BY EVELYN M. RUSLI
Long before Goldman Sachs sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into Facebook at a soaring $50 billion valuation, an Accel partner, Jim Breyer, made a controversial bet on a Harvard dropout.
In April 2005, he spearheaded Accel’s $12.7 million investment in the fledgling social network, at a near $100 million valuation. He also took a stake for himself. That early move has turned into one of the best bets for Accel, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture capital firm, which is also a backer of social buying site Groupon.
Now Mr. Breyer is turning his attention to New York, where the company is opening a new office at 41 East 11th in downtown Manhattan. Although Accel is no stranger to New York — the firm has made more than 15 investments here in the last three years — Mr. Breyer said the firm is making more deals around the region.
In an interview on Wednesday with DealBook, Mr. Breyer said the pace was definitely picking up for New York’s technology start-up scene, referred to as Silicon Alley. He drew comparisons to the vibrant growth in China, where Accel has made more than $1.5 billion in investments. Mr. Breyer, who serves on the board of dean’s advisers at Harvard Business School, also says more top graduates are migrating to New York — not to work for Wall Street — but to become entrepreneurs.
“The entertainment, media and consumer companies we see in New York today are as interesting as any geography in the world,” he said.