Venture

Joshua Kushner’s Thrive Capital Raises $1B Amid Questions About Brother’s Ties To Saudi Arabia

Joshua Kushner, the left-leaning brother of presidential consigliere Jared Kushner, has had a busy week. He just married entrepreneur and software engineering scholarship benefactor Karlie Kloss. And, oh yeah, he raised a billion dollars for his venture firm Thrive Capital.

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In a very brief post to the firm’s blog, Thrive Capital announced that it has raised $1 billion across two separate but related funds operating under the collective aegis of Thrive VI. This sixth series of flagship funds includes $400 million in a fund “designated for early stage companies and a $600 [million] fund for later stage companies.”

Taken together, this is the largest fund raised by Thrive Capital to date. It brings the New York-based VC firm’s total assets under management to approximately $2.3 billion, which doesn’t include any special purpose vehicles, sidecar funds, or other associated investment instruments raised by the firm.

Crunchbase News presented a number of detailed questions to the firm concerning the source of its new funds, specifically whether Thrive Capital raised money from sovereign wealth funds or other foreign (or foreign-backed) capital pools. The firm, as a general policy, does not comment on limited partners, according to a source close to the firm. This includes no mention of geographic origin or political involvement of its limited partners.

Specific questions about conflict of interests stemming from a familial and business relationship with White House advisor Jared Kushner, as well as Joshua Kushner’s relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, were not answered on background or on the record.

Why ask these sort of questions now? There are two main reasons. The first is Joshua’s familial and business relationship with his brother Jared Kushner, a spouse to the president’s daughter and advisor to President Donald Trump. Fund VI is the first fund Thrive Capital has announced since the Trump administration officially took office. (Fund V was announced in July 2016, a few months prior to inauguration day.) Despite Joshua Kushner’s disagreement with Trump’s policies, it’s important to know whether his firm has benefitted from familial proximity to the Trump White House.

Second, in light of what’s looking more and more like an extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi reporter for the Washington Post and dissident who resided in the United States, by assailants in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, at least one venture investor is fielding questions from their portfolio companies about where their capital came from. Given allegations that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman may have ordered the killing of Khashoggi, and Jared Kushner’s close personal relationship with Bin Salman, Crunchbase News wanted to know if Thrive Capital took money from Bin Salman or another source of Saudi sovereign wealth.

Kushner was reportedly interested in raising from investors in the region, specifically Qatar, a strategic U.S. ally with recently frosty relations to Saudi Arabia.

In March, The Intercept reported that Joshua Kushner met with Qatari finance minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi, following a meeting his father, Charles Kushner, arranged with the government financier back in April 2017 to discuss financing for the family’s real estate holdings. The Intercept reports that Joshua pitched Al Emadi on investing in Thrive Capital. The Qatari sovereign wealth fund reportedly declined to invest because it didn’t make deals under $300 million. In that article, a spokesperson for Kushner disputed The Intercept’s claim that their client solicited funds from the Qatari financier but confirmed the meeting did occur.

Despite the sticky political situation Thrive could find itself in due to Joshua’s relationship to Jared, or any financial relationship it might have with unsavory investors, it’s important to remember that Thrive Capital is still just a VC fund.

As far as firms go, Thrive has done reasonably well. With big exits from investments in Instagram, Twitch, and Github, among many others, as well as emerging portfolio companies like Oscar, Capsule, and Hims waiting in the wings, the firm is likely to continue investing in some of tech’s hottest startups, politics be damned.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias