Beth Seidenberg joined Kleiner Perkins 13 years ago to focus on life sciences for the storied venture firm. Now, according to a Recode report, she’s heading off to start her own life sciences venture fund in L.A. where she lives.
We reached out to a spokeswoman for Kleiner, who confirms that Seidenberg will no longer be a general partner in any new funds raised by the firm. She stressed, however, that Seidenberg remains a general partner in Kleiner’s current funds. She also said that Kleiner remains committed to life sciences investing, and that in addition to longtime general partner Brook Byers, a founding member of the firm who has long focused on biotech, Kleiner is considering hiring another investor to focus on life sciences.
While the move is interesting from a firm perspective — Kleiner has undergone one transition after another over the last half dozen years, parting ways with at least 10 investors, including Trae Vassallo, Mike Abbott, Chi-Hua Chien, Matt Murphy, and Aileen Lee — it’s perhaps even more interesting as part of an ongoing change to the broader industry.
Whereas a decade or so ago, one held on to his or her role inside a venture fund by their fingernails if they had to, that’s no longer the case. While there are still a handful of firms that it would undoubtedly be hard to leave, it’s become easier for many VCs to abandon situations that no longer work for them for one reason or another. The reason: the volume of money flowing to the venture industry, along with platforms that help to amplify new brands, have made it easier than ever for someone with a track record to launch a venture firm of their own.
An almost surprising number of people to do so have worked formerly for Kleiner, which has yet to recover fully from a bruising battle with one of its former investors, Ellen Pao, after she famously sued the firm for gender discrimination in court.
Lee, for example, spent 13 years with Kleiner before leaving in 2012 to start her own seed-stage venture firm, Cowboy Ventures, and becoming one of the highest-profile women in the venture industry. Chien spent nearly seven years with Kleiner before spinning up his own firm in 2014 called Goodwater Capital; it’s already raising its third fund, shows an SEC filing.
Meanwhile, Trae Vassallo took the wraps off her own fund — cofounded with former General Catalyst partner Neil Sequeira — last year. Called Defy Ventures, it closed on $151 million for its debut effort.
While we don’t yet know why Seidenberg decided to leave Kleiner, we’d suspect it has to do with the amount of opportunities she sees. At firms like Kleiner, each partner can only make so many investments per year, and it’s possible she was feeling limited in how much she could do, particularly in these go-go times for biotech. Life sciences investing has been soaring in recent years, thanks in part to advances in machine learning.
Either way, we suspect she won’t have much trouble raising a fund of her own (and she’s targeting between $350 million and $400 million, according to Axios).
By Seidenberg’s own telling, she has incubated eight companies at Kleiner and become the founding CEO of two of them. A brand-new, all-cash deal of one of her cancer drug bets, Armo BIoSciences — which Eli Lily announced last week that it’s buying for $1.6 billion — should presumably help, too.