The Fund, an early-stage investment firm with a memorably straightforward name, is looking beyond New York City as it starts investing its second fund.
Founders Jenny Fielding (who’s also managing director at Techstars New York) and Scott Hartley (also co-founder and partner at Two Culture Capital) told me that in the past two years, they’ve already backed 52 New York City startups.
“The seed funds in New York have all gone upstream,” Fielding argued, making it harder for founders to get the smaller checks they need when they’re getting started. So The Fund is aiming to participate in those “first check” rounds of between $500,000 and $1.2 million.
To find those investments, Fielding and Hartley rely on a “crowdsourced” approach, taking recommendations from the startup founders they’ve recruited as limited partners in The Fund — a group that includes names like General Assembly founder Matthew Brimer, One Medical founder Tom Lee, Handy co-founder Oisin Hanrahan, SoundCloud founder Alex Ljung and ClassPass co-founder Sanjiv Sanghavi.
At the same time, rather than relying on a “voting and consensus” process, the decisions are ultimately made by the investment committee, a smaller group that initially included Brimer, Fielding, Hartley and Katie Hunt.
The firm is targeting $9 million for the second fund, with one-third deployed in New York, another third in Los Angeles and the final third in London.
Hartley said The Fund is taking a “modular approach” to this expansion, with an independent investment committee in each city: In New York, it will be Josh Hix, Katie Shea and Becky Yang, along with Fielding and Hartley; in Los Angeles, the committee includes Raina Kumra, Josh Jones, Anna Barber and Austin Murray; and in London, it’s Carmen Alfonso Rico, Eamonn Carey and Marina Gorey.
“The big vision is, we’ve literally written the playbook,” Fielding said. “Fund one was an experiment, and now fund two is an experiment: Does this scale? After we have about a year’s worth of data about deals under our belt, we want to take it to the next level. Why shouldn’t The Funds be popping up in every city?”
And even though COVID-19 has brought a halt to large sectors of the global and domestic economy, Hartley said the firm has continued to write checks at the same pace.
“We had such conviction in the [founding] teams that it hasn’t really slowed down the cadence of our investing,” he said. “We take a long-term approach with pre-seed investing. We see this as a multi-year journey.”
Fielding added that it’s been “inspiring” and “phenomenal” to see how their existing portfolio companies have adapted to this new reality. As an example, she pointed to how rowing class startup CityRow has shifted to virtual classes.
And if you’re wondering about that name, Fielding said they were perfectly aware that calling themselves The Fund could prompt some “Who’s on first?”-style confusion.
“We wanted to make fun of ourselves a little bit,” she said. And besides, most of the good tree names were taken.