Business

24-year-old Cal grad launches $6M start-ups fund

Jeremy Fiance. Photo: LinkedIn

A 24-year old Berkeley alum who raised funds for start-ups while still in school announced Monday that he has started a $6 million fund for companies connected to UC Berkeley.

Jeremy Fiance has launched The House Fund, which will seed very early stage companies with anything from $50,000 to $250,000.

Financial backers and advisors (most of whom are UC Berkeley grads) include Shervin Pishevar, an early investor in Uber and now a managing partner at Sherpa Capital, Jeff Brody, managing partner at Redpoint Ventures, John Burke, the founder of True Ventures, and Prakash Janakiraman, the founder Nextdoor, and others, according to Venture Beat.

“We believe a University ecosystem is an ideal place to start up and Berkeley’s is one of the best around,” said Fiance in an article he posted on Medium. “But there’s still a huge need for strengthened community and funding support.”


The House Fund is a the third UC Berkeley-related fund in which Fiance has been involved and is an outgrowth of what he considers a dearth of venture capital money for Berkeley companies, according to his article. While UC Berkeley has many talented and entrepreneurial students, most venture funding seems to gravitate towards Stanford, not Berkeley students, he said.

“When I came to campus in the fall of 2010, I won a campus pitch competition and was eager to take my idea to the next level,” Fiance wrote on Medium. “In my search for resources and entrepreneurs who could share their own experiences, all I could find were classmates star-struck over The Social Network, wanting to be the next Zuck, and clubs glorifying startup culture rather than building real companies.”

Fiance found some like-minded students and in 2011 created the Kairos Fund Berkeley. The next year, after winning a few thousand dollars in a competition, Fiance started the Free Ventures accelerator, which allowed students to get course credit to work on their start up ideas and provided small amounts of capital. Fiance then connected with The Dorm Room Fund in 2013 to help student companies get access to early stage capital. Over 18 months, it invested $120,000 in 18 Berkeley start-ups. Fiance said the various funds over the years have led to the creation of 60 companies that have raised $50 million in funding.

The House Fund is limited to people with a UC Berkeley connection. Fiance has already made six investments so far. They include Lily Robotics, which makes a drone camera; Eko Devices, which makes a stethoscope, and Instant eSports, an ESPN for e-sports, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“The House Fund is built by and for Berkeley founders,” said Fiance. “We’re doubling down on our belief in Berkeley by contributing a significant portion of our returns and resources back into the ecosystem.”


The fund is just the latest contribution to Berkeley’s growing tech ecosystem, although it is the only venture fund. UC Berkeley launched the Berkeley Skydeck Accelerator in 2011 to provide office space and guidance to Berkeley-related start-ups. Just recently, a group of 50 investors launched The Batchery, an incubator space on Bancroft Way. Companies in The Batchery do not need to have a UC Berkeley connection. There are also dozens of young start-ups in the city’s various co-working spaces, which include WeWork, NextSpace, and Sandbox Suites.

Related:
WeWork opens office space in downtown Berkeley (02.02.15)
NextSpace to open new co-working offices in Berkeley (04.11.14)
Startups value Skydeck for views, closeness to Cal (06.25.12)
Skydeck hopes to boost Berkeley-based tech startups (03.01.12)
Berkeley for startups: perfect spot or braindrain in action? (02.09.12)
Skydeck innovation center receives $50,000 boost (07.15.11)

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