Wes Blackwell joins Scout Ventures to invest in early-stage, veteran-led startups

This post was written by Anthony Ha (TechCrunch) and originally posted here

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We haven’t written much about Scout Ventures, but the New York City-based firm has built up a big portfolio over nearly a decade of investing, with exits like Olapic (acquired by Monotype for $130 million) and Kanvas (acquired by TechCrunch’s parent company AOL).

And, it’s done all of this with just one full-time partner, Bradley C. Harrison — until recently, when the firm brought on Wes Blackwell as partner.

Blackwell is an advisor to Washington, D.C. startup studio DataTribe and previously led enterprise implementation, account management and tech support at LiveSafe. And like Harrison (who graduated from West Point and served in the Army for five years), Blackwell is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, having spent more than a decade flying helicopters in the Navy.

“If you’d asked me five years ago if I would have partnered with an Annapolis Navy brat, the answer would have been an unequivocal no,” Harrison said. But he said that as he and Blackwell started spending more time together, he realized that their backgrounds were complementary: “It made all the sense in the world.”

And the Armed Forces background isn’t just another line in their bios — Harrison said that about half of the companies that Scout has invested in were founded by veterans.

“We don’t find a lot of competition in this stuff,” he explained. “It’s a pretty tight community.”

Scout typically writes initial checks of between $500,000 and $750,000 and aims to take a stake of around 10 percent. And while Harrison has been the only full-time partner until now, the firm has a team that also includes several venture partners and Principal Brendan Syron.

“Like any good investors, our thesis evolves over time,” Syron told me. He said the firm has become increasingly interested in frontier technology, with investments in its “core sectors” of AI, machine learning, autonomy and mobility, and “a big focus” on data and cybersecurity — an area where Blackwell has strong connections.

“Some of folks in this industry, by their nature, they’re not very trusting,” Blackwell said. “So by virtue of Brad and I’s background and character, there’s a trust factor there.”

Blackwell has already made his first investment as part of Scout, leading a $1.5 million round in DeepSig, a startup working to improve wireless technology by applying deep learning to radio signal data.

Wes Blackwell joins Scout Ventures to invest in early-stage, veteran-led startups

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