Meet the 19 ‘solo general partners’ in venture capital investing that every founder should know

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tech investors to watch for

  • We identified 19 solo general partners who are shaking up venture capital.
  • For this list, we defined a solo general partner as a fund manager who takes outside capital and is the only general partner at their investment firm.
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A new generation of tech investors are sticking to writing small checks even as $100 million rounds became the norm.

The flush of capital in the private markets has given rise to the solo general partner, a individual who invests in startups using not just their own personal savings, but with capital from outside investors. These one-person funds aren’t especially common, according to PitchBook data, but their numbers are expected to grow as more companies go public and free up their employees to pursue new opportunities, like investing.

For this list, we researched the most active solo general partners using data from PitchBook. We also reached out to institutional investors, angels investors, and founders for their nominations.

We defined a solo general partner as a fund manager who takes outside capital and is the only general partner at their firm, though we did include those who have venture partners or support staff.

Did we miss your favorite solo general partner? Contact this reporter via email at [email protected] or Twitter DM at @meliarobin. Message for Signal.

SEE ALSO: Inside the rise of ‘super angels,’ a special breed of investor that’s carving out a valuable niche in a landscape dominated by VC giants

Brianne Kimmel helps to power enterprise software companies that improve the way people work.

What she does: Brianne Kimmel got her start as an angel investor, using money she socked away from working as a growth marketing manager at Zendesk and teaching classes at General Assembly.

Her debut fund, Work Life Ventures, backs young companies that build tools for the future of work, including design software for remote teams and an app that can search for files across cloud services like Google Drive and Asana.

Companies she’s invested in: Voiceflow, Tandem, Dover, and Command E

Twitter’s former head of media Katie Jacobs Stanton is a first-class operator investing across industries.

What she does: Katie Jacobs Stanton’s firm, Moxxie Ventures, is seemingly sector-agnostic, pumping capital into startups across industries. As an investor, she brings two decades of operating experience at Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and the White House, and a network of high-profile investors as limited partners.

Before Moxxie Ventures, Stanton was among a group of six women working at Twitter who came out of its initial public offering with enough cash to start angel investing. They started a collective called #Angels to share information about the deals they landed and raise visibility.

Companies she’s invested in: Coinbase, Carta, Lambda School, and Threads

Sarah Kunst’s fund enlists female entrepreneurs to scout investment opportunities.

What she does: It’s been two years since entrepreneur Sarah Kunst took the wrapping off her debut fund, Cleo Capital, and she has already cut checks to more than 35 startups, more than half founded by women, according to PitchBook data.

The fund is structured like a scout program at much larger venture firms. It taps female entrepreneurs to source deals using the fund’s capital, with the potential for cashing in if the startup has an exit. Before Cleo Capital, Kunst was a scout for Sequoia and ran a short-lived fitness app company called Proday.

What she’s invested in: Yumi, Earnin, Groq, StyleSeat, and Ethel’s Club

Celestine Schnugg invests at tech’s frontier.

What she does: Celestine “Cee Cee” Schnugg’s fund, Boom Capital, looks to the world of academia to produce the next Bill Gates or Elon Musk. Her firm partners with deeply technical founders, many of whom have their doctorates, working on frontier tech like aerospace, biotech, pharmaceuticals, and lab-grown meat.

Before Boom Capital, Schnugg spent four years at Eric Schmidt’s fund, Innovation Endeavors, and was an associate at Apple.

What she’s invested in: Swarm Technologies, Mammoth Biosciences, System1 Biosciences, and Shiok Meats

Jeff Morris, Jr. helps build the next generation of product companies.

What he does: Tinder’s former head of revenue products, Jeff Morris, Jr. lends his expertise to other product companies as an investor with Chapter One Ventures. The early-stage fund is based in Los Angeles and is focused on future of work, productivity, and consumer companies.

Since his fund’s debut, Morris remains an operator first and an investor second. He got to know Lambda School while writing his master’s program thesis on the online coding bootcamp and, in 2019, joined the company as director of growth product.

What he’s invested in: Superhuman, Mercury, Terminal, and Lambda School

Shruti Gandhi brings a founder’s perspective to tech investing.

What she does: Shruti Gandhi decided to raise a fund because, as a one-time startup founder, she saw a need for more investors to roll up their sleeves at the seed stage. Her fund, Array Ventures, helps technical founders make early sales and develop their go-to-market strategy.

One of its biggest exits to date was the sale of Simility, which makes software to help online merchants catch fraud. After raising its seed from Array and others, it sold to PayPal for $120 million in 2018.

What she’s invested in: Placer.ai, Solugen, CasaOne, Modal, and Blendid

Alexia Bonatsos used to write about startups as a tech journalist. Now she’s writing them seed checks.

What she does: Silicon Valley’s scribe Alexia Bonatsos, née Tsotsis, left her job as the co-editor of TechCrunch in 2015 to step into a master’s program at Stanford University’s business school. A year later, she was meeting with founders and investors to jumpstart her first fund.

Her portfolio at Dream Machine reveals a bent for consumer software companies, where she helps founders craft their stories and convince others to buy in.

What she’s invested in: Fable Studio, Yolo, Squad, and Ethel’s Club

Ex-Kleiner Perkins partner Lynne Chou O’Keefe scours the country for the next big thing in healthcare.

What she does: As a healthcare investor at Kleiner Perkins, Lynne Chou O’Keefe led the firm’s investment in Livongo, which makes tools for people with chronic diseases and went public last year. Now, she’s doubling down with a $87 million fund focused on telemedicine, products for managing chronic diseases, clinical research solutions, and more.

Her firm, Define Ventures, is part of a growing niche in venture. Funds investing in the healthcare sector raised $10.7 billion in 2019, a record for the third year in a row, according to PitchBook.

What she’s invested in: Hims, Tia, Unite Us, Verana Health, and Lightship

Niv Dror is the founder-investor and marketing guru behind Shrug Capital, named for the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ emoticon.

What he does: It started with a tweet. Niv Dror, who led marketing at Product Hunt, then AngelList after its acquisition, wrote that if he ever raised a fund he would name it for the shrug emoticon. An investor who replied to the tweet cut the first check into his fund, Shrug Capital

The fund invests in consumer companies that Dror said even non-techie people find exciting, like a gif editor and an augmented reality sticker app, and is the only firm on this list with a swag store.

The founder has help running the fund from two partners, Nick Abouzeid and Sarah McBride.

Companies he’s invested in: Atoms, Superhuman, Kapwing, and Haus

Kesha Cash looks for founders with first-hand knowledge of the systems that their startups want to disrupt.

What she does: Kesha Cash’s fund, Impact America Fund, looks for teams focused on growing revenue alongside socioeconomic impact. The firm based in Oakland puts a premium on founders of color who have personal experience in the systems they want to address, from black hair care to small business loans.

Before Impact America, Cash worked as a mergers and acquisitions analyst at Merrill Lynch and invested alongside the “godfather of impact investing,” Josh Mailman, at his fund Serious Change.

What she’s invested in: Mayvenn, Winnie, ConnXus, and Camino Financial

ProductHunt founder Ryan Hoover has an eye for cool new tech.

What he does: It seemed inevitable that Ryan Hoover, a tech gadget aficionado, would jump into investing. His company, Product Hunt, is a website that surfaces cool new tech products, and is known as a hunting grounds for VCs looking for potential investments. 

Hoover raised his debut fund, Weekend Fund, a few months after selling off Product Hunt to AngelList in 2017. Now on his second fund, it backs consumer and enterprise businesses and is particularly excited about voice, apps for remote workers, and low-code tools.

The founder has help managing his fund from his chief of staff, Vedika Jain.

What he’s invested in: Intercom, Secfi, Codeverse, Superplastic, and Tandem

Masha Drokova’s fund is part-VC, part-communications agency.

What she does: Some venture firms give their portfolio companies advice on public relations. Masha Drokova’s firm, Day One Ventures, handles it for them. The $20 million fund attracts startups with an offer to take on marketing and communications at the seed and early stages, in addition to investing.

Before Day One, Drokova started a public relations firm that saw clients like Gett, Houzz, and HotelTonight multiply their valuations while working with her team. They became members of her portfolio.

What she’s invested in: Future Family, Superhuman, Yumi, Feastly, and Winnie

Semil Shah puts in over-time as a solo general partner and an institutional venture capitalist.

What he does: Semil Shah said when he couldn’t get a job at a venture capital firm in the valley, some friends nudged him to start his own. Years of working in product and operational roles had put him in touch with some founders and investors, who became his earliest backers.

Haystack Ventures has joined more than 150 deals and closed on five funds since 2013. The last fund was $50 million, about twice the size of the previous fund.

In 2018, Shah picked up a second job as a venture partner at Lightspeed.

What he’s invested in: Envoy, Carta, Instacart, DoorDash, Hired, and Giphy

Mallun Yen’s secret sauce is her network of limited partners.

What she does: Mallun Yen’s debut fund is backed by more than 100 senior operators, giving her portfolio companies access to people building some of the most highly valued companies in tech. The aptly named Operator Collective invests mostly in enterprise startups.

Yen is a seasoned operator herself, having spent eight years at Cisco working on intellectual property protections.

The sole general partner gets support from two partners and skilled operators, Leyla Seka and Ambrosia Vertesi.

What she’s invested in: Ironclad, Data Grail, Guild Education, and Workstream

Ali Rosenthal, an early Facebook employee, invests mostly in founders who don’t fit the stereotype.

What she does: Ali Rosenthal bets mostly on female founders and people of color to produce the next generation of big tech companies. She raised her debut fund at Leadout Capital with the conviction that institutional investors miss out because they overlook “founders who see opportunities in the market from which they hail that others do not.”

Before Leadout Capital, Rosenthal was among the first 100 employees at Facebook, where she helped scale the mobile app to hundreds of millions of users and introduced the “share” button.

She has help running the fund from partner Bennett Surajat, a former colleague at robo-adviser Wealthfront.

What she’s invested in: BookSoth, CoProcure, Pawscout, and Swiftera

Zal Bilimoria is placing bets on biology “eating the world.”

What he does: As a former partner at Andreessen Horowitz, Bilimoria helped raise the firm’s first fund dedicated to science and health. Called the Bio Fund, the initiative was, at the time, a departure from Andreessen’s traditional tack of exclusively backing software companies. 

Hooked on his work, Bilimoria exited to raise his own fund, Refactor Capital. The firm focuses on healthcare and science-heavy tech, with a bent for “consumer biology” companies, which use biology as a manufacturing platform to make drugs, beverages, food, chemicals, and more.

What he’s invested in: Clover Health, Headspace, PathAI, Kin, and Solugen

Raymond Tonsing is considered one of the original solo general partners.

What he does: Raymond Tonsing’s Caffeinated Capital is one of the oldest funds on this list, and its portfolio is perhaps one of the most enviable. The firm invests in mostly software companies and has logged at least seven exits, including WePay’s sale to JP Morgan and Parse’s acquisition by Facebook.

Eric Wu, a cofounder of Opendoor, described Tonsing in a referral as one of his “most impactful” investors, helping him to raise capital and hire executives.

Before Caffeinated Capital, Tonsing worked as a real estate investor.

What he’s invested in: Affirm, Airtable, Front, Opendoor, Wish, and Docker

Former research scientist Shelley Zhuang invests in founders shooting for the moon, sometimes literally.

What she does: Shelley Zhuang brings more than 15 years of experience as a software engineer, research scientist, and business executive, to the breakthrough technology startups she invests in.

Her fund, 11.2 Capital, named for the speed required for a rocketship to escape Earth’s gravity, invests in founders solving hard problems with emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, private spaceflight, and synethic biology.

Its biggest exit to date was self-driving car company Cruise, which sold to General Motors in 2016 and is still raking in outside funds at a valuation of $19 billion.

What she’s invested in: Aeva, White Ops, Forter, Hinge Health, and Ginkgo Bioworks

Sarah Cone believes in technology as a force for good.

What she does: Sarah Cone wants to prove that investing in mission-driven companies can create social impact, as well as mega-returns for investors. Her fund, Social Impact Capital, tries to get into companies as early as possible to help them with their businesses plans.

Before raising a fund, Cone got a law degree from University of California, Berkeley, where she was part of a tech-policy working group focused on human rights protections in China.

The managing partner has help sourcing deals and performing diligence from a partner, Peter Bruce-Clark.

What she’s invested in: Advano, Wild Earth, Mattershift, and Andela

* This article was originally published here
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