A New York VC Spotlight: John Borthwick



John Borthwick, the founder and CEO of betaworks, got his start as an Analyst at Mercer Management Counseling in 1987. At about the same time, he also worked as a Manager at Oliver Wyman and Co. and shortly after leaving the two jobs, he became the CEO of Web Partners and cofounded Total NY, where he also served as CEO. From there, his resume goes on to feature stints at AOL, Time Warner, Digital City, and Fotolog.

Despite this long and impressive list of companies and positions to his credity,, when asked by AdAge what he would be doing if he wasn’t running betaworks he simply replied, “Creating this job.”

Through betaworks, Borthwick has invested in Twitter, where he’s had a successful exit, Seesaw Decisions Corp, Daylife and Picturelife. Borthwick sees Betaworks as more than just an investment firm, though. From the company homepage which says, “We build companies,” to an interview with Techcrunch where he says, “If you look at the products out there, I think of them more as ecosystems or clusters of things. There’s a strong relationship between the products that we build or invest in at Betaworks, they all fit together like a puzzle […] Thinking about the entire puzzle instead of trying to invest everything in the highest growth piece is what we’re doing.”

With background in product development at both AOL and Time Warner as well as all his investment experience, this view makes sense. If he sees a company that will fit in with what betaworks is already doing, he will likely invest in it; if he sees an idea that will fit in, he’ll just build it in house. So while Borthwick is an investor, and judging from his record, a good one, he understands and has experience on both sides of the tech start-up landscape.

Betaworks is the perfect spot for this Wharton Business School graduate.

VC Firm
Founder and CEO of Betaworks – Aug 2008 to present

Selected Investments:
Buzzfeed, Rebelmouse, Stocktwits, Kickstarter, Product Hunt, Branch, Instapaper, SocialFlow, Chartbeat, Bitly, Digg, Rapgenius, Path, Quibb

Selected Exits:
outside.in, Twitter, OMGPOP, HotPotato, Tweetdeck, Tumblr, GroupMe, Venmo

Social Media:

Memorable Quotes:
On the things VCs should look for: “The ecosystem of venture-backed companies is like a rainforest — there are big trees at the top and lots of fertile growth at the bottom but not much in the middle. Having something in the middle is actually really good because it can build good businesses and a system for innovation.”

On betaworks’ master plan: “There is an outline and we are continuously editing. When we build one piece that really fits well, it is a dark circle and we begin drawing around it….Venture capital forces companies to keep raising more money and that only works well for certain kinds of companies. That is not what Betaworks is building.”

About the author: John Zurz

John graduated from Queens College in 2013. A lifelong New Yorker he has had articles featured in both print and online publications.

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