Startup Investing Offers More Than Dumb Money

As managing director of Thayer Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on hospitality technology and backed by one of the Thayer Lodging Group funds, Chris Hemmeter has seen hundreds of startups come and go. He’s laser-focused on staying ahead of trends and spotting new business opportunities while there’s still plenty of upside. “In 2009, I had this thesis that the hospitality industry, which is very large as you know, had been slow to adopt innovation and technology in comparison to many industries,” says Hemmeter. “Having a venture capital firm specifically focused in early stage investing in the sector made a lot of sense to me because this is a unique industry.”

But instead of just handing over a pile of cash and promising to check in later, Hemmeter sees Thayer Ventures offering a service that helps startups with business development, sales, and strategy. “Good entrepreneurs are looking for strategic capital and, more than anything else, they want help open doors,” he says. With an advisory board that boasts industry giants like Starwood Capital’s Barry Sternlicht and Robert Alter, founder of Sunstone Hotel Investors, Thayer Ventures is positioned to find investment opportunities before anyone else. The firm often asks Lee Pillsbury to sit in on startup pitches so they can leverage his deep industry knowledge. Hemmeter notes, “He just has a ton of value as a strategist and a is real visionary.”

“And now we’ve found that, because of our positioning, good entrepreneurs are finding us,” says Hemmeter. “We’re also being brought into deals by other venture capital firms because we have a strong opinion on maintaining a small fund footprint.”

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Hemmeter says Thayer Venters remains focused on early stage investing in small fund dynamics partly due to how inexpensive it is to build companies today, especially in the B2B space. “You get into some early stage investment of B2B companies, and they’re not seeing the sort of crazy evaluations that you see with B2C companies. In these cases, we can really get in and influence businesses and own significant stakes in those companies.” – SD