MailChimp to invest $2M in Sig Mosley’s venture capital fund

Atlanta tech poster child MailChimp will invest $2 million to help launch and grow Atlanta’s next generation of tech startups. The email marketing software maker will invest in Mosley Ventures — a nearly $30 million fund being raised by long time Atlanta super angel investor Sig Mosley. Mosley Ventures will focus on seed-and-early stage companies in the mobility, big data, greentech, Internet security and enterprise software. Atlanta has established clusters in those industries, said Mosley has been deal making for more than two decades. “We’ve got expertise, we have technology, we got manpower in those industries,” Mosley said

MailChimp, founded in 2001 by Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius, employs about 300 people in Atlanta. The company is on a growth spurt and will occupy about 115,600 square feet on the fourth and fifth floors of Ponce City Market, a $200 million mixed used development in West Midtown. “We’re hopeful that our investment in Mosley Ventures’ fund will help more startups grow, which is important to us as a company,” MailChimp Chief Financial Officer Jenny Bloom said. For MailChimp, investing in startups is an attempt at financial diversification and a shot at achieving a higher rate of return, than investing in the equities, or bonds. But, it is high-risk, as well. “We are doing well and we have a lot of cash,” Bloom said. “This is more of a riskier investment.” Investing in Mosley’s fund also gives MailChimp an early look at new and potentially disrupting technologies and markets. “There could be (companies) that we’re seeing that could have an impact on their business,” Mosley said.

Established companies investing in seed stage companies is not uncommon. It’s a cheaper way of doing R&D, Mosley said citing the example of pharmaceutical companies who typically invest in biotech startups with an eye toward acquiring them once the technology or science has been proven out. Investing in a third-party venture fund, is also less expensive and less of a hassle than investing directly in startups with a corporate fund. “MailChimp could have done what UPS had done and created their own fund,” Mosley said. “But that would have taken a lot more effort, a lot more money, and has the same amount of risk.” MailChimp entre into venture capital is particularly interesting. The intensely private Chestnut is famous for bootstrapping the company and his refusal to take venture capital. “Now he has seen, based on some of the deals that we have been able to do, that we can find opportunities out there that can be interesting to MailChimp from a technology perspective,” Mosley said.

Mosley, referred to as the Godfather of Atlanta angel investing, has been deal making for more than two decades as president of Imlay Investments Inc., the personal investment company of John P. Imlay Jr. The group, which financially backed more than 130 technology companies since 1990, stopped doing new deals in 2010. After a brief “retirement,” Mosley returned to venture investing in 2012. Over the past 18 months, Mosley has raised about $26 million of the fund, which has drawn interest from marquee Atlanta technpreneurs, including Tom Noonan, Chris Klaus and David Cummings.

Mosley, who expects to complete fundraising in November, admits its taken longer than expected. “I underestimated how people look at early stage companies,” he said. “They still view (early stage) as a greater risk than normal VC investing.”

Another complication: Many of Mosley Ventures investors — such as Noonan and Cummings — investing directly into startups. They invested less than anticipated in Mosley’s fund because they wanted to reserve dry powder to keep doing direct investing.