“You don’t need too much money these days to build your first product and get it out to customers,” Kataria said. “You really don’t. It’s more strategic.”
“If you have a little bit of capital from us, and we can introduce you to customers, prospects and partners ... that really can accelerate a company very fast at an early stage,” he said.
Blue Tiger Ventures joins a growing number of so-called angel investor groups in the region. These are largely networks of wealthy people who fund upstarts individually or as a group.
As of yet, Fenty’s role in the firm is not entirely defined. Kataria said he will bear the title of founding executive adviser. But a contractual position at Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture house Andreesen Horowitz precludes him from acting as a general partner or financier, Fenty said.
Still, Fenty said he will use his connections in the Washington region and beyond to help companies pursue strategic relationships or secure needed capital. It’s a role he has played before.
When Kataria’s NewBrandAnalytics was mulling a move to the West Coast last year, Fenty arranged a breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown for executives from NewBrandAnalytics with Tony Florence from New Enterprise Associates. That meeting kept the company in the District and local investors sank $20 million into its coffers.
“The whole Blue Tiger investments comes out of that partnership where I help to make strategic contacts, either in the venture or adviser or partner role, for NewBrandAnalytics and some of the other companies I’m involved with,” Fenty said.
Fenty describes his foray into technology as an evolution that began after losing his reelection bid in the District’s Democratic primary two years ago.
One of Fenty’s key — and most heavily criticized— initiatives while in the city’s top office was education reform. That, he thought, would lend itself well to a position helping education technology companies that aim to change the way schools operate and children learn.
He was named an adviser to foreign language software firm Rosetta Stone last February, a month after leaving office, and three months later signed on to help Georgetown upstart EverFi recruit city education systems to use its Web tutorials on personal finance, cyberbullying and other topics.
“So some 21 months out of office, I’ve been able to develop a limited amount of expertise and knowledge with the hope and understanding that I will just keep growing that,” Fenty said. “It’s a very interesting industry to me, and I want to be a part of that.”
Business isn’t foreign to Fenty, though he is a lawyer by training. His family is the long-time owners of Fleet Feet Sports, an athletic shoe and apparel shop in Adams Morgan.