Bradley Tusk, a former political operative who helps companies launch political-style campaigns, runs several businesses. One of them, Tusk Ventures, has been working with startups for a couple of years and until recently, accepted its payment in equity only.
That changed in early 2016 when the outfit began raising money from outside investors looking to get into the some of those deals. Now, says the firm, it has officially closed that debut fund with $36 million, from 22 individual and institutional investors.
According to Jordan Nof, a former Blackstone director who joined Tusk in 2015 and largely oversees the fund’s day-to-day operations, the new fund already has stakes in seven companies, and the team plans to fund up to 25.
Some of its current holdings include positions in the daily fantasy sports operator FanDuel (which called off a merger with competitor DraftKings back in July); the insurance company Lemonade; Nexar, a company whose app aims to keep cars from colliding; and a startup that sends out personalized daily vitamin packs on a monthly basis, called Care/of.
The outfit — which features both the venture capital fund and that political and regulatory advisory business — employs 30 people altogether.
In addition to Tusk and Nof, Uber’s former New York manager Josh Mohrer joined Tusk Ventures as a managing partner back in May.
We had an email exchange with Nof earlier today and we asked about signaling risk — not every startup the fund advises will receive a check from the venture fund. Nof dismisses it as a concern, however, calling the fund and advisory business ” separate but highly synergistic.”
He also tells us the fund has a “distinct investment strategy” and that investments have to “satisfy a different set of criteria than the startups that the advisory firm engages with.”
If you’re curious, a typical first check size is between $750,000 and $2 million, depending on a company’s stage, though Nof says that many of the firm’s institutional LPs like to co-invest alongside the fund, giving it the ability to write even larger checks. (Like most VCs, Tusk Ventures also reserves capital to participate in follow-on rounds when it wants.)
Altogether, Tusk Ventures has more than 20 companies in its portfolio, including medical marijuana delivery company Eaze; the marketplace for household service providers, Handy; the fast-growing digital asset broker Coinbase; and AltSchool, a network of for-profit schools that is reportedly shuttering one location in New York and struggling more broadly to sell its software to other schools.
Pictured: Jordan Nof