In 2016, we profiled a then-24-year-old named Jeremy Fiance who had managed to pool collectively $6 million for a fund targeted on his alma mater, UC Berkeley, the place as a pupil he’d introduced to campus Kairos Society, a corporation for budding entrepreneurs, in addition to created a pupil accelerator referred to as Free Ventures.
Fiance wasn’t ready on somebody to give him a job in enterprise; he wished to create his personal automobile — dubbed The House Fund — with the assist of the college to put money into its gifted college students, alums and professors, and finally channel a few of its good points again into the college system. To his thoughts, regional VCs had been too targeted on Stanford, making a funding vacuum — and a chance. Why not deal with it himself?
Quick-forward two years and it’s obvious that traders give Fiance excessive marks. To wit, The House Fund is right now saying a second fund with $44 million in capital commitments, together with backing from College of California (which oversees a $126 billion endowment) and the Berkeley Endowment Administration Firm, which offers stewardship of endowment items given expressly to UC Berkeley. Different traders embrace funds of funds, together with Ahoy Capital; unnamed household places of work; Berkeley alums; and tech execs.
The particular pitch these traders are shopping for ties partly to the college’s dimension, says Fiance. UC Berkeley has 500,000 alums on this planet and one other 60,000 college students on campus. A few of these graduates have additionally constructed some very beneficial, still-private firms, together with Flexport, Nextdoor, Warby Parker, Databricks and DoorDash (all are so-called “unicorn” firms). Others have taken their firms public (suppose Redfin, Coupa and Cloudera, amongst others). Naturally, some share of UC Berkeley alums have additionally bought their firms, together with Caviar, which was acquired bySquare (and then by DoorDash), and PillPack, which sold to Amazon.
Traders are additionally betting on Fiance’s promising monitor document. Although The House Fund’s debut automobile was comparatively small, it managed to get checks into the logistics agency Flexport, the e-mail service Superhuman, the teenager app Tbh (acquired by Fb) and Dyndrite, a maker of additive manufacturing software program that we first encountered again in April. The House Fund’s second fund already holds some promising stakes, too. Amongst its bets up to now is the blockchain gaming firm Forte, based by esports veteran Kevin Chou, who beforehand based (and bought) Kabam; Oasis Labs, a cryptographic mission whose founder beforehand sold an earlier startup, Ensighta, to FireEye; and Placement.com, a seven-month-old firm that goals to assist individuals discover higher jobs in new cities. (Its co-founders, Sean Linehan and Katie Kent, got here out of Flexport.)
Most of all, maybe, they’re relying on Fiance’s skill to proceed rising a community that has already allowed The House Fund to meet with greater than 3,000 startups with ties to UC Berkeley. (It has funded 50 in whole.)
He has assist. Although The House Fund stays a capital pool with only one normal associate, Fiance is fast to acknowledge the group he has constructed. Amongst these members is Cameron Baradar, who was the third engineer on the mapping visualization startup Mapsense earlier than it was acquired by Apple and who’s now a associate on the agency; Brett Wilson, who based the advert tech startup TubeMogul and sold it to Adobe in 2017 and is a enterprise associate; Annie Tsai, a former CMO on the advertising and marketing automation firm Demandforce who’s a part-time associate; and Arjun Arora, who founded and sold an advert tech startup, labored as an investor for each Expa and 500 Startups, and is now additionally a part-time associate.
As for the dimensions checks the group is writing, Fiance says the agency “sized the fund in such a way that we were right-sizing to the opportunity in front of us.” What which means: whereas The House Fund as soon as wrote checks of $50,000 to $100,000, it’s now investing up to $1 million in seed rounds, with an undisclosed sum of money focused for reserves.
It additionally dives in earlier than a whole lot of enterprise funds will, insists Fiance. “There are actually very few funds that are willing to take a first leap,” he says. However we put collectively pre-seed syndicates. We assist firms fundraise by placing collectively a customized demo day for them with 20 to 30 traders” who may conceivably have an interest within the startup.
“We have a very strong sense of the market and other funds and where and how they’re investing,” provides Fiance. The suggestion, seemingly, is that just like the college on which it’s so targeted, The House Fund does its analysis.