In a partnership with AngelList, Cambridge-based venture capital firm Accomplice is taking a new approach to building the next generation of angel investors: by giving young, cash-strapped startup founders enough money to start making their own investments.
The new initiative, called Spearhead, was announced on Tuesday and is backed by a $35 million fund, Accomplice founding partner Jeff Fagnan told BostInno. Accomplice is the largest investor in the fund, which is also backed by some of the firm’s existing limited partners. AngelList is providing the technology and back office services for the program.
Spearhead is the culmination of Accomplice’s various experiments in venture capital, which includes its Maiden Lane fund for AngelList and Boston Syndicates.
“Our goal is to teach the craft of angel investing.”
Through Spearhead, Accomplice and AngelList aim to have a broad impact. Fagnan said over the next three years, the program will turn 80 founders into angel investors, which he estimates will invest in a total of 400 companies. The whole idea is to take the expertise and networks of founders who may not have enough of their own cash to invest in startups they’re already working with, and turn them into a new investment vehicle.
“The democratization potential of this is pretty wide,” Fagnan said.
The program will start soon with a cohort of 20 founders across Boston, New York, Toronto, San Francisco and Los Angeles (the geographic coverage will expand over time). To start off, each founder will each receive an initial $200,000 fund, for which they will receive 15 percent carried interest, the percentage of the fund’s profits. If the founders make promising investments, they will receive up to $1 million each to invest over the next two years.
What makes a promising investment? It ties into the quality of the relationship between the founder and the startups they invest in, Fagnan said. Are the startups receiving the kind of advice and help they’re looking for? Did the founder invest in a startup for the right reasons?
“Our goal is to teach the craft of angel investing,” Fagnan said.
Applications for the first cohort are due Jan. 26, and Fagnan said they’re open to any startup founder, no investment experience necessary. The things they’re looking for the most are founders who already helping other startups and those who already have networks to help with finding potential deals. The program will also make a point of looking for candidates from underrepresented demographic groups in tech.
“You can bet we are going to pay attention to that during the application and the interview process,” Fagnan said. “We’re doing that just believing that diversity leads to better returns and better angels helping out there.”
Fagnan’s Spearhead team includes AngelList founder Naval Ravikant and partner Jake Zeller, and Accomplice partner Cack Wilhelm.