500 Startups plans a fund that’s all about designers

dfund_logo_sketchesPeople in Silicon Valley like to talk about the importance of design, but now incubator and early-stage investment fund 500 Startups is creating a new fund around that idea.

Enrique Allen, the firm’s designer and the founder of its accelerator program, announced The Designer Fund today at 500 Startups’ first Demo Day. He noted that many successful startups — including YouTube, Tumblr, Android, and Flickr — were founded by designers. That’s not surprising, he said, since designers have “a deep understanding of people’s real problems” and are “paid really well to make what people really want,” compared to many startups that “fail because they make what people don’t want.”

Still, he said that there’s no clear path for designers (compared to programmers) to found their own companies, so “too few are actually venturing out and starting their own thing.” 500 Startups is already trying to instill startups with stronger design sensibilities through its own mentorship programs, but that doesn’t necessarily attract designers to the startup world.

Hence the creation of The Designer Fund. The goal is to invest in startups that are founded by designers, using a strategy similar to the firm’s micro-funds for companies that build on top of Twilio and CrowdFlower. Right now, Allen said he’s interested in finding top-notch designers who are also investors and want to join the fund. To participate, they must commit at least $50,000 or the equivalent amount of work.

Allen said he hopes to recruit 50 investors for the fund, which can then back 50 startups.