updated
David Siminoff, now former general partner at Venrock, has left the venture firm after a little over a year and a half. The move, confirmed by the firm, is significant considering Siminoff’s stature in the Silicon Valley venture community. It’s unclear what prompted the change — whether he left of his own accord or was somehow caught up in the wave of downsizing hitting funds of Venrock’s caliber. Further details have yet to be disclosed.

[Update: We’ve since been told by a Venrock spokeswoman that Siminoff left because he wanted to focus more on his love for digital media. He’ll be working with his wife, Ellen, on her new company, Shmoop, an online homework and writing helper for high-school and college students, among other things. He’ll consult for Venrock in a partner role through June, and will not leave the company boards he joined while making investments at the firm.]

It’s highly likely he decided to quit — he certainly has the wealth and prestige necessary to operate independently from an established firm. One of the heroes of the late-90s tech bubble, he made investments in Yahoo, America Online and eBay that yielded several billon dollars before retiring stylishly early. He made his comeback in April 2007, joining Venrock’s $600 million fund, but had already financed a few enteprises of his own, including mobile search service 4INFO. During his time at the firm, he worked with video messaging provider Tapioca Mobile, presentation-sharing site SlideShare and anime streaming site Crunchyroll.

There’s an outside chance his area of expertise — media companies — contributed to his departure. As former chief executive of dating-site umbrella Spark Networks, he was clearly closely-tied to the area. But the challenges facing this sector, flagging advertising models chief among them, are formidable and highly visible. And many firms are turning their attention, preferring instead to place safer bets on cleantech companies that continue to perform well despite the downturn. Even when Siminoff first joined, a good chunk of the fund was devoted to alternative enery development. Other marquee names like Kleiner Perkins have grown their green activity, and Steve Jurvetson of DFJ just spoke to us about shifting his focus to cleantech.

Then again, Venrock just drafted David Pakman in October to work on digital media investments in New York, so the firm doesn’t seem to be shying away from media startups [Update: The firm’s spokeswoman said the firm is also actively recruting for new partners]. More on Siminoff’s plans is sure to be released in the next day.

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