Many venture capital shops have already developed software to support their startup investments – some quietly, others with marketing effects. But hearing Alexis Ohanian describe the tools of his new VC company Seven Seven Six – dramatically named “Cerebro” after the X-Men character – has reinvented the wheel. And the former Reddit co-founder is so confident in his pitch that it’s hard not to go along with it.
Seems to be a mix of Reddit and other tools like Notion and Roam Research, Cerebro’s part note app (think startup pitch notes and growth updates), Talent Directory (Ohanian’s huge professional network is in there, searchable for keywords like ” Machine Learning ”or the name he uses to personally vouch that they have received an“ Upvote ”) and a message board (at the end of this month, Seven Seven Six investors will have access to notes, e.g. Roland Garros, where his wife Serena Williams recently competed at the French Open, commented on the family offices’ willingness to invest in Europe). And it’s one of the few flourishes that Ohanian and his staff at Seven Seven Six see as differentiators in a new breed of VC company.
“I know people want to talk to me about marketing, community, or other things, but I love building products,” says Ohanian. “I am very motivated by what I see as change at Venture, and I think it has become clear that Venture is not immune to the software that is eating every industry.”
Ohanian’s offer to be part of the new wave of VC: Seven Seven Six, which “launched” Thursday by announcing that it had officially closed its first fund, a $ 150 million vehicle, which the was generally stated as a target last fall. Founded along with two of Ohanian’s long-time employees from Reddit and his previous venture firm in founding partner Katelin Holloway and founding chief of staff Lissie Garvin, Seven Seven Six will seek to lead or co-lead seed investments. it is so far 17.
Seven Seven Six is backed by a mix of trusts, endowments, funds of funds and family offices, says Ohanian, although he refused to give any names. More important for Ohanian: Of the investment teams as supporters, Seven Seven Six aimed at a base of 50% women and 15% black or indigenous investors. “We found some well-respected institutional investors and family offices who had never invested in venture before,” added Ohanian. “We ask people to report themselves anonymously. . . I am confident that we will achieve this. “
When the answers are in, Seven Seven Six plans to post all of the data on its website. This is “public building,” a pursuit of transparency – and a way to stay in the eyes of potential customers, in this case entrepreneurs – that the company pursues consistently. The company ran an open application for its most recent operator-in-residence program, which pledges to employ three technicians with different skills than the founders of Seven Seven Six to work on its portfolio and develop its software for a year and published the results. Ditto his program of providing 2% on top of every first check in the pre-seed and seed phases as non-dilutive capital to support founders with “personal growth” and “nurturing”.
“I think we can better hold each other accountable and make great strides by sharing what works and what doesn’t,” said Holloway, the former vice president of people and culture at Reddit in Ohanian’s second job with social media. Company, then joined him as a partner at Initialized Capital. “We really want to encourage other venture firms to do the same.”
Ohanian and Garvin set out to launch Seven Seven Six, named after the original Olympics, last summer and were supported by Holloway a few months later. All three were deeply affected by the assassination of George Floyd and the subsequent protests against Black Lives Matter and talks about racial justice that swept across the United States in the weeks that followed. “Alexis and I had a lot of those conversations where I just asked, ‘What can we do?'” Says Garvin, who served as Ohanian’s chief of staff at Reddit and Initialized, the company that Ohanian and the Midas List Investor Garry Tan founded. “Having the opportunity to start from scratch, where you can be super thoughtful and purposeful, really appealed to me.”
That meant a split from Initialized, where Ohanian and Tan had built a successful company behind Coinbase, Instacart and Ro after they started investing as partners in Accelerator Y Combinator. The parties involved and those close to the two describe a drifting apart of fund strategy (e.g. an early-stage focus versus a multi-tiered approach) and operations (Ohanian, who was reached for this story via zoom in a hotel room in Europe, is known for a wide range of ideas and projects, which he often shares on Twitter and shot off the hip.) In April, Tan called the breakup a “conscious breakup”.
“I’m a proud supporter of the 776 team,” Tan wrote Forbes in this week. “They are great investors and we look forward to continuing our close partnership over the years by investing together and supporting the next generation of world-changing startups.” “Garry is very important to me,” says Ohanian. “We did something really great with Initialized and he will continue to have a huge impact on technology,” he adds, calling up Tan’s now popular YouTube channel.
Biggest difference from Initialized: Seven Seven Six operates according to Ohanian times, which means it is completely remote and asynchronous and which can be a chaotic, if creative, mix of time zones and projects to the outside world. “We often joke that he’s the gas and we’re the brakes,” says Holloway. “Our job is not to turn the car around.”
Before flaunting Cerebro with his hotel’s dodgy WiFi – including intro status for a famous entertainment character turned investor and more information from pre-game tennis smooching that we didn’t want to name – Ohanian argues that If he has had a “semi-remote” working life for the past ten years, he is well equipped to set up a VC company that has been redesigned after the pandemic.
“When everyone switched to Zoom for a year, I felt like Bane in The dark knight rises when he says to Batman, “You only accepted the darkness. I was born in it, shaped by it, ”Ohanian says in an enthusiastic impression of the villain played by Tom Hardy in the 2012 film.
Like any company, however, Seven Seven Six is ultimately judged on its startup portfolio. The company’s largest check to date was a $ 20 million investment in Alt, a sports card company; while in Paris he himself sent the competitor a card from Roger Federer and then tweeted it. Other recent investments include Dispo, the photo-sharing app that recently sparked a Serie A after it severed all ties with co-founder David Dobrik due to serious allegations on the YouTube creator. After Seven Seven Six promised to donate all profits from Dispo’s seed investment to charity, Seven Seven Six participated in the new increase. “This team didn’t do anything wrong and we stand by them,” says Ohanian. “In fact, they made an app that people love and that goes viral in a new country every few weeks.”
Then, just before that story, Ohanian tweeted about another investment: a $ 50 million Series B resulted in plant-based protein maker Simulate and its nuggets brand, Nuggs. For a $ 150 million early-stage fund, the investment seemed like a headache. A source familiar with the deal says the check from Seven Seven Six was $ 10 million; It has also already launched some special purpose vehicles that would increase assets under management.
“I’m very happy to be the signal that starts a competition round,” says Ohanian of his hype approach at the time. To hear him say, the “sociable” personality he features on social media is not just fun, but tactical marketing for his entrepreneurs and funds. When he’s not working, he just logs out to be with his daughter for the Olympics or to play video games.
But even then, Ohanian is likely to tweet about it to his 400,000+ Twitter followers. On the morning of this article’s publication, he brought new followers online to Seven Seven Six’s Twitter account (he hit his 15,000 “start day” goal) and promoted a TV hit through the fund with a rocket ship gif.
“It becomes an advantage to be your most complete and authentic self online. Founders don’t take money from a soulless company logo, they take money from people and they want to get to know these people, ”explains Ohanian. If that’s not for everyone, Ohanian is safe. “I’m at a point in my life where I know what I want to do and how I want to do it.”