Exclusive: Two top partners at LA's Upfront Ventures have quietly stepped away from investing duties

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  • Upfront Ventures is one of the oldest and most prominent Los Angeles venture firms.
  • Kara Nortman, named one of the firm’s three co-managing partners in 2020, will not be making new investments.
  • Greg Bettinelli, an Upfront partner since 2014, has also transitioned to an operating role.

Two of the top partners at Upfront Ventures, one of the oldest and most prominent Los Angeles venture firms, have quietly stepped back from investing duties in recent months and will be moving on to pursue other opportunities, Insider has learned. 

Kara Nortman, who was promoted to be one of the firm’s three co-managing partners in 2020, has taken on a new role as board partner in order to spend more time on the professional women’s soccer team she cofounded as well as other sports-related business opportunities, according to Mark Suster, Upfront’s managing partner. 

“She realized she was really passionate about sports and she wants to pursue that as a main activity,” Suster said. “She’s transitioning to this role with my complete blessing and we’re still close friends.”

Nortman did not respond to requests for comment. 

Greg Bettinelli, an Upfront partner since 2014, will also no longer be making new investments at Upfront. 

“I’m transitioning to board partner and have decided to pursue another other opportunity which I’m not ready to discuss yet,” Bettinelli wrote in an email. “I have a great relationship with the Upfront team and obviously the firm and my portfolio mean a lot to me personally and professionally.”

Suster said the timing of both transitions, which he said occurred during the last three months, was purely coincidental. However, he said in both cases Upfront’s relatively narrow focus on business-to-business enterprise technology did not align with Nortman’s interest in sports and Bettinelli’s passion for consumer technology.

“Neither of them were asked to leave,” Suster said. “Sometimes you wake up and you see an opportunity you want to pursue. I don’t want to hold someone back from something they believe in.”

Several investors in LA’s tight knit venture community reacted with surprise to the change. 

“That’s big news,” said one VC, who declined to be identified because they were speaking about a rival firm. 

In 2020, Nortman cofounded Angel City, a professional women’s soccer team that started playing this year in LA. Other high profile backers of the team include Natalie Portman, venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian, and tennis superstar Serena Williams.

Nortman, who is one of the few women to ascend to the highest ranks of venture capital, is also a founding member of All Raise, a nonprofit advocating for female founders and investors. Before joining Upfront in 2014, she cofounded Moonfrye, a children’s e-commerce company. She was also an executive at IAC where she oversaw Urbanspoon and Citysearch, where she recruited Sean Rad, who went on to build Tinder. 

Bettinelli, who also joined Upfront in 2014, was previously the chief marketing officer at HauteLook, an online flash-sale retailer acquired by Nordstrom, and led business development and strategy at Live Nation. His active investments include GOAT, ThredUp, Dronebase, HopSkipDrive, Invia Robotics, Ritual, Pinwheel, Verishop, Rally, Landline, Modern Animal, Route, Loupe, and TheCoolDown, according to his recently updated LinkedIn profile. 

Upfront, which was founded by Yves Sisteroni in 1996, has more than two billion in assets under management and is probably best known for the Upfront Summit, its splashy annual gathering of VCs, founders, and celebrities, which resumed this year after a Covid hiatus at Banc of California stadium south of downtown LA where Angel City plays its matches. 

Suster said as much as he will miss Nortman and Bettinelli, Upfront has a deep bench of talented investors, including Kevin Zhang, who has now been at Upfront for nearly a decade and focuses on health tech and gaming. He also praised Kobie Fuller, who focuses on Black founded businesses and customer experience software. 

As Silicon Valley firms expand their presence in LA, Upfront, which is based in Santa Monica, has started spending more time in San Francisco (Upfront makes 60% of its investments outside of LA). It now employs seven investment professionals, including partners Aditi Maliwal, on the seed team, and Seksom Suriyapa, a former Twitter executive who focuses on growth investments. 

In addition to the new $280 seed fund, Upfront is also deploying its third growth-stage fund, which has $200 million in commitments, and a $175 million Continuation Fund. Suster announced this week Upfront has returned more than $600 million to its limited partners since 2021 and more than $1 billion since 2018.

“We have a lot of money and we have a great team,” Suster said.