Over the past seven years, Founder’s Co-op has trumpeted the benefits of the Pacific Northwest entrepreneurial community more than most, touting the region’s talent, drive and moxie while also writing small checks to get startups off the ground.
Now, Founder’s Co-op — started by longtime business partners Andy Sack and Chris DeVore and including former Facebook and Amazon.com executive Rudy Gadre — will have a little more fuel to toss on the entrepreneurial fires burning in Seattle, Portland and beyond.
Founder’s Co-op today is announcing that it has raised a $20 million fund, the largest in the history of the Seattle-based firm. The fund is 2.5 times bigger than the last one, which clocked in at $8 million in 2012. Total funding in the firm stands at more than $30 million.
Backers of the most recent fund include The Oregon Growth Board, as well as the venture arm of a public company that DeVore declined to disclose. He also said that a number of angel investors from companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Zillow, Expedia, Concur, aQuantive, Nuance and other large companies participated.
“Our mission is to make the Pacific Northwest the best place on the planet to build a world-class software company — the kind that achieves the scale and impact of a Microsoft or Amazon,” DeVore writes in a blog post.
From the new pool of capital, DeVore said that they’ll make roughly 40 to 50 seed investments. Founder’s Co-op will not invest more than 10 percent of the fund in any one deal, but DeVore said they expect to invest up to that amount in a handful of portfolio companies over time.
Of course, $20 million may not sound like much for a new fund — especially since some early-stage startup companies are pulling down that much in one series A or series B venture round these days. Even so, DeVore thinks Founder’s Co-op can have a big impact.
“On the scale of the multi-trillion dollar global economy, or even the hundreds of millions of dollars available to a ‘traditional’ venture fund, our ambitions are laughably grandiose and our resources laughably small,” DeVore writes. “But our theory of change doesn’t require us to write huge checks or transform global opinion overnight. All we have to do is scout out the most talented and hungry founding teams we can find — people who understand how to wield the long lever of technology to transform limited resources into massive impact. Then we do everything in our power to help them build teams, products and companies that matter.”
Founder’s Co-op has already discovered some of those teams, including companies such as Appature, Appfog, Meldium and MobileDevHQ, all of which were acquired in recent years. But DeVore — a former Patagonia executive who co-founded Judy’s Book with Sack — said the best is yet to come.
“The investments most likely to drive overall fund returns are still private and growing,” DeVore tells GeekWire. “Companies like Simply Measured, Urban Airship, Remitly, Tune.com, Shippable, Bluecore, Apptentive and Array Health are a few that have already raised significant venture rounds, and we have several more that will join them later this year.”
The new fund, albeit small by Silicon Valley standards, comes at a time when many are wondering whether Seattle has enough capital available to fuel a vibrant startup ecosystem.
Just this week, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff noted that Seattle remains “underfunded and under-respected.”
“I still think there is more innovation here than there is capital or coverage,” he said. “I think this geography is still an underdog, and is sort of being held back by its own humility.”
Meanwhile, Matt McIlwain of Madrona Venture Group — the big kahuna on the Seattle venture capital scene with a $300 million fund that closed in 2012 — told GeekWire earlier this week that the region is “capital and company-builder constrained.”
With Founder’s Co-op landing the $20 million fund, there’s now a little more capital and support to be spread amongst Pacific Northwest entrepreneurs.
In addition to Founder’s Co-op, DeVore is serving as the new managing director of Techstars Seattle, the startup incubator that helps 10 new entrepreneurs get off the ground each year. DeVore just last month announced that Techstars Seattle had raised $2.7 million, enough cash to bankroll the next four classes of the program.
Between Techstars and Founder’s Co-op, DeVore is hoping to help transform the region into a powerhouse for innovative startup companies.
“Each company that thrives here in the Pacific Northwest becomes another beacon of excellence for our region,” he writes. “Each successful founder becomes a hero, mentor and angel investor for the next generation of leaders. And each turn of that cycle adds depth, strength and diversity to the system as a whole.”