LA Venture: Mantis VC’s Jeffrey Evans on How Influencers Can Boost Young Companies

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
​Mantis VC's Jeffrey Evans
Image courtesy of LA Venture

On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Mantis Venture Capital co-founder and partner Jeffrey Evans discusses how celebrities can benefit venture capital firms and what makes a good founder.

Evans co-founded Mantis VC alongside electronic music duo The Chainsmokers—Alex Pall and Drew Taggart—and Milan Koch. Investing out of its second fund, the firm focuses on consumer tech, media, entertainment and blockchain technology.



Evans, who previously founded TigerText and launched his own record label, said his desire to help support young tech founders drew him to the venture capital world. He and Koch reached out to Pall and Taggart after reading about their interest in investing in an article in Forbes.

“I had this theory that if I partnered with the right influencer—that had real social capital—that it could create an edge,” Evans said.

Mantis partners with other funds to finance seed and Series A fundraising rounds. Its investment strategy, Evans said, is not to be the lead investor, but to be the second-biggest check in early rounds. The firm’s recent investments include fintech company Tres, the Web3-based Integral Treasury and e-commerce platform PriceOye.

Celebrities can lend VC firms their social capital and influence to help create opportunities for companies, Evans said. While some celebrity-backed venture funds rely on big names solely as a “vanity” marker in promoting the business, Evans said The Chainsmokers are actively involved in the fund. They will personally reach out to potential investors of Mantis-backed companies to explain why they invested in them and why people should join the team. That kind of hands-on work, he said, helps support their founders and bolster their investments.

“I really look at [Pall and Taggart] as entrepreneurs and founders who happened to build the business of The Chainsmokers into a great and successful, highly profitable business,” Evans said. “Now, they're utilizing that to build other businesses around it where they can focus their time and effort.”

Prior to his work at Mantis, Evans co-founded TigerText, a messaging system where texts disappeared after they were read. Evans said his time working at the startup taught him how to maneuver through business challenges. Now, he said those lessons help him assist Mantis’ founders. Evans compares good founders to “Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner”—people who can hit the ground running and sprint through the obstacles.

“If at any point in time you stop, you will be eaten and dead,” he said. “But if you keep running long enough, and keep working through it, at some point in time—you don't know when it's gonna be—you're gonna hit the ground. When you hit the ground [and made it], you’re over the horizon before you know it.”

Click the link above to hear the full episode, and subscribe to LA Venture on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA Social and Engagement Editor Andria Moore contributed to this post.

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Sports trading card platform Arena Club has raised $10 million in Series A funding.

Co-founded by CEO Brian Lee and Hall of Fame Yankees player Derek Jeter, Arena Club launched its digital showroom in September. Through the platform, sports fans can buy, sell, trade and display their card collections. Using computer vision and machine learning, Arena Club allows fans to grade and authenticate their cards, which can be stored in the company’s vault or delivered in protective “slabs.” Arena Club intends to use the new cash to expand these functions and scale its operations.

The new funding brings Arena Club’s total amount raised to $20 million. M13, defy.vc, Lightspeed Ventures, Elysian Park Ventures and BAM Ventures contributed to the round.

“Our team is thankful for the group of investors—led by M13, who see the bright future of the trading card hobby and our platform,” Lee said in a statement. “I have long admired M13 and the value they bring to early-stage startups.”

M13’s co-founder Courtney Reum, who formed the early-stage consumer technology venture firm in 2016 alongside his brother Carter Reum, will join Arena Club’s board. Reum has been eyeing the trading card space since 2020 when he began investing in what was once just a childhood hobby.

The sports trading card market surged in 2020 as fans turned to the hobby after the pandemic brought live events to a standstill. Since then, prices have come down, though demand remains high. And investors are still betting on trading card companies, with companies like Collectors bringing in $100 million earlier this year. Fanatics, which sells athletic collectibles and trading cards, reached a $31 billion valuation after raising $700 million earlier this week. On the blockchain, Tom Brady’s NFT company Autograph lets athletes sell digital collectibles directly to fans.

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“Providing users with a digital card show allows us to use our first-class technology to give collectors from all over the world the luxury of being able to get the full trading card show experience at their fingertips,” Jeter said in a statement.

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