Out if its first fund raised in 2018, the firm has backed 29 companies. They include Five, which is building software for autonomous vehicles; Paddle, SaaS for software e-commerce; Pollen, a peer-to-peer marketplace for experiences and travel; and Farewill, which lets users create a will online.
However, what sets Kindred apart from most other seed VCs is its “equitable venture” model that sees the founders it backs get carry in the fund, effectively becoming co-owners of Kindred. Once the VC’s LPs have their investment returned, along with the firm’s partners, the portfolio founders share any subsequent fund profits.
To learn more about Kindred’s investment focus going forward and how its equitable venture model works in practice, I caught up with partners Leila Rastegar Zegna and Chrys Chrysanthou. We also discussed closing deals remotely and how the VC approaches diversity and inclusion.
TechCrunch: Kindred Capital backs seed-stage startups across Europe and in Israel. Can you elaborate a bit more on the fund’s remit, such as sector or specific technologies, and what you look for in founders and startups at such an early stage?
Rastegar Zegna: As a fund, we are very focused on the founder(s), so everything starts there. We try to drill down and get to know them as people and leaders, first and foremost. Do they have what it takes to get the company off the ground, the resilience to get through the inevitable ups and downs of startup life and through the scaling years to make this a massive outcome for the team and the investors?
The second element we spend time thinking about is the market itself and how big the company can grow within the constraints of that market. We also think deeply about the timing of the business, especially if they are trying to create a new market, such as in quantum computing, for example.
Chrysanthou: It’s also worth mentioning that many investors talk about product-market fit, but we are also great believers in founder-market fit. In other words, a founder who might be successful in one market, might well fail in another, as different skills are required and even different personality types might be better suited. One way we assess this is to look for deep insights they have to the problem they’re trying to solve and how they think about their market.
After that, we are fairly sector-agnostic, which is why we have such a diverse portfolio, ranging from consumer products through to deep science.
How has the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns and social distancing affected the way you source and close deals?
Rastegar Zegna: Initially, we moved everything to video calls, like pretty much everyone else in the industry. Upon reflection, however, we realized that we were just using a new tool (e.g. Zoom) but in the old way — meaning, any meeting we used to have at Kindred HQ, we just transitioned onto Zoom. The interesting transition we’re going through now is to create a new way of working around the tool. That means for some meetings, Zoom will be the most effective medium of communication. For others it may be an audio call, and for a third category of discussion, a walking meeting in the park may be what’s called for. But the opportunity is to throw out the playbook written by inertia and generally accepted industry working norms, and create a first principles approach to the way in which we do business to optimize for the best outcome.