VENTURE CAPITAL

How to Get Money from Founders Fund

Partner Bruce Gibney talks about what's hot, Facebook, and why Monday morning meetings aren't necessary.
Bruce Gibney, Partner of Founders Fund
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Founders Fund, investors in Facebook and Space X, last week announced it had raised $625 million for its fourth fund, larger than the first three funds combined. Want some of their money? A promising robotics idea could help.

"We'll be looking at that [space] more in the next five years," partner Bruce Gibney told Private Equity Hub. There's been relatively few promising robotics companies until now, he said, "but people are becoming more commercially disciplined–they're taking it seriously now as a business rather than as a science project."

The fund, founded by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, is also interested in artificial intelligence, which it currently has three companies in stealth mode.

How does the six-year-old fund make decisions about its investments?

Unlike most venture capital firms, not at Monday morning meetings.   

"We’re just highly skeptical about most traditional decision-making models, which we think are focused on process and not results," Gibney said. "At most venture firms, you have to be at Monday meetings, when maybe you should be meeting with a great company. Everyone has to talk for roughly the same amount of time. And there’s this strange pressure to approve someone’s deal, even if you’re skeptical of it, because you want to get your own deal approved. We think [that approach] doesn’t produce particularly good results."

Gibney noted that Founders Fund partners don't need regular Monday meetings because they have similar hobbies and overlapping social lives. For example, partner Ken Howery was Gibney's college roommate and Howery now lives with Luke Nosek, another partner.

But the larger the deal–initial investments tend to range from $500,000 to $5 million–the more consensus is required. "And we seem to achieve consensus on all our significant deals," Gibney said. "Those on which we all agree tend to be the best, too," he said.

Gibney also explained how the fund's investment in Facebook stacked up against its principle of backing entrepreneurs doing valuable work.

He pointed out that in 2004, Facebook was not an obvious investment candidate.

"It wasn't clear that social networking would be important or big or could even work technologically," he said.

Friendster, which the fund also invested in, became slower as it became more popular, he noted. "It turned out that managing these connections was computationally complex," Gibney said. "[Figuring that out] was something that we think was important and quite valuable and in that way, it fits in with our core thesis.

Last updated: Dec 7, 2011

COURTNEY RUBIN

Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.




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