Bezos Lieutenant Blackburn Joins Silicon Valley’s Bessemer

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Jeff Blackburn, the longtime Amazon.com Inc. executive who announced his departure this week, has landed at Bessemer Venture Partners.

Blackburn will be a partner at the venture capital firm, which made early investments in Shopify Inc., Pinterest Inc., LinkedIn and Twilio Inc. Bessemer also made a bet on streaming business Twitch, which Amazon acquired.

Bezos Lieutenant Blackburn Joins Silicon Valley’s Bessemer

Investors at Bessemer got to know Blackburn through that acquisition and other Amazon investments. Jeremy Levine, a partner at Bessemer, said that “the breadth of stuff he did at Amazon” makes Blackburn uniquely qualified to be a venture capitalist.

Bessemer said Thursday that it has raised a combined $3.3 billion in two new funds for both early and growth-stage investing. Bessemer raised $2.4 billion across its last two funds in 2018.

Despite sky-high valuations, Levine said it’s still a good time to invest, though he doesn’t expect prices to continue to climb indefinitely. “They will go down,” but “I don’t know when,” he said.

IPOs, SPACs

Although it has been expensive to make new bets, Levine said that liquidity events including initial public offerings and mergers with special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, have made up for it.

“We’ve seen the quality of opportunities across the industry increase roughly proportional to the amount of capital,” he said.

Bessemer will continue to make investments across the consumer and cloud technology categories. It will also be investing in emerging areas like outer space and across health care, including biotechnology.

Steering Amazon

Blackburn’s departure from Amazon followed the disclosure that Jeff Bezos is stepping aside as chief executive officer later this year, moving to executive chairman. As a trusted Bezos lieutenant, Blackburn was among a group of senior leaders who joined the online bookseller in the 1990s and expanded it to a globe-spanning conglomerate.

Before taking a sabbatical last year, Blackburn oversaw a wide range of businesses, including Amazon’s television and movie studio and music streaming service, as well as corporate development and a fast-growing advertising unit.

While many of Amazon’s first-generation executives are still at the Seattle company, Blackburn’s departure came amid a partial changing of the guard in the senior ranks. Since the beginning of 2020, the leaders of Amazon’s global retail and logistics business and its physical stores unit and left the company.

With its new funds, Bessemer also has elevated four investors to partner: Mary D’Onofrio, Mike Droesch, Tess Hatch, and Andrew Hedin.

The firm now has 21 partners globally, including in the San Francisco area, New York, Tel Aviv and Beijing.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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