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