Contrary Capital wants to invest in the next big tech mafia

Contrary Capital, which has raised money from Tesla, Reddit, SoFi and Twitch, knows a thing or two about how to work with tech’s brightest mafias. Now it wants to invest in them, before anyone else.

The San Francisco fund and accelerator, which traditionally invests in student entrepreneurs, is betting on the idea that the best founders are early-career employees first. Today Contrary Capital is publicly launching its next big bet: Contrary Talent, a new arm within the fund that will invest and support early-career folks and students to grow their tech ambitions.

While Contrary Capital founder Eric Tarczynski said the new focus is not a pivot for the firm, he added that he wouldn’t be surprised if early-career professionals become the bulk of the portfolio in years to come.

Contrary Talent will source the top engineers, designers and managers at top tech companies and pair them with top operators in tech for mentorship and job consultancy. It’s giving startup employees access to great minds before they have a pitch deck, or even know how to make one.

Talent members will only be admitted to the group through a referral from one of Contrary Capital’s hundred-plus venture partners, or scouts. The firm’s venture partner network has operated for the past four years to help the firm find talent on college campuses, so now it will shift to also focus on early-career talent.

The goal is to have a diverse end result, so it doesn’t hurt that Contrary Capital’s venture partner network is currently 40% female and 60% non-white.

Contrary Talent is also launching a venture partner team at an undisclosed HBCU this fall to increase representation.

Along with the announcement, Contrary Capital shared it has hired Triplebyte’s former head of talent, Ellis Briery, to lead this new arm of the fund.

Once a candidate is referred, they will have to go through multiple rounds of interviews before being selected to join the Talent community. Members receive access to job opportunities, mentorship, invites to annual retreats and funding when (and if) they do decide to start a company.

The program has been in stealth for six months so far and has 150 members. Contrary Talent will admit roughly 100 new members annually, and there will be continuous light learning on job resources, 1:1 training for career paths and AMAs with top people within tech. Think of the curriculum as a steady, but small, drip of asynchronous and live learning.

Contrary founder Eric Tarczynski said there is reserved capital for Talent members, but did not disclose how much. Contrary has low tens of millions in assets under management.

“Because of the long-term nature of the program and that we want to support Talent members regardless of whether or not they’re starting companies right now, we’ll be investing in Talent member-started companies across many funds,” Tarczynski said. He estimated that about 33% of investments from the current fund will come from the Talent community.

“Candidly, we’re not expecting Facebooks to be kind of falling off of trees,” Tarczynski said.

Talent is Contrary Capital’s first move beyond investing in students since its inception in 2016.

“As time went on and we spent more time on the ground at tech campuses, we realized not only were the number of young founders going up, but so were the number of top engineers, designers and product heads who were interested in working in tech,” he said.