Columbia Capital has a unique history in the venture capital industry, which still shapes the way we invest and how we go about building companies with our management teams.
In 1989, a group of entrepreneurs, all of whom were operating in and around the then nascent wireless communications market, came together and founded Columbia Capital. The original focus of the business was as an advisor to the growing list of companies and entrepreneurs who were buying and selling wireless spectrum. This is the critical asset required to operate mobile networks across the country and Columbia was one of only a few firms who understood the market.
The Columbia partners quickly saw that the opportunities being created by the emerging wireless business, and other related competitive telecommunications providers, went beyond advisory work. They decided to begin investing their own capital into some of the opportunities they were seeing. For the first 10 years of Columbia’s existence, we only invested our own money.
As a result, we took a very hands on approach to building companies and working with management teams – we weren’t just investors, we were usually the founding partners, alongside the management teams, with as much to lose in each deal as the senior executives. In fact, many of the early companies we backed were incubated in our office.
In 1999, we raised our first institutional private equity fund with traditional outside LPs, but our investing philosophy has remained the same. We strive to know a small handful of sectors better than anyone else, work to marry great executives to compelling growth opportunities, and then roll up our sleeves with them to build great companies by providing insight, advice and capital. And, we’re still one of our largest investors so we “eat our own cooking” in a major way, just as we did in our early days.
Our sector focus has expanded and evolved over the years as the market has changed. And we’re constantly on the lookout for new trends and new sectors that are related to what we know and where we can quickly leverage our decades of communications experience.