Mail Room Fund

William Morris closes The Mail Room (Fund)

April 25, 2011: 2:30 PM ET

The Mail Room Fund launched three years ago to a flurry of Hollywood fanfare. Now it has disappeared with nary a whimper.

Venture capital goes Hollywood.

That was the message in March 2008, when Silicon Valley stalwarts Accel Partners and Venrock partnered with the William Morris Agency and AT&T (T) to invest in Southern California's early-stage digital media market. They called their brainchild The Mail Room Funds, as an homage to the legendary William Morris trainee program that had turned out such superstars as Michael Ovitz and Ron Meyer. No one ever said how much money it had, but speculation ranged from $30 million to $50 million.

The benefits of MRF for each party seemed obvious:

  • For Accel and Redpoint, it would be a foothold in the burgeoning Los Angeles startup market, plus a way to find talent for other digital media portfolio companies.
  • For William Morris, it would present new work and exposure opportunities for clients. Remember, MRF was launched shortly after the Hollywood writers strike, in which many studio-phobic writers and actors found refuge at digital media startups.
  • For AT&T, this mostly seemed to be about money (i.e., a good investment). There also was an argument that MRF was part of the carrier's evolution into a content provider.

Mail Room Fund was led by Richard Wolpert, who previously had served as chief strategy officer at RealNetworks and president of Disney Online. He also was an advisor to Accel Partners, and once had been a partner with Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Companies. In other words, he was well-versed in both the digital media industry.

Also involved was Paul Bricault, who had spent more than a decade at William Morris -- where he had led both the global marketing and digital media practices, plus sat on the agency's board of directors.

MRF got off to a fast start, participating in a $1.55 million Series A round for Sometrics, a Los Angeles-based company that provided social application metrics (it since has morphed into a virtual monetization platform for online game publishers). It then went on to invest in Cocodot, a Hollywood-based online invitation startup aimed at women, and AdventureLink, an Altadena, Calif.-based online discovery engine for adventure vacations. More

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