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Headhunter raises millions for first venture fund

Access Ventures, which is sponsored by prominent technology head-hunting firm Christian & Timbers, has closed a $50 million fund.

Access Ventures, a venture fund sponsored by prominent technology head-hunting firm Christian & Timbers, has closed a $50 million fund.

The formation comes as venture funds have raised a record amount of money but are finding it difficult to find good investments.

According to VentureOne, a research company that tracks the venture capital industry, $51 billion was poured into U.S. venture funds during the first nine months of 2000. But in the third quarter, the number of financing rounds dropped 16 percent sequentially to 879--adding to a 6 percent sequential decline in the second quarter.

Access Ventures will invest in early to late-stage companies that have already received commitments from top-tier venture firms, said Bill Trainor, managing director. He added that the majority of the investments will be in companies where Christian & Timbers has a relationship.

"We also want to invest in companies that have some competitive or strategic advantage," Trainor said. "We're opportunistic, so generally we'll be investing in the hottest or emerging sectors like wireless, broadband and telecommunications."

Access Ventures expects to make 10 to 15 investments a year of between $500,000 and $2 million.

The fund, which closed last week, has already made two investments. Access Ventures participated in the third round of funding for eLance, a site that allows individuals and companies to bid on projects ranging from bookkeeping to Web design. And Access Ventures joined the fourth round of funding for Zaplet, which provides email collaboration technology.

Christian & Timbers developed the idea for the venture fund, leveraging its relationship with venture firms that often call on it to fill management spots and relationships with senior executives.

Tech executives who serve on Access Ventures' advisory board and are also investors in the fund include Eric Harslem, chief technology officer with Dell Labs; Joel Hyatt, executive managing director of Idealab; and Tim Price, former president and chief executive of MCI WorldCom Communications Group.

"As a venture fund, what we bring to the table is a diverse network of people who can open doors for the companies that we invest in and help us from a networking due-diligence perspective," Trainor said.