Upfront Ventures Raises $650M for Three New Funds

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.

Upfront Ventures Raises $650M for Three New Funds
Sustainability on Agenda at Celebrity-studded Upfront Summit

Los Angeles-based venture capital firm Upfront Ventures has raised $650 million that will be spread across three different funds targeted at various points in the startup lifecycle. According to a press release from the firm, the Upfront Venture VII fund will invest $280 million into early-stage founders focusing on “healthcare and applied biology; defense technologies; computer vision; agtech and sustainability; fintech; consumerization of enterprise software; and gaming infrastructure.”


Upfront will set aside $250 million for a growth-stage fund (the third such fund for the firm), with the remaining $175 million going to a continuation fund.

Upfront’s existing portfolio contains a number of Southern California companies, such as Apeel Sciences, Invoca and Goat. It also contains national and international businesses, including Clair and Ÿnsect.

dot.LA spoke with Upfront Managing Partner Mark Suster by email to get a deeper look into the guiding philosophy behind the fund. The following Q&A has been edited for clarity.

dot.LA: You’ve raised this money across 3 funds each targeting different stages of growth. But what is the thesis underlying your investment strategy in general? You've got a pretty diverse portfolio, what are you looking for as you search for new partnerships or continue existing ones?

Mark Suster: Upfront seeks to fund companies that are using technology to fundamentally change industries or society at large. We don't mind taking high-risk bets provided we believe that the founders we're backing have knowledge others don't have and are building defensible IP such that if they are right about the market they can sustain a leadership position. We say we invest in three distinct things: product / market fit, founder / market fit and founder / Upfront fit. That's what we're looking for. And people who are building businesses for the right reasons rather than trying to make a quick buck.

A lot of your current portfolio is SoCal-centric, will you be preferentially targeting L.A. startups with the new money?

To be successful as an investor you need to have "edge," which means you have relatively proprietary access to deals for some reason. You will never have markets to yourself but you do want to have some competitive advantage. Sometimes our advantage is the fact that we work in an industry like Applied Biology that has fewer investors. And sometimes it will be geography. With a 25-year history of backing great L.A. companies we feel better positioned to compete in this market and win our relative fair share of deals. We remain very excited about the long-term potential of L.A.

Are you hiring at all? Where?

We believe that success in the next decade will come down to how VC firms best serve their founders operationally. We have therefore continued to invest heavily in our platform team, building out our talent, finance, operations, marketing & legal teams.

What sized checks are you hoping to write from each fund?

Our first-check sizes range but for our Seed fund it tends to be around a $3 million first check but can go as low as $500k or as high as $10 million by exception. Most are $3-4 million though. Our Early Growth fund typically writes $10-15 million first checks.

Why now? So many other VC funds are pulling back right now. Why are you expanding?

Firms that are pulling back fall into different categories. For some they were crossover investors like Tiger who were deploying very large amounts of capital into later-stage technology companies. They may choose now to deploy some of their funds to public companies and other of their funds to much earlier-staged investments than they had previously. Either way, it has dialed back the total dollars they have allocated to the sector. Some newer funds will likely slow down pace because they have to be mindful of how challenging the fundraising environment will become for VCs going forward so perhaps some will conserve capital. The fact that we didn't have an aggressive investment pace in the past several years means we weren't over deployed on capital and it makes now the perfect time for us to invest.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

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.

Read moreShow less

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.

Read moreShow less

Former Amazon and Lyft Execs Launch Incubator and Tech Talent Hybrid Startup

Steve Huff
Steve Huff is an Editor and Reporter at dot.LA. Steve was previously managing editor for The Metaverse Post and before that deputy digital editor for Maxim magazine. He has written for Inside Hook, Observer and New York Mag. Steve is the author of two official tie-ins books for AMC’s hit “Breaking Bad” prequel, “Better Call Saul.” He’s also a classically-trained tenor and has performed with opera companies and orchestras all over the Eastern U.S. He lives in the greater Boston metro area with his wife, educator Dr. Dana Huff.
Former Amazon and Lyft Execs Launch Incubator and Tech Talent Hybrid Startup
Photo by Ryz Labs

RYZ Labs wants to be a one-stop shop for startups looking to scale up and add new talent.

California natives Jordan Metzner and Sam Nadler created RYZ Labs, and their résumés make it clear they’ve got the knowledge and experience necessary to help others hit the ground running. In 2006, the pair launched California Burrito Co., a chain restaurant with international reach; in 2013, they founded the “Uber for Laundry,” Washio. Add in Metzner’s five years at Amazon and Nadler’s time at Lyft, and you have a potent combination of industry savvy and entrepreneurial flair.

Read moreShow less
RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending