A little less than two years ago, we reported on Jeremy Fiance, a then 24-year-old recent UC Berkeley graduate who’d just taken the wraps off his new firm, The House Fund. It had secured $6 million in capital commitments from an array of individual investors, many of them venture capitalists, to fund startups coming out of UC Berkeley.
At the time, Fiance argued persuasively that the school — known for its academic rigor — has largely and unwisely been overlooked by angel investors and VCs alike, sometimes owing simply to proximity. (Many investors live in communities that are closer to Stanford, roughly 40 miles away.)
He further sold himself on his own unique abilities to spot talent at UC Berkeley, including because as a freshman, in 2010, he’d brought to campus Kairos Society, a now 11-year-old organization that encourages budding entrepreneurs to tackle global-scale social challenges.
His salesmanship may be paying off. According to a three-month-old SEC filing spied earlier today by Axios, Fiance’s ambitions have grown eightfold. At least, according to the filing, the House Fund is now raising upwards of $50 million for its second fund. (We’ve reached out Fiance for more information and will update this post if we hear more.)
Whether he can gather as much in capital commitments remains to be seen, but the a diverse portfolio he has assembled suggests that Fiance — who counts VC and Cal alum Jeff Brody of Redpoint Ventures among his advisors — has made connections across the startup industry. Among House Fund’s bets is Gradescope, a four-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based cloud-based educational grading platform that raised $2.6 million in seed funding in 2016, including from Freestyle Capital, Bloomberg Beta, Reach Capital, and K9 Ventures.
House Fund also invested more recently in Superhuman, an ostensibly much faster email service created three years ago by the founder of Rapportive, a Gmail add-on that LinkedIn acquired in 2012. (Superhuman has disclosed its backers but not how much it has raised.)
House Fund’s most promising bet to date may be Flexport, a five-year-old global freight forwarder and logistics platform that has raised at least $204 million to date, according to Crunchbase. (Founder Ryan Petersen graduated from UC Berkeley in 2002.)
That kind of follow-on funding suggests that House Fund’s stake in Flexport is likely quite small at this point. Early investors are typically diluted in subsequent funding rounds unless they can pay to maintain their percentage of ownership, and it’s doubtful that House Fund could do this given the size of its debut fund. Still, the deal could conceivably persuade investors that Fiance has an eye for talent.
That’s not to say it’s been smooth sailing all the way. As with any venture firm, the outfit is already seeing its ups and downs.
House Fund lists eight startups at its website, and says it has funded “dozens of other unannounced companies.” One of those featured companies is Essential, which was founded by star entrepreneur Andy Rubin but is reportedly struggling to sell its smartphones.
When we’d talked with Fiance in April 2016, he was also understandably proud of an early investment in Lily Robotics, a camera drone startup that had started out in a UC Berkeley robotics lab and gone on to raise $15 million in funding, including from Spark Capital. Six months later, unable to raise a subsequent round, the company shut down.