Wonder Ventures Launches $31 Million Fund Focused Exclusively on LA Startups
Cameron Venti | Unsplash

Wonder Ventures Launches $31 Million Fund Focused Exclusively on LA Startups

After hitting the jackpot with hometown bets like shopping app Honey, Los Angeles venture capital firm Wonder Ventures is doubling down with a new early-stage fund focused exclusively on L.A. startups.

Santa Monica-based Wonder has raised $31 million for its new venture fund, founder and managing partner Dustin Rosen told dot.LA. The new fund is double the size of the $15 million pre-seed fund that Wonder raised in 2018, and like that one it will target fledgling L.A.-based startups that Rosen believes are too easily overlooked by larger VCs.


“The L.A. ecosystem is really mature as far as a place to build technology companies, and more capital than ever is coming into L.A. to fund our companies as they grow and scale toward an IPO,” Rosen said, noting that Wonder already deploys more than 90% of its capital in Southern California-based ventures. “We still believe that the earliest stage is underfunded—pre-traction and pre-seed. That stage is the hardest time to raise and get elite investors, and that explicitly is what Wonder does.”

Rosen pointed to an eclectic group of more than 60 L.A.-based founders and tech executives who have invested in its latest fund, including those from current and former Wonder portfolio companies like Clutter, Tala, and Honey. Other investors from local startup success stories like Snap, GoodRx, and Dollar Shave Club also pitched in.

Fom left to right: Valentina Rodriguez, senior investor; Dustin Rosen, managing partner; and Taylor Bolhack, head of platform and community for Wonder Ventures. Courtesy of Wonder Ventures

Among the first companies to be funded by the new vehicle is RealAppeal, a Santa Monica-based startup that finds savings in homeowners’ property tax assessment bills through an appeals process. Rosen said he filed his own appeal on the company’s website as its founders made their pitch to him on the phone. “I hope to save thousands of dollars,” he noted.

Among Wonder’s most successful investments to date has been Honey, the ecommerce rewards app that PayPal acquired for $4 billion in 2019. The VC’s initial early-stage investment in the Arts District-based startup returned an exit worth more than Wonder’s entire $5 million first fund, according to Rosen.

The firm’s largest portfolio holding today is WhatNot, the Marina del Rey-based livestream auction marketplace that raised more than $220 million in venture capital last year on the way to reaching a unicorn valuation of $1.5 billion. That investment has proven even more lucrative than its bet on Honey; Rosen noted that the current value of Wonder’s stake in WhatNot is “worth more than the entire [$15 million] second fund.”

In addition to launching the new fund, Wonder has made two new hires to help oversee its portfolio of nearly 80 companies. Valentina Rodriguez, formerly an analyst and trader with Morgan Stanley, has joined the venture firm as a senior investor, while Taylor Bolhack, previously with Santa Monica-based micromobility operator Bird, has been named head of platform and community.

Wonder Ventures isn’t the only L.A-based VC firm targeting local seed and pre-seed startups. After five years with San Francisco-based Crosslink Capital, investor Joe Guzel has launched a fintech-focused early-stage fund with McLain Southworth called Haven Ventures, Guzel told the LA Venture podcast this week.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence
Meet the Bird ‘Fleet Managers’ Who Hunt and Release E-Scooters in Downtown Los Angeles
Photo by Maylin Tu

It’s Friday night in Downtown Los Angeles and fleet manager Adan Aceves is cruising the streets in his Ford Ranger pickup truck looking for a bird — not an e-scooter, but an actual bird.

“First time I saw the bird I was wondering what the hell is it doing in Downtown?,” said Aceves. “It doesn't seem like a city bird, like a pigeon or a seagull…The second time I realized, ‘Damn, I only find this fool in Skid Row.’”

We never come across the mysterious bird who acts like a human. Instead, we drive the streets of Downtown, dropping off and picking up scooters — a different type of Bird — under the bright lights and amid throngs of people, many of them dressed to the nines and out on the town, looking for a good time.

By day, Aceves, 41, works in his family’s business repairing power tools in South Central. By night, he deploys, charges and rebalances e-scooters for Bird, one of eleven fleet managers located Downtown. The zone that he covers includes Dignity Health on Grand Avenue (once called California Hospital) where he was born.

Read moreShow less
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.
Sunset over LA
Courtesy of Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

Yesterday afternoon millions Californians around the state received an emergency alert straight to their mobile phones asking them to conserve power as the electric grid teetered on edge of collapse. The move came as the state battles on through an historic heatwave that has laid bare the shortcoming of its infrastructure in the face of a new and hotter climate.

Read moreShow less
David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

RELATEDTRENDING
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA