Fund aims to help startup businesses
“I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve built up companies from scratch and helped growing businesses find money.” Jeanne Bayless, new CEO, Step One Ventures
Jeanne Bayless has been named as the chief executive officer of Step One Ventures, a new fund aimed at helping fledgling Baton Rouge companies.
Bayless is the managing partner of the United States office of STAR Ventures, an international venture capital fund with $1 billion under management. She has an extensive background in working with investors and as a serial entrepreneur. She was selected for the job after a national search.
“I’ve been on both sides of the table,” Bayless said. “I’ve built up companies from scratch and helped growing businesses find money.”
Bayless will become CEO of Step One effective Nov. 18. The effort will officially launch in the first quarter of 2014.
Terrell Brown, chairman of Step One Ventures, said Bayless was “a perfect fit” for the job.
“Not only is she a proven, serial entrepreneur with a successful track record as a venture capitalist and fundraiser, she also has an innate desire to make a difference in our community,” Brown said.
Although Step One sprang out of the Research Park Corp., startup businesses from across the Capital Region would be able to tap into funding, not just companies in the organization’s Louisiana Technology Park. The goal of Step One is to drive the formation of high-potential companies and improve the availability of startup funds. While the initial focus will be on Baton Rouge area startups, Step One will expand its focus based on funding and opportunities.
Bayless was previously director of strategic investments for Intel Capital, managing investments in support of the computer giant’s strategic goals.
In the early 1990s, she was the founder, CEO and president of AnswerSoft, a startup that developed software for call centers. Bayless sold that business to Davox Corp. for $80 million and stayed on as vice president of marketing. She then became vice president of marketing for NetBoost Corp., a startup that accelerated network applications. NetBoost was purchased by Intel in 1999 for $225 million, which led Bayless to work for Intel Capital.
Bayless said she has a network of venture capital friends from across the U.S. and Europe who find Baton Rouge and Louisiana interesting.
“There’s a core base of incubators and accelerators and a lot of technology coming out of the universities,” she said.
Bayless mentioned biotechnology, mobile applications and the LSU AgCenter as being areas with a lot of startup business activity locally.
“But I haven’t had an opportunity to dig deep into that,” she said. “Once I get down there, I will start culling through.”
Baton Rouge and Louisiana startups are a better value for venture capitalists than businesses based out of California, Bayless said. For one, the cost of doing business are much lower locally than in California. The other thing is that the large number of startup companies clustered in California has led venture capitalists to bid each other up.
“I’m really looking forward to coming,” Bayless said. “I’m really just incredibly impressed by the passion of the community and all of the groups on the ground.”