Trendsetters - March 2006
Edward P. "Ned" Grace III
Grace Venture Partners
Among his holdings: WiDeFi, Melbourne, Xtender wireless networking; Alinean, Orlando, software that analyzes the return on investment for IT investments; Xytrans, Orlando, passive radiometer maker and wireless communications; psiloQuest, Orlando, processing materials for semiconductors.
Pastimes: Skiing, with a second home in Beaver Creek, Colo. "Golf gives me a headache."
Restaurants he enjoys: The Palm at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando; Darden Restaurants' Seasons 52; Pei Wei Asian Diner.
Leaving Providence: "The big fish in the little pond scenario was frankly very old for me at that point. It was nice to move to an anonymous environment."
Edward P. "Ned" Grace III began his working career at a Connecticut country club as a caddy and 12-year-old dishwasher. "My mother said, 'You never did the dishes at home.' " He moved up in the field as he grew up -- to busboy, grill operator and other jobs, including working for a restaurant owner who had a home in Aspen, Colo. As a skier, Grace was motivated by the prospect of a Colorado home.
Grace eventually founded The Capital Grille restaurants and Bugaboo Creek Steak House chain, based in Providence, R.I., and sold them in 1996 to LongHorn Steakhouse, now Rare Hospitality International. That year, he moved to Florida and in 1999 started a venture capital fund, raising $20 million. The fund has holdings in Florida software, wireless, cultured diamond and radiometer companies. A separate fund he started, Grace Restaurant Partners, owns a stake in Not Your Average Joe's, a Massachusetts restaurant chain considering an expansion into Florida.
Venture capitalists at present are focused on companies with a "very clear, and I stress very clear, path" to being cash-flow positive, Grace says. "Without that, they are very allergic to new enterprises." Grace, 55, who got his second home in Colorado, likes good bets, too, but feels that as a business founder, he has a viewpoint distinct from many of his VC peers. "I've been there, starting from a dishwasher to building a $100-million public company."