This low-flying, Boston-based venture outfit just tripled the size of its second fund to $150 million thanks to its approach of investing in sports technologies with the help of its community of athlete backers who help promote and grow the portfolio companies.
Will Ventures was started in 2019 by former professional football player Isaiah Kacyvenski and Brian Reilly, who has a product management background. They have known each other for over a decade, having previously worked together at the then wearable technology startup MC10. The company went on to raise over $100 million and grow to over 80 employees.
“We got to see what it was like firsthand to become entrepreneurs,” Reilly told TechCrunch. “During that time, we were primarily working in the consumer health or health and wellness verticals, in digital health and consumer technology, launching these wearables that were being used for elite athletes and also chronically ill patients.”
Two years ago, they started the sports technology research and advisory firm Sports Division Lab, which Reilly said helped build up their experience in all of those verticals and in sports media and entertainment.
In 2020, Will Ventures closed on its Fund I with $55 million that was backed by university endowments, professional sports team owners and entrepreneurs.
Now armed with $150 million for Fund II, the firm will continue to invest in seed-stage companies in the consumer, health, sports and entertainment sectors. The limited partners for this fund now also include foundations, dozens of professional athletes and founders from venture capital and private equity firms.
“The increase in fund size was to capitalize on all the opportunities we saw in the market, and for us to be able to get more ownership in the companies that we really cared about,” Reilly said.
Will Ventures practices the low-volume, high-conviction investment model, he noted. Rather than invest in 50 to 100 companies “for fun,” the firm is “slow and intentional” about constructing a portfolio of 20 to 25 companies so it can “maintain a discipline, patience, research-driven” approach.
There are also some new additions to Will Ventures, including a partnership with OneTeam Partners, which manages marketing and licensing rights for over 4,000 professional athletes. Ben Gardner also joined the firm as a partner and head of portfolio success. A former professional football player, he comes from Andreessen Horowitz, where he was a partner on the go-to-market team.
So far, the firm has made investments from the second fund in companies such as Ness, which they describe as “AmEx for health and wellness;” Mighty Health, a health and wellness platform for the aging population; The Post, a professional club for current and former athletes; and Street FC, a marketplace for pickup sports.
“We did what we said we were going to do with the first fund and put the right processes in place for reliable and reproducible results,” Kacyvenski told TechCrunch. “We have unbelievable relationships with athletes, with unions in the league, with team owners and with talent agencies. That is one piece of our flywheel that will continue to help with our differentiated value.”