Obvious Ventures, founded in 2014 by Medium CEO and Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, as well as James Joaquin and Vishal Vasishth, has closed its third fund at $271,828,182.
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Wonky close sizes are a tradition of sorts at the San-Francisco based fund. This dollar amount, per a Medium post by the firm, references the “most important constants in mathematics: Euler’s Number, universally known as e.” For a little mathematics lesson, you can learn more about Euler’s Number here.
The third fund will continue to invest in what Obvious Ventures’ previous two funds, closed at $123,456,789 and $191,919,191 respectively, cared about: early-stage impactful companies. That includes investing in categories like healthy living, sustainable systems and what it defines as “people power” (such as companies working on education, employment and finance).
Obvious Ventures wants to stay away from the term impact investing, thanks to the category’s stereotype of being cushy about returns. Instead, based on a Crunchbase News Interview in March, Obvious Ventures is looking for startups with “top venture performance.”
When senior reporter Mary Ann Azevedo chatted with the Obvious team back in March, managing director Andrew Beebe gave a little more insight on the nuance above.
“When the fund first started, we did get a lot of people coming to us thinking of us as a social impact fund,” Beebe told Crunchbase News back then. “We would get pitches for yoga mat cleaners, or people selling a lot of used clothing and putting it into a business model that just reeked of first-world hubris,” he said. “But that’s not the kind of stuff we wanted to invest in.”
On Obvious’ website it also touches on this balance: “Ultimately, we see profit and purpose as a virtuous circle. In the right combination they form a flywheel that will deliver enormous financial returns while transforming capitalism in a world positive way.”
Is this working? 2019 held the 7-year-old firm’s first portfolio exits, including Beyond Meat’s IPO. For venture standards, that’s normal. It tells us that for now, Obvious Ventures’ focus on the conscience, without foregoing the wallet, is working.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias