Friday Letter: True’s Callaghan says it’s been the year of the platform

True Ventures is known for supporting its founders through its platform offerings, and that's how it helped them get through this year, according to founder Jon Callaghan.

I spoke this week with Jon Callaghan, co-founder of early-stage firm True Ventures. I wanted to ask about him the fundraising environment and what his outlook for the venture community is next year.

We ended up, instead, talking mostly about what a year it’s been for the firm, its portfolio and society in general.

The firm was founded in 2005 and has backed such brand-name companies as Blue Bottle Coffee, Fitbit, Ring and Peloton, among others. When recalling when the pandemic escalated earlier this year, Callaghan, an aviator himself, referenced a flying term and said, “no fast hands in the cockpit.” The phrase refers to how pilots react to an emergency by slowing down, taking a breath and assessing the situation before acting.

That’s what the firm did. Callaghan said they came to the conclusion that they would press on with their planned fundraising, which they did entirely over Zoom. They were substantially oversubscribed, he said, while bringing in a few new LPs.

Last month, True Ventures closed on $840 million combined for two new funds: $465 million for its seventh core early-stage fund and $375 million for its fourth Select Fund used to invest in follow-on rounds in the firm’s most rapidly growing portfolio companies. Both funds were larger than the previous vintages.

VC True Ventures
Jon Callaghan, founder of True Ventures

The money raised, he said, wasn’t the real story. Fifteen years ago, True Ventures was one of the initial firms to offer a range of value-add services for its portfolio companies, which it does through its True Platform. This includes providing learning and development opportunities, fellowships and leadership skills for founders.

Callaghan said that covid-19, the uprising over racial injustice, along with the impact of the western US wildfires and an election have created numerous challenges for the firm’s portfolio.

“But as a firm we’ve been helping our founders deal with challenges for the last 15 years, supporting them with all kinds of services, and that’s what we’ve been doing all year long,” he said. “We’ve been supporting our founders with services with our platform. So in many ways this has been the year of the platform.”

He added: “However, the human tragedy of covid and other crises we’ve faced this year have been immense, and I don’t want to downplay or be insensitive to what the world has gone through this year. But many of our companies are doing well and my outlook for next year is hopeful and favorable.”

On that note, that sounds like a pretty good way to end the week. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Hope you all have a safe and enjoyable week. And let me know how you and your firms are doing and what your outlook is for next year.

I’m always happy to hear from you. You can reach me at agoldfisher@buyoutsinsider.com and I’m open to voice and video calls, of course.