An update on Version One’s thesis: backing mission-driven founders

Technology changes. The startup market evolves, and so do we as VCs. Over the past few months, we’ve reflected on our journey over the past decade, who we are and what we invest in. We’ve quietly made changes to our website. And here’s the official unveiling, with a quick synopsis of our new messaging and the thinking behind it. 

“Backing mission-driven founders at the earliest stages”

We raised our first fund in summer 2012. At that time, Version One was a generalist firm, investing in consumer Internet, e-commerce, SaaS and mobile companies. By 2016, we had begun to specialize into a thesis-driven firm, focusing on businesses with potentially large network effects built around people and/or data. 

Fast forward to today. We still think that network effects are incredibly valuable. However, most businesses are looking for network effects, so they are less of a differentiator than they were a decade ago. At the same time, we realize that our interests have been broad over the years: marketplaces and SaaS continue to be core interest areas, but we are also spending a lot of time in crypto, healthcare and climate, and always pushing ourselves to look at the edge of technological innovation. 

But ultimately, as our interests change, the one constant has been the founder. No matter the vertical, geography, business model, macro or micro trends, entrepreneurs form the nucleus of a generational company. And that’s why the founding team is the most important factor in our investment decision-making.

You’ll note the description “mission-driven founders.” To us, these are entrepreneurs who will stop at nothing to solve a deep pain point that they know well. It’s this passion, even obsession, that can inspire, create, and lead strong teams through the ups and downs of building an iconic technology business. 

Amazing, mission-driven founders are found throughout our portfolio. For example, there’s Pree Walia of Preemadonna with her mission to power creative expression in beauty. And, Mike Murchison and David Hariri of Ada Support, whose mission is to deliver customer service in a way that’s authentic and simple but also efficient and scalable. Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam of Coinbase are driven to create an open financial system for the world. Laura Behrens Wu and Simon Kreuz of Shippo want to power every e-commerce merchant (big and small) with professional-grade shipping and deep discounts from top carriers. And our list goes on…

Here at Version One, we have never been consensus-driven or fast followers. We develop our own conviction and are not afraid to lead or invest when others do not. We like the non-obvious. But most importantly, we believe in our founders’ ability to positively impact the world.

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