Unusual Ventures, a firm founded by John Vrionis, previously a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Jyoti Bansal, the founder of AppDynamics, has its sights on becoming the very best early-stage venture firm in Silicon Valley.
“We want to be the next Benchmark. They are the gold standard,” Vrionis told Venture Capital Journal.
Less than two years after its launch, Unusual Ventures is already showing signs of strong traction. The Menlo Park, California-based firm announced that it closed a $400 million second fund, a 150 percent increase from its $160 million debut effort.
“We had a positive reception from founders and LPs who were seeing early signs of progress,” Vrionis said.
In September, the firm’s bet on Omnition.io, a SaaS company with only $3.5 million in funding, sold to Splunk for a nine-figure number, according to Vrionis. A good number of existing portfolio companies are also making headway. A total of seven investments have received or will be soon announcing their next round of funding, Vrionis said.
Unusual Ventures, which focuses primarily on seed-stage, does not plan to alter its investment strategy for the second fund.
The firm will continue to write checks from $3 million to $7 million for its “core” investments, Vrionis said. These startups will continue to be enrolled in the Get Ahead Platform, a program that loans-out experienced operators in such areas as recruiting, sales and marketing directly to portfolio companies for a limited time. Unusual Ventures plans to make eight core investments a year over a three-year period, he said.
Additionally, the firm will make smaller investments towards pre-seed companies enrolled in Unusual Academy, a program where founders get weekly lectures from experts on topics relevant to very early-stage startups.
The firm will continue to invest in enterprise software, including tools, next-gen infrastructure and business applications; and in consumer products with a focus on marketplaces, social applications and fintech.
Unusual Ventures is not only looking to invest in startups, but the firm also wants the returns to benefit mission-driven LPs, especially those that would not normally get a chance to invest in venture capital. The firm’s LPs include historically black colleges and other nonprofits.
“Eighty percent of fund two comes from existing LPs,” said Vrionis, “but we added a few more foundations and endowments, such as hospitals that did not get a chance to participate in our first fund,” said Vrionis. One new notable LP is the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.