The House Fund, a venture capital fund specializing in pre-seed and early-stage investments in UC Berkeley firms, particularly those in the AI space, has announced that it has completed its third tranche, or Fund III, at a value of $115 million.
Following the conclusion of Fund III, Jeremy Fiance, managing partner at The House Fund, confirmed via email to TechCrunch that Ken Goldberg, the well-known roboticist and professor at UC Berkeley, will become a part-time partner of the organization.
“The reason behind our name, The House Fund, is that we serve as the hub for the Berkeley startup scene,” Fiance explained. “We help Berkeley residents pursue their entrepreneurial dreams by supporting them in joining startups, founding startups, offering advice, giving input on their ideas long before any startup takes off, and much more.”
Whether formed by academics, Ph.D. candidates, postdoctoral and graduate students, recent graduates, undergraduates, dropouts, or alums, Fund III will invest in AI firms with ties to Berkeley.
According to Fiance, almost 70% of Fund III will support pre-seed stage firms. In addition, The House Fund will “consider” a “small number” of first-round Series A rounds with founders who have previously exited for $500 million to over $1 billion, in addition to leading, co-leading, and participating in seed rounds.
“We set aside money for follow-ups and wrote initial checks up to $2 million,” Fiance continued. We can be the sole investors in a freshly graduated founder or dropout, for example, if we write a check for as little as $100,000.
Launched in 2016, the House Fund bills itself as the only fund supported by the university endowment of UC Berkeley and the University of California System Endowment and the “first-ever fund” devoted to Berkeley entrepreneurs.
According to Fiance, the House Fund presently manages $330 million, and over 100 funds have made follow-on investments in portfolio firms. (The venture capital business raised $6 million in its first fund and $44 million in its second fund, which closed in late 2019.) Among the notable investments made from The House Fund’s prior funds include Goldberg’s Ambi Robotics, Crowdbotics, a software development platform, and Anyscale, a firm creating a foundation for distributed computation projects.
According to Fiance, “there are about 600,000 Berkeley people—among the biggest alumni bases in the world.” Additionally, most graduates have long asked for easier methods to unlock their Berkeley education and more accessible community participation. Berkeley, a large public school, has never had the means to satisfy this demand. As a result, we decided to act independently in the interest of our community. We are here to serve the requirements of business owners by providing Berkeley AI founders with extensive resources and fostering the community that businesses require to succeed.
Entrepreneurs who get funding from The House Fund gain access to technology through the VC firm’s partners, guidance from The House Fund’s limited partners and advisers, talent from the Berkeley campus and alums network, and connections to prospective clients through Berkeley.
Additionally, the House Fund recently announced the launch of an accelerator program that offers a small number of startups a $1 million investment each, a $10 million SAFE note when the money is raised, and “free and early access” to technology from partners in the tech industry including Microsoft, Databricks, and OpenAI. (SAFE notes grant investors the ability to acquire stock in a firm in the future.) In addition, participants in The House Fund accelerator program receive mentorship from Google’s AI-focused venture fund, Gradient Ventures, and the tech partners described earlier in this article.