Sustainability-focused venture capital fund raising $10 million to invest in Northwest

David Williams has joined Brock Metcalf at Reference Capital. Together they are raising a $10 million venture capital firm focused on investing in sustainable businesses.

David Williams has joined Brock Metcalf at Reference Capital. Together they are raising a $10 million venture capital fund focused on investing in sustainable businesses. 

David Williams has joined the team at Reference Capital where he's partnering with Brock Metcalf to raise a $10 million fund that will focus on making investments in sustainable businesses in Oregon and Washington.

Williams, former CEO of ShoreBank Pacific, which was acquired in 2011 by OneCalifornia Bank, was named in U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission paperwork filed last week along with Metcalf as directors of the fund.

The Sustainability Investment Fund 2012 will take investments as small as $25,000.

Williams and Metcalf told Sustainable Business Oregon they will likely complete a first close of $4 million by the end of the first quarter and will start making investments at that time.

It's the third sustainability fund to be raised and managed by Reference Capital, which counts Agilyx, EnerG2 and Celilo Media among its portfolio companies. The first two funds were $2 million each.

Williams said one quarter of the new fund would be invested in early stage companies with half going toward growth stage companies and another quarter designated for companies in transition. The fund will invest in what Williams likes to call "indigenous" businesses — companies with an inherent reason for being located in the Northwest — with a particular focus on businesses solving environmental and energy problems.

Companies have already approached the partners about investments.

"You don't need to have money to have people knocking at your door," Williams said. He estimates 10 companies have come seeking an investment in the last four months.

Metcalf said there has been a sharp decline in locally managed venture capital in Oregon over the last two decades — just $28 million was under management in Oregon in 2011 down from $100 million in 2000 and $225 million in 1991. The result, he said, is a stunted startup community.

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