My friend Jerry Rosenkranz passed away early wednesday morning. He was the best angel investor I have ever met. He was also the nicest person. He was an angel in every sense of the world. He will be missed by so many.
I met Jerry in the spring of 1997. Flatiron Partners had just committed to lead a $3mm “series A round” in Starmedia, which went on to become the leading Internet portal in Latin America. Fernando Espuelas, Starmedia’s co-founder and CEO, brought Jerry in to meet me. We sat at the corner of the huge conference table in Chase Capital Partners’ main conference room and Jerry drilled down on our firm, fund, and approach to investing. He was doing Starmedia’s diligence on their new investor. He was thorough and insightful. He was also charming. I left that meeting thinking that Fernando has chosen his angel well. That was the beginning of a seventeen year business partnership and friendship that has blessed me and the firms and investments I’ve been involved with in so many ways.
Jerry, Susan Segal (Chase Capital’s Latin American investment head) and I went on to build a portfolio of about a dozen leading latin american Internet companies in the late 90s. That portfolio included companies like Mercado Libre, Patagon.com. Americanas.com, Starmedia, Submarino, and a host of others. I don’t write or talk much about that experience. It ended painfully and I’ve not ventured back to latin america (from an investing point of view) since 2001. But looking back on that period, it is clear to me that Jerry was hugely influential in bringing and funding technology and internet entrepreneurship in latin america. The companies we funded and he helped get started were the first seeds of an important emerging market for technology and entrepreneurship in the world.
Jerry was raised in Mexico and graduated from Stanford. He was a geek. He loved technology and entrepreneurship. He also loved Mexico. I remember being with Jerry at some fancy event and walking into the kitchen and watching him speak in his native tongue to the mexican workers. They loved it and he loved it. A part of Jerry was Silicon Valley, where he had tremendous relationships and connections. A part of Jerry was Mexico and latin people and culture. And a part of Jerry was NYC, it’s power, money, and emerging technology community. His ability to work in all three worlds was unique and hugely impactful.
But the most important thing about Jerry and the thing I will miss the most is his character and his friendship. He was the nicest person. He had a way of walking into the room and making everyone feel better. He had an incredible smile. When he got behind something, as an angel or in any other way, he was 100% behind it. You never had to worry about Jerry being with you. He was a rock.
The last seven years of Jerry’s life was a battle with an illness that eventually took his life. He fought that battle with courage and an attitude that was an inspiration to anyone who saw it. He used his body as a test tube for medical treatments that will certainly benefit many in the coming years. He approached it like everything else he did, with curiosity, intellect, ambition, and a positivity that was characteristically Jerry.
The things Jerry helped create will live on in testament to his greatness and his kindness. There are a few people who have made me what I am and Jerry is one of them. For that I thank him with all my heart.