Lister Delgado co-founded IDEA Fund Partners in 2006 as a seed and early-stage technology-focused fund in Durham. Today, IDEA Fund Partners is considered one of the most active early stage funds in the Southeast. In his role at IDEA Fund, Lister is responsible for all aspects of the venture process, from opportunity sourcing and negotiation to management of portfolio investments.
Prior to IDEA Fund Partners, Lister was part of the corporate investment team at MCNC Ventures, a technology-focused fund investing in early stage companies in North Carolina. In 2006, concurrent with his investment responsibilities, Lister led the design and implementation of the NC IDEA grants program. Under his leadership, NC IDEA awarded nearly $4 million to 90 companies. The NC IDEA grants program is today a key source of seed funding and validation for new companies in the state of North Carolina.
Lister started his career in the telecommunications and semiconductor industries. He worked in that field for five years, first at AT&T Bell Labs and later at Lucent Technologies, in a range of technical roles, from ASIC design to software development and systems engineering.
He is passionate about entrepreneurship and company formation and has been an early stage investor and advisor to entrepreneurs since 2001. During his career, Lister has led the evaluation of thousands of companies and has been a close advisor to hundreds of startups. Currently, he manages several active portfolio investments for IDEA Fund Partners as director, board observer, or investor including 71Lbs, Adrich, Allvision, Canopy, First, Klearly, Mati Energy, Pendo, Qoreboard, Reveal, Second Nature (previously FilterEasy), Sift Media, Silbo, and Spiffy.
Lister received a ScB in Electrical Engineering from Brown University, an MS in Computer Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
1. What is in your pockets?
My wallet and my cell phone, that’s it.
2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
The most exciting thing is that we have our first unicorn. Pendo becoming a unicorn after only, what, has it been five or six years? It’s really exciting for any fund. I am proud of many investments, but you don’t often get a unicorn in your portfolio. Not everybody does. Even though there’s been, what, a hundred or a few hundred unicorns out there? I don’t know what their actual number is. Any fund that gets a unicorn, it’s a milestone. So that’s a big one.
3. What is your favorite coffee spot?
I have several go-to places, depending on where I’m going to be. If it’s in downtown Durham, Beyu Caffe. It’s easy to get to, people know it. It’s a great place for nice, small tables to have an intimate conversation with an entrepreneur. I like Cafe Carolina in Chapel Hill, It’s kind of like my second office. And then towards Raleigh, the Starbucks between Slater and Page Roads. [Editor’s Note: All three have been featured in Where’s Pete?] And I have a new favorite coffee spot too, The Oak House Durham in downtown Durham
4. What keeps you up at night?
What keeps me up at night is not worries; it’s excitement. I don’t really worry about the problems. When I’m excited about a company, then it’s hard for me to stop thinking about it, especially when it’s a new deal. So it’s not necessarily things that are going wrong or problems, it’s possibilities and opportunities. That is what keeps me up at night.
And unfortunately or fortunately, I’ve had a lot of good opportunities, a lot of good deals, so I end up staying up at night thinking about our new deals. For example, we are closing on a new deal right now, in InsightFinder. We did Klearly Analytics recently. I was very excited about that deal and some other things. Pendo becoming a unicorn, that’s the kind of thing that gets me excited about the possibilities of what the future will bring for the company. That’s what I think about at night that doesn’t let me go to sleep.
5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
I’m the kind of person that does not have a favorite. I think about a portfolio. I have a bunch of restaurants that I like.
6. What is next for you or your organization?
Fund III, our next fund. For us, just taking the next step to our growth, our maturity. We’ve done two funds, and we’re wrapping up our third fund, and we’re continuing to think about what the future looks like.