Darren founded Ingress Capital to make it easier for early-stage companies to connect with value-added investors. Prior to founding Ingress, Darren was Chief Executive Officer of the Pronto Network (an IAC portfolio company). As CEO, Darren grew Pronto’s consumer shopping marketplaces to over 20MM monthly users across five markets in the US, Europe, and Asia, and record profitability. Prior to Pronto, Darren held senior operating roles at Avery Dennison, and Sequoia-backed technology company EMN8. Darren is a founding Board Member of Venture for America, a non-profit whose mission is to revitalize American cities and communities through entrepreneurship. Darren holds an MBA from UCLA, with a focus on Entrepreneurial Finance, and a BA in Rhetoric from UC Berkeley.
How did you get into the finance industry?
A big part of what I do is in the finance industry but I don’t really think of it that way; I think I’m in the matchmaking business. I want to find the right investors for the right businesses and if I can do that more good businesses will get funded. Right now very few people make the decision about which companies get funded and which ones don’t and the industry admits that they are not good at it.
Tell us about Ingress Capital. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
The idea actually came at the intersection of three things. The first was the success of Kickstarter, which has now raised nearly $1.5B online. The second was the landmark piece of bipartisan legislation in the JOBS Act which massively reformed securities regulation. The third thing was that I’ve been both successful and unsuccessful in my career in raising capital (and in that order). In one situation I helped raise tens of millions of top tier venture capital and in the other I was unable to raise for a very good, but nuanced business outside of technology. The problem was that I didn’t know investors in the space at the time, which meant that I wasn’t successful in raising enough money. Different flavors of that business have subsequently entered the space and raised tens of millions, which helps validate that my idea was a business worthy of venture capital.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Ingress Capital's success?
We’ve partnered with some current and former creative professionals at BBDO, a creative agency responsible for some of the best commercials on TV. They are amazing. They help companies explain their business through video which has become the language of the web. It creates a level of engagement that allows someone to quickly understand whether they want to learn more or decide that it’s not for them. In my opinion, the production value is best in class for our space. On top of that we help the companies find investors out on the web by assisting them with marketing. We believe you should “fish where the fish are” and we help companies find the investors that are most passionate about their business.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
One of the biggest trends that has taken place in the last decade is the value that has been captured in the private markets. Many investors still believe that real money can be made by buying a good public equity after an IPO. That is a fallacy. Companies today simply don’t have to, or even want to, go public so they raise private capital and remain private for as long as possible. The data on this is crystal clear.
You only get one shot at life – don’t screw it up.
Ingress Capital's Motto?
Take risks. Find rewards.
Your greatest success as founder of Ingress Capital? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
I think the greatest success is the team that we’ve been able to create who all share the same passion for solving this problem. That’s not puffery either; we have some of the best online marketers, product, operations and salespeople you can find. Our General Counsel is one of the best in the business. This group can accomplish enormous tasks in very little time and it’s thrilling to see.
The most difficult moment was when I realized the size and scope of dealing with securities regulation. I come from a world where you talk to consumers in plain English. This is one of the most highly regulated industries on the planet and requires you to make disclosures that take the humanity out of customer engagement. We spend every day managing the regulatory side of the business while still treating our investors and companies like human beings. It’s a very clunky waltz, but we’re getting better at it.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Find a quiet place and be very still. Convince yourself that there will not be one single easy day for the next 5-10 years of your life - really contemplate what that means. Then ask yourself whether you can keep your head about you when there are no easy days. If you understand that reality and believe that you can be happy and levelheaded then go for it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who can make the leap.
How do you motivate your employees?
I believe in hiring smart, self-motivated people and letting them run. I define the point off in the distance, set the course, and then I get out of their way.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Ramen (in Tokyo) and water. You won’t find a better meal in a five star restaurant.
What literature is on your bed stand?
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Startup Rising by Christopher M. Schroeder. I’m a painfully slow reader though – by the time I get in bed, I’m ready to sleep.
Role model - business and personal?
It’s cliché but it’s my mom on the business side. She’s doesn’t have a college degree and didn’t have any business experience when she started her own company. She literally didn’t know anything about what she was doing but decided that she was not going to stop until she figured it out. She just retired after a 30-year career running her own wedding and events business.
I find myself studying people intensely to understand the characteristics about them that I find appealing. That makes my personal role models too numerous to list. I’ll meet five people today that do something special that I want to emulate.
There aren’t many things I can do outside of family and work but I’ve become extremely passionate about giving back and helping the country. I’m working with an amazing organization called Venture for America that’s helping place recent college graduates in startup companies in the American cities that need them most. We’re putting talented young people in cities like Detroit, New Orleans, Cincinnati and Providence, and it’s one of the things that I’m truly passionate about.
Most interesting headline you've read this week?
Lending Club Set to Debut, and Industry Is Watching. Lending Club was an innovator in democratizing lending in the same way we’re democratizing private company ownership.
What's next for Ingress Capital?
We’re going to be adding a lot of companies to our site in the very near future. I really believe that these companies are amazing opportunities and offer investors access to an asset class that they’ve historically had trouble accessing. 2015 is a big year for our company with a number of big announcements in the works. We’re changing things and nothing could be more exciting.