The kbs+ Ventures portfolio includes Adaptly, AdsNative, Awe.sm, Crosspixelmedia, and Yieldbot. After a dormant second half of 2013 with no new investments, the group has made two new ones so far this year, including AdsNative. Its investments tend to be small compared to dedicated VC firms. In the case of AdsNative, a sell-side ad tech company focused on (you guessed it) native ads, kbs+ Ventures was listed as a participating investor but the $2 million round was led by Interwest Partners.
In addition to the role vacated by Davidson, Engroff's group recently added two part-time analysts. These have joined two others who focus on vetting deals and diligence and a marketing person who does some work preparing decks for portfolio companies. Together this team vetted 200 potential investments last year. It's a scrappy effort, but growing.
"We have been adding by borrowing from the agency, leveraging people who are already here," he said. That internal beefing up will be accompanied by more spending both on staff and growing the portfolio. "As an experiment, Ventures is getting bigger. It's something we've responded to organically — the back half of last year saw not a whole lot partly because there wasn't much interest. We're opportunistic about it."
He said there's also a sense of accomplishments around the investments kbs+ Ventures has made thus far. "The portfolio has done very well — better than a traditional approach, which might be two stars, a bunch in the middle that neither succeed nor fail, and a bunch of failures. That's not us."
Often when it makes an investment, kbs+ Ventures retains the right to participate in future rounds — called pro-rata rights in VC parlance. "When we can and it's not too expensive we would tend to participate in those pro-rata rounds," he said.
For the next phase of its "fund," Engroff said his group is looking at categories including cross-device, data science, real-time location, and programmatic TV. "Ad serving and DSPs are mature areas that aren't as interesting," he said.
As for the full-time position, "We have a lot of candidates for role, it's an extremely sought after position. Trying to hire a C++ programmer or a front-end developer is much harder in a way. The number of attractive VC jobs is much smaller than the number of people who want to get into it."