The Third Degree

Quotidian Ventures and Its Venezuelan Founder Have Quietly Funded 34 New York Startups

Is Pedro Torres Picón the biggest Latin American investor in New York's tech scene?
pedro torres picon quotidian ventures Quotidian Ventures and Its Venezuelan Founder Have Quietly Funded 34 New York Startups

Mr. Picón.

Pedro Torres Picón is an angel investor of the new breed: Young, hip, and handy with an Instagram, it’s suddenly clear how he managed to make his way into a slew of impressive investments despite moving to New York two years ago without knowing a soul. Mr. Picón has an easy manner, a sweet smile and a certain trustworthiness about him; and, in this town, being personable is most of the battle.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s sharp.

The citizens of Quotidian Labs, who reside on an extremely pleasant, sunny 8th floor on W. 21st, were working quietly on a recent afternoon when Betabeat stopped by to finally meet Mr. Picón after a series of attempted appointments dating back to February. The building also houses Next New Networks, acquired by YouTube, and Quotidian’s floor came pre-decorated by Outside.in, which was bought by AOL. “This is a good building for acquisitions,” Mr. Picón said. And with stylish chairs and a glass-walled conference room, all he had to do was cover the walls with art from Artsicle, a Quotidian portfolio company, and chalk a Quotidian logo in the entryway.

Born in Caracas, Mr. Picón wrote his first business plan as a teenager: Quotidian Technologies, an outdoor advertising network. The company was not a success, but Mr. Picón still likes the name. He’s been an angel investor in Latin America and Miami for eight years, managing his family’s wealth through Quotidian Ventures.

Impressed by a Betaworks brown bag lunch featuring Gary Vaynerchuk and Andy Weissman, he decided to start a fund in New York. He’d been angel investing in Latin America and made a few contacts in Silicon Valley, but in New York he was starting from scratch.

Normally press-shy, Mr. Picón seems to have decided that it’s time to come out from backstage. He recalled a chance meeting when he first got to New York and ran into trouble getting an Uber cab after a conference. He was standing in a corner, fuming, when out walked Ron Conway. Amazingly, the white-haired tech mogul stopped and spoke to him. “I was sort of starstruck,” Mr. Picón said. “We ended up sharing a cab for 20 minutes in traffic.” He told Mr. Conway that he wanted to start an angel fund that would grow into a “fund, fund.”

Mr. Conway’s advice: “You want to be an investor? Just invest. Find companies you like, and invest in them.”

Mr. Picón, whose Macbook bears a sticker with a Yoda quote: “Do or do not. There is no try,” of course took the tip. He started making small investments, and a lot of them. He started attending tech events, sourcing deals through the people he met and trusted, and honing his investment philosophy. “We’re usually the earliest money in,” he said. “Sometimes even pre-product.” Quotidian has a broad focus, but prefers companies that solve a “real, specific problem.” “We would have missed Twitter, we would have missed Facebook,” he said, contrasting market-less companies with his investment FieldLens, a startup that makes software for construction projects with the motto “it’s just an app that solves real problems.” He’s heavy on diversification: Quotidian is a limited partner in several funds, all outside of New York.

Quotidian has invested in 34 companies, including several TechStars NYC startups and Circa, Ben Huh’s stealth startup. Quotidian has already had two exits, Mr. Picón said, and “no flops yet! (fingers crossed),” as he wrote in an email.

“I’ve definitely kept a low profile,” he said. But now equipped with a sizable portfolio, a blog, and a coworking space with six startups, Quotidian is establishing a name for itself. In May, Mr. Picón decided to blow his entire sponsorship budget on a booth for Quotidian and its portfolio companies at TechCrunch Disrupt, and even hired chalk artists and a photobooth. He’s learning to code (check), still has his membership at General Assembly (check), subscribes to Gary’s Guide and attends New York Tech Meetup (check, check) and two weeks ago, hired a hacker in residence (check).

The TechCrunch exposure backfired in some ways, he said, because he prefers to learn about deals from his own network. (Warning: Getting in touch with him by email can be a nightmare, and he might be five minutes late for your appointment, “which I do sometimes,” he admitted.)

After his initial burst of activity, Mr. Picón, is planning to hire two venture partners and a part-time in-house counsel. Aditya Mukerjee, the just-hired hacker, a recent computer science grad, will be in an analyst role but is fully technical. “I wanted him to be as different from my perspective as possible to make the conversation more interesting,” Mr. Picón said.

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