Another venture capitalist is leaving their long-time home for something new. This time it is DCM partner Kyle Lui, who left after nearly eight years to become the second general partner at Bling Capital.
DCM has a storied history. It is notably one of the first Sand Hill Road venture funds to establish a major presence in Asia, particularly in China. Since 1996, it has grown to over $4 billion under management, and invested in more than 400 technology companies, including Kuaishou, SoFi and Bill.com.
During his time at DCM, Lui was involved in several U.S. investments, including DocSend, Tempo, TravelBank, Wrike and Lime, as well as companies that are now public, like Hims & Hers, Shift and SoFi.
Lui’s move is the latest among high-profile fund managers. He noted the trend of them leaving older “traditional” VC firms to establish their own firms or join newer firms. We saw Katie Haun leave Andreessen Horowitz late last to start her own fund. She just raised $1.5 billion for two crypto-focused funds. Then this month, Wesley Chan left Felicis, where he was a partner, to start a fund with former Morgan Stanley technology banker Pegah Ebrahimi.
He also pointed out there were less-tenured partners leaving established firms for more senior roles. For example, Sarah Cannon leaving Index Ventures for Coatue, Katherine Boyle leaving General Catalyst for a16z and Arielle Zuckerberg leaving Coatue for Long Journey Ventures.
Not only is this a chance for Lui to work with Bling Capital GP Ben Ling, but it is an opportunity to go from a 26-year-old firm to a three-and-a-half-year-old firm, giving him “more of an ability to shape a firm that is earlier in its evolution.”
Lui and Ling have known each other for more than 15 years, since Ling invested in Lui’s company ChoicePass while Ling was at Khosla Ventures. ChoicePass was later acquired by Salesforce and became part of Work.com.
“It’s an ability to work with founders at the earliest stages,” Lui added. “Being at a two general partner firm is really appealing, as is working with someone I’ve known as long as Ben. It’s important for firms like his to stand out and broadcast what it is that makes it special. I saw that with Bling Capital’s portfolio — a strong operation-focused fund that forces companies to find product market fit.”
Ling told TechCrunch that he was wasn’t initially looking for another general partner. When he started Bling Capital in 2018, he made the choice to be a solo GP, in part as a differentiator, and in part to be able to make quicker investment decisions.
The solo route has played out quite nicely for Bling, which now boasts 18 unicorns in its portfolio of investments that includes Vise, Elemy, Tempo, CapChase and Veho.
In fact, when Ling was raising his first fund, he recalls telling his limited partners that it was his intent to stay solo, but as he raised the second and third funds, they began asking him more often if he was going to bring someone in. Ling already had three principals but would reply that he would if he could find the right partner. And this time, he says he did with Lui.
“We complement each other in skill set and network, so it was a good opportunity to bring him on,” Ling added. “Having a second GP gives us the ability to have more network coverage and see more investments and opportunities. Within the network coverage, it also helps our portfolio companies be connected to companies. Second, it gives us more time for him to focus on some investments and me on others, which also will give us the ability to scale.”
Related to networks, Lui’s is Salesforce, DCM and HBS, while Ling’s is Google, YouTube, Facebook and Khosla Ventures, something Ling said is “a nice combo.”
Ling confirmed that Bling Capital’s fund focus was not changing — it will still be looking at consumer, marketing, fintech, SaaS and consumer health — but it gives Bling the ability to get more coverage and more firepower.
“Our key differentiation is product and product market fit and the 100 people on our Product Council, which includes heads of product and growth LPs, and when we invest, they are all invested, and our portfolio CEO have access to them,” Ling said.
When asked why founders would want Bling in their cap table, Lui replied that two general partners with a background in product and operations is rare. That, combined with Bling’s reputation of working hard for founders and pushing them to succeed.
Moawia Eldeeb, co-founder and CEO of Tempo, knows both Lui and Ling well, saying that both have been great partners to his company. Ling led the seed round in Tempo while he was at Khosla and participated in subsequent rounds as part of Bling Capital’s opportunities fund. Ling also introduced Lui to Eldeeb, which led to DCM leading Tempo’s Series A round.
“It is going to be interesting to have them working together,” Eldeeb said. “They are two of the hardest-working investors for me. With Kyle, it is like having a third co-founder: he knew everything about the company and the industry. Some investors just sit at a 100-foot-high level and want to give advice, but Kyle is different. So is Ben, especially on how he builds up first-time founders to be CEO, which is quite the process. He spent a lot of time mentoring me through the process and being helpful in fundraising. Both of them in one firm is going to be exciting, and it is going to be hardest-working firm.”