Hey, Startups: This Brooklyn Fund Has $27 Million to Invest

Notation Capital launches a new fund to focus on writing the "first check" to mostly local ventures

Alex Lines, left, and Michael Chirls launched Notation Capital in 2015 (Photo courtesy of Notation)

One of the most striking things about Notation Capital is the determined clarity of its mission: “to be ‘first check investors’ and the best possible partners to technical founding teams on day zero of a new project.” That’s how the Brooklyn-based firm, led by partners Alex Lines and Nicholas Chirls, put it as they announced Wednesday that they’ve raised $27 million for a new fund, almost three times the size of their initial fund when they launched the firm in 2015.

With that first fund, Notation invested in 28 startup teams, writing checks of around $200,000 as part of funding rounds of up to $1 million. All but two investments were in the firm’s home city, many of them in Brooklyn. Their local startups include Carmera, which develops street mapping for autonomous vehicles; Bulletin, which describes itself as a WeWork for retail stores; and Sawyer, which has been described as a kind of OpenTable for children’s activities.

Chirls and Lines, who earlier both worked at the startup platform Betaworks in Manhattan, had three things in mind when they launched their firm: New York City’s pool of tech talent is getting bigger; traditional early-stage funders are focusing on larger ventures; and the city’s “angel ecosystem” still isn’t big enough to support its ranks of fledgling startups.

When they launched the firm three years ago, they described themselves as a “pre-seed” firm, but with the new fund the partners want to change their terminology because “we struggled to define what the heck ‘pre-seed’ actually means” and “it’s often times confusing for founders,” they wrote in a post on Medium.

Among startups funded by Notation Capital is Bulletin, launched in Williamsburg by co-founders Ali Kriegsman, left, and Alana Branston (Photos by Seth Caplan/Courtesy of Bulletin)

By calling themselves instead a “first check” firm, they aim to make it clear that their mission is “to partner with technical founding teams in underestimated geographies on day zero, before the opportunity is obvious.”

In talking about geography, they mostly mean non-Silicon Valley, giving examples of Toronto, Boston and Austin as likely prospecting grounds. But it’s safe to assume that they’ll continue to focus on the city, including Brooklyn, having now built a community of entrepreneurs around their firm.

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Not long after the time of their founding, Chirls told Technical.ly Brooklyn: “We considered having an office in Manhattan, but so many people and founders now live and work in Brooklyn that having an office here is totally doable, if not preferable for many,” he said. “Safe to say we’ll be in BK for a long time.”

Steve Koepp is the editor of The Bridge. Previously, he was editorial director of Time Inc. Books, executive editor of Fortune and deputy managing editor of Time.