Deals

Former First Round Capital partner starts tiny new fund, for tiny new companies

Startup founders are tremendously invested in the success of their startups and sometimes in that of their business partners, but what about other startup peers?

That’s the question venture capitalist Kent Goldman intends to answer with his new venture capital fund, Upside Partnership, which he’s launching today.

Upside will have a different structure from your traditional VC fund: The founders Goldman will invest in will become partners in the fund and so will have a vested interest in the whole portfolio’s success, not just their own company’s.

Goldman is jumping into this new venture after spending the past six years at First Round Capital as a “professional seed investor,” as he likes to describe it. At First Round, he led investments in Hotel Tonight, Liftopia, Artillery, and Threadflip, to name a few.

“You talk to founders, and they will often tell you that the best advice is not from investors but from other founders,” Goldman told VentureBeat. Naturally, startup founders often seek and receive, sometimes without asking, all kinds of advice from their investors, so Goldman has decided to marry both advice-giving manifestations into one at Upside.

As for the equity part of this equation, Goldman will eventually, at each year’s end, look back at the activity and split the carried interest (the profits from the investments) between the founder-partners. He hasn’t worked out the specifics yet, however.

Having been a seed-stage investor for the past several years, Goldman is bringing that experience and affinity for seed-stage startups to Upside. The fund is only $30 million in size and is focused on what Goldman calls “true seed” investments; that is, very young companies just beginning their journeys.

“I really believe in small funds. It allows you to work really hand in hand with a founders,” said Goldman. “If they don’t have product or are working on an idea, I want to meet them.”

Although he had much more interest from limited partners, and almost allowed the fund to get to $35 million (still quite small), Goldman ultimately capped it at $30 million. He’s estimating that the average investment will be about $300,000 per startup, though it could be of any size; whatever “is right for the founders,” he said.

He’s also allotting “more than a majority” of the fund to follow-on capital. “I don’t want to be in a position where I’m forcing unneeded capital onto a founder,” he said. He added that he’s happy to continue investing in his portfolio companies with follow-on capital but wants to make sure the money is invested at the right amount, at the right time.

Unlike a lot of seed-stage (and other stage) VC funds, Upside will be industry-agnotistic, focusing instead on finding companies that have purpose-built teams. “They can tell you a life story that led them to that point,” he said.