Five to ten years ago, the notion of a super-angel, or an angel backed with a notable but still small-sized fund, was relatively new concept.
But today, the line between the two has become a lot more blurred. Plus, there is a whole new field of competition from AngelList syndicates, crowdfunding and other emerging early-stage funds like Homebrew or recently launched Binary Capital.
Senkut, who started Felicis Ventures in 2006, is keeping up with a brand-new $96 million fund and he’s committing to always voting his shares with the founder’s wishes. It’s something the firm did informally, but now Felicis is setting the practice in stone.
“We want to make a deeper commitment with our founders,” said Senkut, who was one of the first product managers at Google before setting out as an angel. “We’re essentially committing to voting our investor shares alongside them in every deal. We think that this is a first.”
Senkut brainstormed the idea with early founders he had backed like Jack Abraham, who sold Milo to eBay.
“Good entrepreneurs have choices when it comes to capital, so it’s important to differentiate,” said Abraham, who is working on his next startup and is an advisor to Felicis. “One great way to do that at an earlier stage is to really align yourself with the founder. Felicis has always been very founder-friendly.”
Abraham pointed out that many of Silicon Valley’s most storied firms started off with a single partner or two breaking away and gradually accumulating more capital and talent over time.
“A lot of them started with $30 to 50 million in capital to invest. They did exactly what Felicis is doing,” he said. “They proved the track record, the model and then they earn the right to raise bigger funds from LPs [or limited partners] over time.”
With this fund, Felicis will stay focused on so-called re-invention of core markets and frontier areas. The firm has always made futuristic bets in companies like Counsyl, which is handling big data applications for gene testing and sequencing.
That means more investments in areas like personalized medicine and machine learning. But they’re also not shying away from bets in more well-known markets like security and mobile infrastructure.
The fund will enable Felicis to take the lead in more rounds, as opposed to being a participating investor behind other bigger funds.
This fund is entirely backed by institutional investors including three university endowments as limited partners. The fund has backed more than 120 technology companies, with 50 of them exiting or going public. The aggregate enterprise exit value of the portfolio is worth more than $5.6 billion with companies including Counsyl (worth more than $1 billion) and more household names like Bonobos, Angry Birds-maker Rovio (which is also probably in the billion-plus range) and Fitbit.
The team is up to six full-time people, with two part-time employees and two advisors.