown, Bowery will invest between $250,000 to $3 million in about 25 startups. Personally, Brown invests in 8-10 startups a year, putting in $250,000-$750,000.

Two colleagues from AOL help Brown at his new venture – Nic Poulos and Keegan Forte.

Brown received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University and co-chairs the Columbia College Young Leaders Council. He also sits on the board of the National Forest Foundation.

VC Firm:

General Partner at Bowery Capital.

Sector Focus:
Enterprise Software, Information Technology, Software as a Service (SaaS)

Selected Investment:

Codecademy, gdgt, Impermium, Schematic Labs, makers of SoundTracking,  Betaworks, Socialflow, Bit.ly, Metamarkets, Solve Media, About.Me, Qwiki, 20×200, Sailthru, Moat, Spree Commerce, Trazzler, Cruched, Voxy, QLabs.


Gdgt (acquired by AOL)
About.me (acquired by AOL)
Qwiki (acquired by Yahoo)
Crunched (acquired by ClearSlide)


Lua, advisor.
Launch Pad, mentor.
National Forest Foundation, board member.

Expertise areas:

Recruiting (using his extensive network), Business Development, Strategy and Advice.

Blogs, Website and Twitter:

Memorable Quotes:
On a bad way to pitch to him (when he was with AOL):
“People email me sometimes and say, “if we only had AOL’s traffic, we would be huge!” I get it, but that’s not a logical investment thesis for us to deploy capital against. We’re not looking to be anyone’s 80% customer and we frankly pass on a lot of entrepreneurs who have unrealistic expectations about what they want out of the relationship with us (it is a marriage after all).”

On the difference between corporate VC and independent VC:

“Assuming a Corporate VC is operating a traditional fund vehicle and not just investing off of the balance sheet (probably the first real difference), I would say the most recognizable difference is in the single vs. multiple LP structure. Corporate VCs tend to have their parent company investing in their fund whereas Independent VCs tend to have multiple LPs (like endowments, pension funds, etc.) investing in their fund. In addition to the nuts and bolts of things like governance, investment committees, etc, also being different Corporate VCs have also tended to be more strategic in nature, making investments in companies that have significant strategic value (and potential BD or M&A synergies) back to their parent company.

Note that this is a broad generalization and I’ll caveat it by saying that with the emergence of models like Intel Capital, Steamboat Ventures, Comcast Interactive Capital, Genecast and new players such as us (AOL Ventures) and Google Ventures, the model of non-strategic Corporate VC is also starting to play a meaningful role in the early stage ecosystem.”

About the author: Kamakshi Ayyar

Kamakshi Ayyar is a freelance journalist based in New York. She studied law at Mumbai University, India and received her Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University. She has written for Business India, Roosevelt Island’s Main Street Wire and The Villager.

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