In her quest to become general treasurer, Democrat Gina Raimondo is stressing her Rhode Island roots and her financial experience. In a YouTube video available through her website, she talks about wanting to come back to the state to start a business.
"I wanted to create a company, create a business, in Rhode Island. I could have chosen to put it elsewhere, but I wanted it in Providence. So I came home and created it. It's called Point Judith Capital, and it's the only venture capital firm in Rhode Island. I'm very proud of what we've built."
Venture capitalists are people who raise money from entities such as private investors and public pension funds, and then invest it in start-up companies, hoping for a big return if those companies take off. It's a risky proposition, which is why there are not a lot of them around.
But we thought Rhode Island had others besides Point Judith.
So we called Richard G. Horan, senior managing director of the Slater Technology Fund, which also gives money to start-up companies. It turns out that there are other groups in Rhode Island that serve a similar function, but they are not truly venture capital firms in the strict sense, which supports Raimondo's claim.
"There are others engaged in venture investment, but they have a different orientation," said Horan.
Slater, for example, is publicly funded. It was created by the state in 1997 to stimulate the creation of new companies that focus on technology and is financed annually by the General Assembly.
The Slater Fund typically invests up to a million dollars in "seed" money at the earliest stage of a company's development, with the expectation that a traditional venture capital firm, such as Raimondo's, will make a play to be involved in the company and provide the next round of funding.
Another class, known as angel investors, also provides start-up money for promising businesses. They are represented in the state by the Cherrystone Angel Group. "They tend to be individual investors acting like investment clubs" and think of themselves as being in a separate class from venture capital firms, said Horan.
Peter Dorsey, executive director of Cherrystone, agreed, explaining that his group, with 50 members, differs from a venture capital firm because it is not a committed fund, not professionally managed and doesn't have a paid staff.
Finally, people often think of private equity firms, such as Providence Equity Partners, as being involved in venture capital, but they invest only in mature companies, he said. Providence Equity, for example, specializes in enterprises that deal with media, communications and information.
So both Dorsey and Horan agree with Raimondo, who told The Providence Journal on Jan. 20 that she would quit Point Judith Capital if she is elected.
Point Judith is "the one capital venture fund based here in Rhode Island," Horan said, adding that, "We need more. The Rhode Island entrepreneurial community would benefit greatly if other firms like Point Judith were established and operating here."
So we rate Raimondo's claim as True.
Gina Raimondo for General Treasurer website, accessed July 1, 2010
YouTube.com video, Gina Raimondo for RI General Treasurer, accessed July 1, 2010
Interview, Richard Horan, senior managing director, Slater Technology Fund, July 2, 2010
Interview, Peter Dorsey, executive director, Cherrystone Angel Group, July 6, 2010
Slater Technology Fund website, accessed July 2, 2010
Point Judith Capital website, accessed July 6, 2010
Providence Equity Partners website, accessed July 6, 2010
Cherrystone Angel Group website, accessed July 6, 2010
The Providence Journal, "Investment firm founder to run for state treasurer," Jan. 21, 2010
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