Real estate developer Robert Mantella was always intrigued by the way his three children were able to interact with technology with comfort and ease. In their early teens they had mastered their devices — their computers, their smartphones — and Mantella was fascinated by the way technology was seamlessly weaved into their everyday lives.
“It isn’t hard to see how personal devices are integral to the lives of today’s youth,” says Mantella, president and CEO of Mantella Corporation, a family-owned and operated real estate development company that’s been in business since 1946. “This generation grew up connected and their futures will continue to be tied, ever more closely, to their technology. This is something that simply can’t be ignored.”
Mantella, a wildlife enthusiast and proponent of the power of evolution, had already witnessed the changes that swept through the real estate development business. Investment trusts emerged and institutionalized the industry, and many family-owned development companies that couldn’t compete with the trusts’ deep pockets were pushed to closure. The environment had shifted and Mantella knew he needed to evolve the family development business to find new avenues for growth. Technology was the obvious route.
In 2008, Mantella sold a group of properties from his company’s portfolio to generate the funds needed to lay the foundation for his own venture capitalist firm. He teamed up with Robin Axon and Duncan Hill, the founding partners of early-stage technology accelerator Basecamps Labs and together they launched Mantella Venture Partners in 2010.
Today, Mantella Venture Partners has flourished into a $23-million early stage fund that invests upwards of $500,000 in companies and entrepreneurs developing market-altering mobile and Internet software. In it’s first year alone, Mantella VP invested in 60 entrepreneurs and even sold PushLife, a mobile entertainment platform, to Google for $25 million.
And Mantella VP’s successes don’t stop there. In a recent New York Times article, it was announced that Chango, a platform that helps connect marketers with their target audience and one of Mantella VP’s first investments, was purchased by Los Angeles-based advertising company Rubicon Project for a reported $122 million. Online security and privacy company SurfEasy was also recently purchased by Norwegian software giant Opera. And Unata, which allows for real-time shopper marketing, was selected by North Carolina grocery chain Lowes Food for a pilot project that will offer a one-to-one e-commerce connection with its shoppers.
“By aligning with brilliant partners, we were able to develop a different model of investing seed money,” says Mantella. “We believe a coordinated effort between the founders and the investors is key to developing these companies and their products. We’re very hands-on in all stages of growth, mentoring these young geniuses so they can build a successful business.”
Mantella VP also has no plans to slow down. “These brilliant minds are creating technology that shapes the way we interact with businesses, products and, of course, each other. We’ll continue to provide the support and guidance they need to bring these ideas to life,” Mantella explains. But when it comes to what we can expect from the company in the future, he remains reserved. “The best is yet to come.”