How Many Investors are Still Writing Checks During Coronavirus? One VC is Trying to Find Out

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

How Many Investors are Still Writing Checks During Coronavirus? One VC is Trying to Find Out

When Laurent Grill, lead investor of the Santa Monica early stage venture fund Luma Launch, started emailing hundreds of fellow investors to see if they were still writing checks amidst the coronavirus pandemic, he was originally trying to find the next round of capital for one his own portfolio companies. But on Tuesday he decided to broaden his search and posted a query on LinkedIn.

"I reached out to hundreds of funds & am compiling a list across sectors and stages to help identify active investors in a time that is a bit unknown for all of us," Grill wrote.

Within hours, the post had gone viral.


"It's pretty overwhelming because I'm not an influencer," Grill told dot.LA Wednesday. "When I posted this, I didn't expect to have 500 notifications. My email box is unmanageable right now."

Grill quickly created Google forms to manage the rush of responses, one for investors and another for companies seeking capital. He plans to release the list next week.

"You had founders who are freaking out because their assumption is no one is investing." Grill said. "But investors are investing."

Luma Launch's Laurent Grill is cautiously optimistic about the state of VC investing.

Of the 150 responses he's received, only two investors have said they are not writing checks. They both wanted to see public markets stabilize before they jumped back in.

However, Grill sees the results as suspiciously positive, especially when investors insist that everything is "business as usual" amidst one of the most serious public health and economic crises of the last century.

"Something is off about that," said Grill. "I don't trust it."

He suspects deals have significantly declined, though no one wants to completely shut their doors. There are optics to consider and also the fear of overlooking the next great unicorn. "We live in an industry of FOMO, because if people aren't investing they are worried they are going to miss a deal," Grill said.

Ironically, Grill's Luma Launch, which he leads along with Matt Lydecker, is one of the firms that has paused investing. He says he wants to focus on getting their portfolio companies' house in order before deploying new capital.

"Our companies are dealing with how they're going to hit payroll," said Grill. "We have one company that has a case of coronavirus in it."

Grill says Luma is unique because it is corporate-backed and does not have a fund it has to deploy in a given timeframe. Founders needing money should find it somewhat reassuring that most firms still need to deploy their capital, though Grill worries about what conditions will look like in six months to a year from now when firms have to fundraise from limited partners who could have taken a severe hit in a broader economic downturn.

"If LP's are hurt, we're probably going to be looking at a long time before there's liquidity for fundraising," he said.

For now, Grill is focused on connecting founders and investors in the immediate crisis who might have a harder time meeting each other with offices closed, conferences cancelled, and face-to-face meetings postponed indefinitely.

"There's no benefit for me to do this, other than to help the community," Grill said. "We need people to step up who have the ability to step up."

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E-Scooter Companies Are Quietly Changing Their Low-Income Programs in LA

Maylin Tu
Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
E-Scooter Companies Are Quietly Changing Their Low-Income Programs in LA
Photo by Maylin Tu

When Lime launched in Los Angeles in 2018, the company offered five free rides per day to low-income riders, so long as they were under 30 minutes each.

But in early May, that changed. Rides under 30 minutes now cost low-income Angelenos a flat rate of $1.25. As for the five free rides per day, that program ended December 2021 and was replaced by a rate of $0.50 fee to unlock e-scooters, plus $0.07 per minute (and tax).

Lime isn’t alone. Lyft and Spin have changed the terms of their city-mandated low-income programs. Community advocates say they were left largely unaware.

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Faraday Future Reveals Only 401 Pre-Orders For Its First Electric Car

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

Faraday Future Reveals Only 401 Pre-Orders For Its First Electric Car
Courtesy of Faraday Future

Electric vehicle hopeful Faraday Future has had no shortage of drama—from alleged securities law violations to boardroom shake-ups—on its long and circuitous path to actually producing a car. And though the Gardena-based company looked to have turned a corner by recently announcing plans to launch its first vehicle later this year, Faraday’s quarterly earnings report this week revealed that demand for that car has underwhelmed—to say the least.

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Meet CropSafe, the Agtech Startup Helping Farmers Monitor Their Fields

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

Meet CropSafe, the Agtech Startup Helping Farmers Monitor Their Fields
Courtesy of CropSafe.

This January, John McElhone moved to Santa Monica from, as he described it, “a tiny farm in the absolute middle of nowhere” in his native Northern Ireland, with the goal of growing the crop-monitoring tech startup he founded.

It looks like McElhone’s big move is beginning to pay off: His company, CropSafe, announced a $3 million seed funding round on Tuesday that will help it develop and scale its remote crop-monitoring capabilities for farmers. Venture firm Elefund led the round and was joined by investors Foundation Capital, Global Founders Capital, V1.VC and Great Oaks Capital, as well as angel investors Cory Levy, Josh Browder and Charlie Songhurst. The capital will go toward growing CropSafe’s six-person engineering team and building up its new U.S. headquarters in Santa Monica.

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