FirstMark | 05.20.10

Meet FirstSteps, FirstMark Capital’s Seed Program

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New York City based FirstMark Capital recently announced FirstSteps, the firm’s new seed-funding program.

FirstMark has always been involved in seed rounds, but the new program represents a greater emphasis on very early stage companies, which FirstMark thinks will increasingly be necessary to bring in the huge returns that venture capitalists are accustomed to.

Lawrence Lenihan, CEO and Managing Director of FirstMark Capital, explains the thinking thus:

Companies can now be developed for a fraction of the cost than they could just a few years ago and get to market in a fraction of the time. The impact of this dynamic is that companies develop sooner and grow faster with less capital. That means that we venture capitalists have to adjust our business model and be able to invest earlier and in smaller amounts.

So, what are the companies FirstMark thinks can keep the cash rolling in?

Over the past year, FirstSteps has invested in ten startups, putting $250,000-$750,000 in to each. Many are still in stealth mode, and none have been around long enough to judge, but we’ve taken a quick look at each.

MyCityWay creates city-specific local search apps. Within each app, you can use one of fifty different forms of location-aware search, depending on what you’re looking for.

GoodCrush is an online dating service for college students. You enter the names of people you’re interested in; GoodCrush keeps the information anonymous unless that person independently indicates that they are interested in you.

The company also has a college-only version of Chatroulette, called RandomDorm.

Payoff creates gameplay mechanics around being financially responsible. Check out their explanation of how it works:

AppFirst is a SaaS-based application monitoring solution. The company won two awards in its category at its launch at the Under the Radar event in April.

Turiya Media provides analytics tools for social games. The company is still in stealth mode, but won the Who’s Got Game startup competition put on by GamesBeat.

MarketFactory is a financial technology company that develops market platforms for various forms of OTC trading.

Packlate is a travel startup that helps you find rental homes in vacation destinations at the last minute, for steep discounts.

This is obviously a crowded field, and its too soon to say how PackLate hopes to set itself apart.

Pinterest is “a place to share visual collections of things you love.” It’s in closed beta, so it’s difficult to say what value it’s adding in the ultra-crowded curation space, but we’ve heard a few enthusiastic endorsements from beta users.

FirstMark’s press release describes Ahalife as “a globally curated commerce platform that provides a guided lifestyle shopping experience for women.”

FirstMark’s managing director, Amish Jani told us it was “luxury meets social meets curation.”

Make of those what you will. We’ll see what it is when it launches.

There’s very little information available about NetComp so far, but what we do know is that it’s a “virtual insurance company” focused on workers compensation claims.

Amish says that while the insurance industry has always been slow to innovate and adopt new technologies, a handful of tools have been released recently that make launching virtual insurance companies easy, and that we should expect to see plenty of them in the near future.