Moonshots Capital Raises a New Fund Aimed at Founders Who've 'Been Through the Ringer'

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

Moonshots Capital Raises a New Fund Aimed at Founders Who've 'Been Through the Ringer'
Photo by Tyler Franta on Unsplash

There aren't many venture capitalists that can say they have spent time talking leadership with a U.S. president, but Kelly Perdew can.

Perdew — who runs seed-stage firm Moonshots Capital with partner and fellow military veteran Craig Cummings — won the second season of "The Apprentice" in 2005 and went on to work with Donald Trump, who wrote the foreword to his book on leadership principles, "Take Command."

Perdew doesn't discuss much about his days with Trump, though the principles that he espoused then still guide his investments today.

"We really focus on finding extraordinary leaders," Perdew said.

Moonshots just closed its second fund; totaling at $36 million, it's aimed at early-stage tech companies and cutting larger checks. Investments average from $1.5 million to $2 million, 50% larger than Fund I.

Often, the two West Point graduates look for founding teams with military veterans or founders that have been through "the ringer." Those without perseverance and passion need not apply.

"It's so critical that this isn't an intellectual exercise for an MBA graduate that said 'oh, I looked at the marketplace and this looks like a great opportunity'," he quipped. "It has to be driven on something that's an internal drive that you're passionate about."

It turns out that it's often "nontraditional founders" that fit that mold. Perdew pointed out that 36% of the companies in his last fund were led by a Black or LatinX founder, 21% by a woman founder, and 36% by a military veteran founder.

And, he said, of the 14 companies in the first fund launched in 2017, all but one are still around. The firm has even notched an exit when ReliaQuest acquired Threatcare — run by Navy veteran Marcus Carey — for an undisclosed amount in 2019.

While the two don't focus on a singular sectors, the firm tends to invest in fintech, consumer internet, artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

Nearly half of all its investments are in California, with about a third in Southern California. That's where Perdew has been writing checks for nearly two decades — first as an angel investor, then as a leader of syndicates or pools of angel investors, who put money in Slack and Robinhood, among other companies. He was an early-stage angel investor in LinkedIn and Pandora.

Perdew said it's no coincidence that many of the startups the firm now invests in are near Marina Del Rey — where he operates — or close to Austin, Texas, where his partner does. He calls it the "gravitational force."

"We joke a little bit that you know, you're actually marrying founders, when you put money into them in the early stages because it takes, you know, 10-plus years to get to what is typically an exit," he said.

Already the company has invested in and Pacaso, co-founded by dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff along with emerging growth companies, NXCR and Transmute.

Editor's note: dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff is also a limited partner in Moonshots Capital.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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Los Angeles, California
Image by Michael Bogner/ Shutterstock

We're looking for Southern California startups that have a product on the market and have raised less than $1 million in funding to pitch at dot.LA's Summit on Thursday, October 20th during the opening reception at the Petersen Museum.

Submissions will be evaluated on a rolling basis. Judges will be announced at a later time. Complete your submission here by Friday, October 7th.

Interested in attending our Summit? Register here!

dot.LA is proud to announce the 3rd annual dot.LA Summit coming up on October 20th & 21st at the Petersen Museum.

Join hundreds of top founders, investors, and operators for the largest celebration of the LA tech and startup ecosystem. The jam-packed program includes the dot.LA Awards, pitch competition, panels, workshops and more.

Please contact us with any questions.