Consigliere

One ad exec's journey to VC, and back again

December 2, 2013: 3:31 PM ET

Mike Duda is ditching his VC duds to run creative agency Johannes Leonardo. But his equity-for-service model may live on.

Michael Duda in between Johannes Leonado co-founders  Leo Premutico and Jan Jacobs

Michael Duda in between Johannes Leonado co-founders Leo Premutico and Jan Jacobs

FORTUNE -- Creative agency Johannes Leonardo last week announced that it had hired Michael Duda as its CEO. If that name sounds familiar, it's probably because Duda has spent the past few years running a small New York venture capital firm called Consigliere, which he co-founded in 2010 alongside basketball star Steve Nash. Before that, Duda was chief corporate strategy officer at IPG's Deutsch Inc.

Since being founded in 2010, Consigliere has been an unusual hybrid. It raised between $5 million and $10 million to invest in startups with "brand capital" – which has resulted in a 17-company portfolio that includes Aloha, BirchBox, StellaService and WarbyParker. It also has struck equity-for-service deals with such companies as Runa and Ministry of Supply, plus some pure branding consulting work for such larger companies as Chobani, GNC and Under Armour.

Duda says that Consigliere's future has not yet been determined, including its small amount of uncalled capital (although investors will have the right to refuse new calls, if they so desire). The firm has five full-timers and 17 other folks who have collected some sort of compensation (freelancers, etc.) – and no final decisions have been made of if the remaining staffers will continue work under the Consigliere umbrella, hang their own shingle or (possibly) go to work for Duda at Johannes Leonardo (whose clients include Google, Sprite and Nike).

He adds, however, that Johannes Leonardo likely will forge more equity-for-service partnerships with younger companies, or perhaps even partner with private equity firms when they purchase branded companies.

"My biggest flaw with Consigliere was that it should have been an agency from the get-go," Duda explains. "Luckily we were able to get into some great companies like BirchBox early on, but now with Johannes Leonardo I have a chance to do what I should have probably done in the first place."

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