Interview with Marc Averitt and Sharon Stevenson, Okapi Venture Capital

My interview this morning is with Marc Averitt and Sharon Stevenson of Okapi Venture Capital, a new venture capital fund headquartered in Orange County. Okapi just announced the close of its first fund, Okapi Ventures I, LP, at $30M. I caught up with Marc and Sharon to understand where the fund is looking at investing in.

Ben Kuo: Congrats on the new fund. Tell me a bit about the fund and what your investment objectives are?

Marc Averitt: Okapi will focus on seed and early stage investments in information technology (IT) and life sciences (LS) opportunities in southern California. We believe that a tremendous opportunity has been created in the seed and early stages of venture capital investing as venture funds have gravitated towards greater fund sizes and started making larger, later-stage investments. We feel our skill sets, backgrounds, and personal networks are particularly well suited to seed and early stage investments in LS and IT. We think southern California, in particular, offers a wealth of such investment opportunities due to the large concentration of universities, the breadth and depth of such universities' research and the southern California economy in general.

BK: Are there any specific kinds of companies or markets you are looking at, or have interest in?

Marc Averitt: While we are focused more on good investment opportunities in southern California in the IT and LS markets than any specific type of company, we do have some general preferences. For example, from an IT perspective, we are currently looking at companies in the infrastructure software, semiconductor, and material science areas. As for our LS interests, we are currently looking at companies in the medical device and biotech categories. We are also beginning to see some interesting opportunities in "areas of overlap" such as nanobiotechnology and healthcare IT.

BK: Have you started looking at investment opportunities yet, and have you made any investments?

Marc Averitt: We have been actively looking at deals for a couple of months now but have not made any investments. Stay tuned though...

BK: It looks like you have a good set of corporate LPs out of Orange County. How did you connect with those partners, and what are they hoping to get out of investing with Okapi?

Sharon Stevenson: Actually, we have a great set of corporate LPs! The CEOs of these companies saw the need for knowledgeable seed and early stage capital in the region and decided to make a difference by becoming founding LPs for the fund. Our connecting is a classic example of the networking that OCTANe facilitates. As for our founding corporate LPs' specific expectations, beyond making a good return, you would have to ask them.

BK: What relationship, if any, is there between Okapi and OCTANe?

Sharon Stevenson: Okapi is a text book, for profit, seed and early stage venture capital fund investing in information technology and life sciences opportunities in southern Californa with an emphasis on Orange County. OCTANe is a non-profit chartered to help stimulate the information technology and life science communities in Orange County by facilitating the introduction of entrepreneurs to service providers.

Four of our founding investors are publicly-traded companies - the leaders of which are on OCTANe's Board of Directors. Additionally, several of our venture capital advisors are also on OCTANe's Board of Directors and Sharon and I each sit on OCTANe operational committees for our respective disciplines.

Ben Kuo: Thanks for the interview!


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