A trio of local serial entrepreneurs have created a $2 million fund to invest in startup consumer product companies.
Ben Feldman, Chris Ng Cashin and Jay Mebane are behind Bootstrap Advisors, a company they created in June and unveiled this week.
“Part of our objective is to grow other entrepreneurs,” Ng Cashin said. “We want to work with them.”
The trio are three of the four original founders of the company behind Thundershirt, a tight-fitting shirt for dogs touted as having a calming effect, that was sold last year for an undisclosed sum. Among their other companies is SnapTotes, a maker of bags customized with personal photographs that was sold in 2011.
“We’ve done businesses together now for about 8 years,” Ng Cashin said.
Bootstrap aims to fill a void in the region’s funding ecoystem for startups, which are focused on information technology and life science companies, while tapping the experience the founders have gained in the consumer products arena.
“It’s something we’re good at,” Ng Cashin said. “I think there’s an opportunity to build some more consumer products here.”
Although they’ll operate like a small venture capital fund – investing in startups and helping to nurture them in exchange for an ownership stake – there is one crucial distinction. Venture capitalists raise funds from others and then plow it into startups, but Bootstrap’s founders are investing their own money.
Bootstrap has already invested in two businesses and is seeking up to three more investments.
The companies it has already invested in: Rounded Plate, a board game that promotes healthy family eating habits; and FocusSpecs, a maker of eyeglasses with adjustable lenses to correct near-sightedness and far-sightedness without a prescription.
Bootstrap isn’t limiting itself to Triangle companies. Rounded Plate is local, but FocusSpecs is based in The Netherlands.
Bootstrap Advisors plans to begin construction of a 2,000 square foot building in downtown Durham, behind 120 Parish street, that will serve as its offices. There also will be space for its portfolio companies, Ng Cashin said.