The House Fund, the pre-seed and early-stage venture capital fund focused on UC Berkeley startups, specifically AI startups, today announced that it has closed its third tranche — Fund III — at $115 million.
With the close of Fund III, Ken Goldberg, the UC Berkeley professor and prolific roboticist, will join The House Fund as a part-time partner, said Jeremy Fiance, the managing partner at The House Fund, in an email interview with TechCrunch.
“We’re called The House Fund because we’re the home for the Berkeley startup community,” Fiance said. “We support Berkeley people in their entrepreneurial journey, whether that’s joining startups, starting startups, advising them, providing feedback on their ideas well before any startup materializes and so much more.”
Fund III will invest in Berkeley-affiliated AI startups — whether founded by alumni, faculty, PhD candidates, postdoctoral and grad students, recent graduates, undergraduates or dropouts.
Roughly 70% of Fund III will go toward startups at the pre-seed stage, Fiance says. But The House Fund will also lead, co-lead and participate in seed rounds and “consider” a “small number” of first-round Series A rounds with founders who’ve had previous exits worth $500 million to over $1 billion.
“We write first checks up to $2 million and reserve for follow-ons,” Fiance added. “We can write a check as small as $100,000 in a recently graduated founder or dropout and are fine being the only investor, for example.”
The House Fund, launched in 2016, claims to be the “first-ever fund” focused on Berkeley startups and the only fund backed by both the University of California System Endowment and UC Berkeley’s campus endowment.
The House Fund currently has $330 million under management and more than 100 funds have follow-on invested in its startups, Fiance says. (The VC firm’s first fund was $6 million, and its second fund, closed in late 2019, was $44 million.) Notable investments from The House Fund’s previous funds include Anyscale, a company building a framework for distributed compute projects; software development platform Crowdbotics; and Goldberg’s Ambi Robotics.
“There’s roughly 600,000 Berkeley people — among the biggest alumni bases in the world,” Fiance said. “And there’s been a longstanding ask from most alumni for more accessible community engagement and frictionless ways to unlock from Berkeley as an alum. As a big public school, Berkeley historically hasn’t had the resources to meet this demand. So we took matters into our own hands in service to our community … We exist to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, curating comprehensive resources for Berkeley AI founders and creating the connected environment startups need to thrive.”
Startups that receive backing from The House Fund get access to tech from the VC firm’s partners, mentorship from The House Fund’s LPs and advisors, access to talent from the Berkeley campus and alumni base and introductions to potential customers with Berkeley relationships.
The House Fund also runs an accelerator, recently announced, that provides a handful of companies a $1 million investment each, a $10 million post-money SAFE note and “free and early access” to tech from tech company partners, including OpenAI, Microsoft and Databricks. (SAFE notes give investors the right to purchase equity in a company at some specified date in the future.) The House Fund accelerator participants also get mentorship from Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, as well as from The House Fund’s aforementioned tech partners.