Online Venture Capital Team Seeking an Agency

Until reality set in, almost every drop of the dot-com billings wave that washed over ad agencies in Northern California and elsewhere came from venture capital funding. Now two VC firms themselves have quietly begun hunting for an agency.

Scudder Weisel, a proposed online arm of two well-respected venture capital firms, has launched a review for its estimated $12 million account.

Several undisclosed Bay Area shops are expected to pitch the business this week. The agencies in the review are small-to-midsized shops known for strong creative work and technology expertise.

Sources said the new firm is a joint venture between Scudder Kemper Investments and Thomas Weisel Partners, two investment banking/venture firms known for their technology work. Sources said the firms want to build an investment Web site that can compete with category leader E*Trade.

“There are millionaires out there that have their play money, and [the new venture is] hoping that instead of E*Trade, people will go to Scudder Weisel,” according to a source.

The site will provide access to investors interested in buying pre-IPO stocks, especially technology stocks, said one source.

The eventual winning agency will face an entrenched category leader in E*Trade, the beneficiary of a well-known advertising effort from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco.

Scudder Kemper is part of the Zurich Financial Services Group, a $45 billion firm based in Zurich, Switzerland, that is a leader in financial protection and asset accumulation.

Thomas Weisel Partners, a merchant bank, was founded in January 1999. The company now employs 600 staffers and 66 partners, and operates out of offices in San Francisco, New York, Boston and London.