Steve Schlafman went through a year-long journey considering options, including an effort to raise his own fund, before finally joining Primary Venture Partners as the New York seed firm’s third partner.
Mr. Schlafman is joining Ben Sun and Brad Svrluga who co-founded Primary. They raised their second fund, totaling $100 million, earlier this year.
Steve Schlafman. Photo: Primary Venture Partners
Mr. Svrluga invests in enterprise software startups and Mr. Sun in consumer. But Mr. Schlafman is a generalist. Previously at RRE Ventures and Lerer Hippeau Ventures, he has invested in companies including Giphy, Citizen, theSkimm, View the Space, Wag, Lola and Breather.
“Given the way Schlafman works, we may need to raise Primary 3” by next summer, Mr. Svrluga said with a smile at Primary’s NYC Summit, a conference the firm is hosting this week in Manhattan.
Mr. Schlafman left RRE after four years as principal last September. He said he wanted to take a new step in his career but took a risk since he wasn’t sure in which direction he’ll go.
Last year he went on a 10-day silent meditation retreat, followed by a week off the grid, reading and thinking.
He started a nine-month Leadership that Works certificate program at the New York Open Center to become a leadership coach. That interested him so much that he said he considered leaving venture investing altogether.
Then Mr. Schlafman began developing an idea for a venture fund that would be linked with a new leadership academy for entrepreneurs. Mr. Schlafman even devised a name for it, Genuine, and put together a pre-marketing pitch deck.
Ultimately, “I missed being part of a team,” said Mr. Schlafman, who’s an identical twin.
He could better achieve his plans as part of an existing organization with larger resources, he decided. He also resolved to build on all the experience he already had in venture investing to get even better at it.
He first joined Primary Venture Partners as a venture partner and now took the leap to become a full-time partner.
He plans to invest in entrepreneurs who are natural leaders and who are open to developing their leadership skills. He is also planning to invest his time into making sure Primary is an organization that delivers on its promise to be of support to founders. Primary has about a dozen people on staff, as well as a network of advisers.
Primary’s partners have been investing in New York startups for more than a decade. But they said that the city’s technology market is really taking off now. Four of the 10 largest venture deals in the past 18 months were with New York companies—WeWork, Peloton, Compass and Letgo.
Write to Yuliya Chernova at [email protected]