More than three years ago, Jeremy Fiance founded The House Fund (THF) with $6 million to make seed and pre-seed investments in startups with ties to UC Berkeley because he thought the university was overlooked for its startup talent.
Overlooked no longer.
Fiance has wrapped up the second fund with $44 million in commitments, a seven-fold increase over Fund I. And with the close of Fund II, Fiance announced THF will increase its focus on AI. Fiance told Venture Capital Journal that with the school’s concentration of AI researchers and startups, the Berkeley community is becoming a stronghold for AI research and technology.
As part of its push, THF has formed a team of advisers to work AI startups funded by the firm. The team includes a group of faculty partners, and UC Berkeley AI professors, such as Kurt Keutzer, Dawn Song, Trevor Darrell, Pieter Abbeel, Michael I. Jordan and Ion Stoica, the latter of whom is co-founder of the unicorn Databricks, which grew out of the AMPLab project at UC Berkeley.
Fiance said that as more AI technologies are featured in startups, entrepreneurs are looking for an edge and there’s a talent battle for AI expertise
“The AI support we provide startups is built on our alumni network and ties to the university and gives us a huge value add,” Fiance said.
Prior to launching THF, Fiance was managing partner with First Round’s Dorm Room Fund SF and before that was an associate with CrunchFund.
He said his is the first and only fund focused on Berkeley startups. Fund I invested primarily in software and software-enabled companies, and THF only backs startups that include at least one founding member who is a student, faculty or alumni.
To raise the first fund, Fiance tapped the alumni network from the venture capital world. As previously reported, LPs included a bevy of Cal grads, such as Jeff Brody, partner at Redpoint Ventures; Terry Garnett, co-founder of Garnett Helfrich and minority owner of the Sacramento Kings; John Burke, founder of True Ventures; Bobby Yazdani, founder of Cota Capital; Josh Hannah, general partner of Matrix Partners; and others.
Fiance raised Fund II from institutions, including endowments, family offices and funds of funds.
In addition to Fiance, the team at THF includes Partner Cameron Baradar, Venture Partner Brett Wilson, Associate Adithya Iyengar, Executive Assistant Mandy Freund and Student Investor Sneha Malineni.
Wilson was co-founder and CEO of TubeMogul, which Adobe purchased in 2016 for $540 million. A backer of TubeMogul was Bee Partners, a San Francisco firm led by founder and Managing Partner Michael Berolzheimer.
Berolzheimer is also a Cal alumni and is familiar with THF, having co-invested on deals. Although he is not an LP in the fund, Berolzheimer noted that THF fills a need as entrepreneurial ecosystems like UC Berkeley are hungry for resources and community.
“The House has celebrated Cal entrepreneurship since its inception, and has supported … students and alumni as they’ve started their companies,” Berolzheimer told VCJ. “It’s extraordinary to see such fervent focus around Cal, as it’s been a hotbed of entrepreneurial talent and technological research for decades.”
Fund I backed 50 companies, and Fiance said it has already produced 10 exits, including tbh, an anonymous polling app, which Facebook acquired for an undisclosed price.
Fiance said that the portfolio from Fund I has raised $2 billion in follow-on financing from investors.
Fund II has already backed 10 companies, with THF typically investing $500,000 in pre-seed deals and $1 million in seed-stage financings.
Fiance pointed out that 80 percent of the firm’s portfolio is made up of alums who are five or more years out of school.