Last July, Bloomberg Beta, the venture capital arm of Bloomberg L.P., announced a $75 million fund in its attempt to fuel the technologies behind “the future of work.”
It’s been nearly a year since Bloomberg Beta announced its edict to shape how we work. So how much of the future can $75 million fund? Let’s find out.
The Freedom To Invest
To keep an edge, tech incumbents such as Google, Salesforce, and Intel frequently put large sums into venture capital firms of their own. This type of investment vehicle, typically known as corporate venture capital (CVC), is often aligned with the strategic goals of the parent company.
In Salesforce Ventures case, for instance, its latest $100 million fund is dedicated to supporting Salesforce’s nascent AI ambitions.
But Bloomberg Beta does not appear to follow a strategic investment directive set by a parent company. It is not “an operating division” according to its Github page, which serves as an open source repository of Bloomberg Beta’s investment principles. Rather, it is “a true fund that invests for financial return.” In short, it wants to be treated like any other standard venture capital firm, and it is, presumably, not overtly concerned with its parent company’s needs.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s without guidance. As the firm states: “If you’re focused on making leisure or family life better, we’re probably not your people.”
Instead, the firm is betting businesses and large enterprises will once again drive tech innovation. “We believe that… technology arrives at work before it arrives at home,” Bloomberg Beta’s investment manual states.
Roy Bahat, head of Bloomberg Beta, elaborated in a statement to Crunchbase News:
We believe the future of work could be the most significant aspect of human life that technology transforms in the coming decades. Its incumbent on us, as the technology industry, to try to engage responsibly in the broader social and political implications of that change.
So how is that money being distributed to startups which focus on work, rather than the home, first?
Bloomberg Beta By The (Crunchbase) Numbers
According to Crunchbase data, Bloomberg Beta has participated in 30 known deals totaling nearly $400 million since its last fund was raised. It’s an investment pace that represents a little over 27 percent of its total number of deals over Bloomberg Beta’s lifetime (of which we know of 110).
The firm has also made a number of small bets since announcing its latest fund. It actively has invested in Seed and Series A stage startups, accounting for over two-thirds of the latest funds total investments since July 2016. But its investments in seed-stage startups has reduced as the fund has matured. Looking at total investments made since Bloomberg Beta’s inception, over half of the group’s investments were Seed stage.
The discrepancy can be accounted for when taking a look at follow-on rounds in the firm’s startup cohort. Of the six Series B rounds that Bloomberg Beta has participated in since July 2016, all had Bloomberg Beta’s buy in from the Seed or Series A stage. In the case of Masterclass, an online education company, Bloomberg Beta has participated in its funding all the way from Seed to its latest Series C.
But while the firm has been quite active, Bloomberg Beta’s exits are still small in number. Only three startups within its total portfolio—Drawbridge Networks, Newsie, and Nodejitsu— have exited by way of acquisition according to Crunchbase data.
The Future Of Work Is Hard To Pin Down
It’s impossible to predict with certainty where the future of work is headed (at one point, the merits of the bring your own device movement were debatable), so it’s natural to see Bloomberg Beta making a wide array of bets.
While there are VC trends pointing to increased interest in AI and machine learning, Bloomberg Beta has not tied itself down. And while neither of its current or past funds are big fans leisure, that doesn’t mean it has shied away from the consumer market entirely.
For instance, Bloomberg Beta has, under its most recent fund, participated in GoTenna’s Series B, following up on its Series A investment. The company builds a phone accessory that allows you to text and share coordinates without cell service, and it can be found at the popular camping retail shop REI.
Beyond GoTenna, Bloomberg Beta’s investments are much less likely to be found on store shelves. Of the 30 documented investments it has made since July, seven of those investments have been made in cyber-security startups. Of its cyber-security investments made in the past year, BlueTalon‘s Series A was the largest round Bloomberg Beta participated in.
Apparently, the future of work will need a lot of security help.
Notably, Bloomberg Beta has also seemingly slowed down on the artificial intelligence front. According to Crunchbase, it has invested in 10 companies totaling 11 rounds in the AI space since the original fund was announced. But only three of those investments have been made into AI companies since the announcement of its July fund. This is amidst renewed fervor in the AI space from the venture industry as a whole.
That said, Bloomberg Beta hasn’t exclusively stayed in the cyber-security and AI space. The company has also made a media bet in the form of PennyPass. Although still in private beta, PennyPass aims to increase the revenue bloggers and other digital media outlets earn.
Aside from security and AI, with a dabble in digital media, it’s not at all clear what direction Bloomberg Beta believes the future of work is headed. But it’s a definite that Bloomberg Beta will predominantly focus through an enterprise lense, betting against the trend of consumers leading the way in tech innovation.