Seeking Start-Up Help? Give Bain a Virtual Pitch

You, too, can meet a venture capitalist. Bain Capital Ventures, with $1.5 billion under management and early-stage investments in companies like LinkedIn, Staples and DoubleClick, is reaching out to the masses.

On Wednesday, the venture capital affiliate of the private equity firm Bain Capital opened a virtual center for connecting entrepreneurs with like-minded individuals and its network of industry experts. The Bain Capital Ventures Innovation Center, leveraging social networks on Facebook and LinkedIn, may seem like just another network for entrepreneurs. But it is providing regular public access like no other major venture capital firm has before, mainly to help entrepreneurs refine their business ideas.

Each Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. Eastern time, entrepreneurs can meet with at least one Bain Capital Ventures staff member (principal, managing director or associate) for 15 to 20 minutes at Bain Capital Ventures’ Boston office or at the Venture Cafe in Cambridge, Mass. Some of Bain’s 33 managing directors, principals and associates will rotate each week into the office hours.

But before you bring your idea for the next Silly Bandz to Boston, you have to apply online.

“Clearly, we just need to make sure if someone is there for a productive reason,” said Deepak Sindwani, one of the team members for the Bain Capital Ventures Innovation Center. He said his firm received thousands of business plans each year. Mr. Sindwani also said the ventures could have any focus, although his firm primarily specialized in health care, technology and business services.

Although the Innovation Center is primarily providing a community for entrepreneurs, Bain Capital Ventures is likely to keep its eye out for any possible investments.

Mr. Sindwani said that while the Innovation Center would evolve based on feedback from entrepreneurs, Bain Capital Ventures planned to offer its support for the foreseeable future. Mr. Sindwani said he believed that the Innovation Center might decide to invite other advisers and entrepreneurs to its office hours, acknowledging that entrepreneurs might have specific legal, engineering or accounting questions.

The Innovation Center also lists local events for entrepreneurs to collaborate in Boston and New York and highlights which events people from Bain Capital Ventures will attend.

Emily L. Mendell, vice president of strategic affairs with the National Venture Capital Association, said  a handful of venture capital firms offered sporadic office hours, like First Round Capital, though none did so on a regular basis.

“Holding office hours once a week can be burdensome,” Ms. Mendell said. “But there’s a lot of good potential deal flow. A lot of people are interested in getting their finger on the pulse of the community. And it’s a good way to network.”

from Susanna G. Kim, a DealBook colleague:

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