AFI Partners Curt Nelson, Eric de Valpine, and Jarred Maxwell tell their AFI "origin" stories... how they came to get involved in investing in local sustainable food companies and the founding of Austin Foodshed Investors.
Jarred leads AFI’s venture relations, guiding them through the fundraising process, providing business analysis and assisting as they prepare to present to potential investors.
Jarred has been the Local Leader for Slow Money Austin since 2011. He is dedicated to healthy food, local economic vitality, support of small-scale businesses, re-invigoration of small towns and small family farms and ranches. Jarred is an active angel investor in more than a dozen local socially responsible companies and helped found the Sustainable Texas Investment Club in 2010 to provide a mechanism for non-accredited investors to put some of their investment dollars into local food companies.
In 2010 Jarred founded The Happy Land Company, which specializes in the acquisition, restoration and preservation of rural land, including large property acquisition and assemblage, range land restoration, and land trust filing. Prior to this, Jarred was a land broker and partner with the Luedecke Group of Austin for six years. He started his career as an engineer at Dell.
Jarred is a lifelong Texan and a rancher, managing over 400 acres of family ranch outside Lampasas in northern Burnet County. He has a BS from UT, and lives in Central Austin with his wife Sommer and their young son.
Curt’s a Minnesotan, from St. Paul. He earned a BA from the University of Minnesota, then, fleeing snow and poor job prospects, an MBA from the University of Arizona. Hewlett-Packard claimed a decade of Curt’s life, where he was a finance and accounting manager and a marketing product manager.
In 1996 he co-founded web software developer Silicon Space with Dema Zlotin. Silicon Space built custom collaboration, workflow, and document management applications (including early private social networks) for clients such as the US Navy, Harcourt, Union Bank of California, Disney, and Intel. In the early 2000’s Silicon Space pioneered “no shore” development from offices in Tijuana, Mexico. In 2001 he was a Regional Finalist for Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year. The winner eventually went to jail, and Curt is still waiting for E&Y to contact him with a belated crown. He (Curt, not the jailbird) was Silicon Space’s CEO through its sale in 2008.
In 2006 Silicon Space spun out the search engine marketing firm Covario, which raised Private Equity funding from Dubilier & Co. and venture capital from Voyager Capital, among others. Covario was acquired by Dentsu Aegis in 2014 and combined with Dentsu’s iProspect.
In San Diego Curt has served as Board Chair of the San Diego chapter of AEA (formerly the American Electronics Association); Board Member of the San Diego Business Roundtable for Education, San Diego Chamber Foundation, online newspaper Voice of San Diego, and charter school King Chavez Academy of Excellence. He was a member of San Diego Rotary Club 33, the San Diego Nice Guys, and the San Diego Bassmasters fishing club, where his tournament results consistently landed in the lowest quartile.
The Nelson family moved to the Cuernavaca area of Westlake in 2011 from San Diego to enjoy Austin’s music and cultural scene, barbeque, and excellent schools.
In Austin he’s been a business mentor for UnLtdUSA, Social Venture Partner with Mission Capital, judge for Food+City, member of Black Fret, on the Advisory Board of The Cook’s Nook, and supporter of Slow Money Austin, the Capital Area Food Bank, Texas Center for Local Food, Sustainable Food Center, and others.
Curt wonders "What if we were as conscious about our investing decisions as we are with the food we consume”?
Eric de Valpine
Eric leads AFI’s operations including financial and fund management, investor relations, compliance, and staffing. He manages AFI’s CFO Network of financial professionals assisting AFI client companies.
Eric is an angel investor in Austin food-based businesses, driven by social responsibility and the opportunity to make things better.
As former CFO of an Intel-funded start-up that developed a real-time 3D visualization technology designed to create interactive broadcast content for customers such as ESPN/Disney and the Renault Formula 1 team, he played a key role in raising equity and debt financing and was responsible for all day-to-day finance operations and human resource functions.
Eric was also CFO at an IT services firm, and a software development company. He was the managing member of an LLC with an investment strategy that outperformed the S&P 500 by more than 25% during the fund’s existence. Eric has more than 15 years of experience as a financial and strategy consultant to small and mid-sized companies across a range of industry segments, including engineering, music, hospitality, renewable energy, higher education, and digital media.
Eric initially moved to Austin to attend UT, where he earned a BA in Philosophy. He later earned an MBA from the University of California, Irvine, where he co-founded the Social Responsibility Initiative and served as the Associate Director of the Centers for Leadership Development and for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Along with his wife Cari, he co-founded the Progressive Dinner Party, which raised more than $100,000 for small charities in Long Beach, CA through a series of dinner parties over the course of five years.
Eric has lived in Austin cumulatively over 17 years. He resides in Travis Heights with Cari and their young daughter.
Evan joined AFI in 2018 as an Associate, supporting AFI’s business processes, marketing and outreach, and event management.
Evan has worked in food systems for the past 10 years. Before coming to AFI, Evan worked in Food Sourcing and Recovery at Central Texas Food Bank, where he worked with food businesses across Central Texas to recover and distribute surplus food. Prior to this, Evan was a Projects Manager and Farmers’ Market Coordinator with Sustainable Food Center where he managed the Farm to Work and Farm to School programs, in addition to the Downtown Farmers’ Market.
Evan has background in farm management, serving as a Farm Manager at Green Gate Farms in Austin, TX. Before this, he owned his own small farm – Sasquatch Acre – in Portland, OR.
Evan co-founded the Central Texas Young Farmer Coalition, which helps connect new and beginning farmers from around the state. He serves as the At-Large New and Beginning Farmer Board Position for the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, as well as a Board Member of The Common Market - Texas Chapter. He, his wife, and two kids live in Austin.
Outside General Counsel
Dan serves as AFI’s general counsel and advises AFI on legal matters including corporate structuring, securities law compliance and the creation of deal agreement templates.
He is a corporate and transactional attorney with over 25 years of in-house and private practice experience where he has assisted technology companies, banks, developers and other organizations in the U.S. and in various other countries including Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Ecuador and Vietnam. His current practice focuses on representing companies of all sizes from emerging growth companies to publicly traded companies in connection with formation, complex global transactions, securities law compliance, venture capital and financing matters, drafting and negotiating agreements and technology licenses, intellectual property matters, and corporate compliance and governance.
Dan has been a Partner at Phillips & Reiter; VP, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Centillium Communications; Acting General Counsel at Tarantella, VP and General Counsel at ZiLOG; Senior Corporate Counsel at Inktomi; Senior VP and General Counsel at BHP Power; and Special Counsel at O'Melveny & Myers LLP.
Mr. Jochnowitz earned his JD from Columbia University where he was named a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. He is a member of the State Bars of Texas, California and New York. He also served as Chairman of the Silicon Valley Association of General Counsel.