Lightbank plants NYC flag with Principal Vicki Levine

By Erin Griffith , written on January 30, 2013

From The News Desk

Vicki Levine may have grown up in New York City, but until last year, she was based in the Chicago headquarters of venture capital firm Lightbank, where she's a principal. The firm then moved her to San Francisco, marking the first time Lightbank stepped outside of Chicago. Now, she's packing up and moving again -- back to New York. Lightbank is opening an East Coast office in New York's Flatiron neighborhood led by Levine. "We're going to stay there," she says.

Twenty percent of Lightbank's portfolio is on the East Coast, including New York-based Contently, the freelance marketplace, Bevel, the jewelry trunk show, OnSwipe, the display advertising company, and Centzy, the local service price comparison engine. The company's three partners will continue to seek out and lead deals in New York as well.

Levine focuses on commerce startups, but is interested in getting to know New York's rich ecosystems of media and health care startups, she says. Having an engineering degree, Levine says she's also interested in New York's burgeoning hardware tech scene.

As a firm, Lightbank has a soft spot (it may be a sore spot, at this point depending on how you view it) for local-focused businesses, given its part in the creation of Groupon. For example, the company was an early investor in Belly, the local rewards company that will soon begin offering transactional services to local merchants.

Lightbank's presence in NYC could help fill a hole in the investment landscape. The city is awash in angle investors, seed funds and accelerator programs. What we don't have, which is particularly helpful amid a Series A crunch, is a lot of Series A money.

Lightbank invests from a $200 million pool of capital. It comes mostly from the pockets of Managing Partners Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, who previously founded outsourcing firm Echo Global Logistics. The firm has invested across the board, from big commerce companies like Beachmint to education companies like Udemy and marketplaces like Zaarly. Levine says the firm typically writes checks between $1 million and $4 million. "I'll be getting to know companies when they're probably too young for us, but then we'll be there to help with the Series Seed and A rounds," she says.

[Image via Giandomenico Ricci]