A new student-led venture fund, Arrow Capital, launched last month to help shepherd more early-stage investments in startups related to UC Berkeley.
The fund is managed by Matthew Bond, MBA 19.
Arrow has an influential parent fund in Bow Capital. In 2015, the University of California partnered with Vivek Ranadivé to create Bow, a venture capital fund that would invest in research and technology developed by UC students and faculty. (UC’s Office of the Chief Investment Officer is an anchor investor with a $250 million commitment.) Ranadivé, the founder of TIBCO and the current owner of the Sacramento Kings, was asked to lead the fund.
Bond connected with Bow Capital during his first year at Haas, when he served as a Berkeley Haas Venture Fellow. Asked by Bow to come up with new ideas for investing in UC Berkeley startups, Bond proposed a fund that would concentrate on smaller, pre-seed-round deals, providing additional deal flow to Bow—which typically makes seed and Series A deals across the UC-affiliated system and beyond.
Bow approved the idea and Arrow Capital was born. It’s managed by Bond and five UC Berkeley students who serve as investment partners. The partners will typically invest $15,000—but potentially more—in each deal. They plan to make six to ten deals per year and, if they succeed, expand Arrow’s footprint to other UC campuses.
A flywheel of growth
Once Arrow invests in a startup, the student investment partners will work with the founders to help grow their businesses and raise subsequent funding. “Our work does not stop once the paperwork is signed. In fact, it has barely begun,” Bond said. “We hope that the startups we back will go on to raise a larger round led by Bow.” By investing Berkeley’s own endowment dollars back into UC Berkeley startups, “we create a virtuous flywheel of growth,” Bond said.
Applications for startups are already pouring in, and Arrow began reviewing them this week. The only requirement to apply is that the company must be connected to someone who currently has or previously had a UC Berkeley affiliation. Aside from funding, Arrow is offering startup teams connections to UC Berkeley alumni, other startups, and campus accelerators, helping the teams find talent, and providing operational and strategic guidance.
As Arrow’s managing partner, Bond—who started his first company at age 16 and studied math at Oxford University as an undergraduate—fashioned a rigorous, competitive two-step interview process for the student applicants. About 100 people expressed interest in the five slots, and eight students competed in the final round. They were asked to review two startup pitches and defend the startup they chose to fund.
Choosing the team
Last month, five UC Berkeley students—including three from Haas—joined the partnership as investment partners. They include Amy Guo, a freshman in the Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (M.E.T.) program; Kaitlyn Uythoven, BS 19; Niles Chang, BS 20, along with Levi Walsh, a third-year Computer Science major, and Berkeley Law student Ben Adler.
Bond specifically chose students from varied backgrounds with different investment interests and work experience. Chang, for example, loves both the media and the food and beverage spaces, and will be joining J.P. Morgan’s investment banking division next summer. Each student partner will focus on a few industry sectors.
“I’m fascinated by how technology has drastically changed the way we receive information, and it’s exciting to see the rise of original content and the strides in digital media,” Chang said. “I’m also a huge foodie and love the constant innovation in the food space, everything from plant-based meat to on-demand services.”
A former Cal beach volleyball player, Uythoven said she knew when she arrived at UC Berkeley that she loved business and working on teams, which drew her to apply to Haas after she finished her varsity volleyball career. Taking Lecturer Kurt Beyers’ entrepreneurship class last spring solidified her interest in startups and her desire to work for Arrow. “I found out that I really love entrepreneurship,” said Uythoven, who is interested in sectors ranging from blockchain to high fashion.
Guo, who is pursuing a dual degree in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) and business, said she’s hoping to expand upon her interests in education (she founded Writer’s Ink, a student-run nonprofit centered around creative writing, in high school), entertainment, AR/VR, and e-commerce while working with Arrow.
“I thought that this was just the most incredible opportunity,” said Guo, who grew up in Irvine, Ca. “We, as students, get the chance to put significant capital into the companies our peers are starting. There’s a lot of responsibility in that.”
Building a pipeline
The partners spent the first few weeks after the launch getting to know each other and developing Arrow’s funding application for startup applicants, expanding the website, and meeting with other startup groups on campus including Skydeck, The House, Citris, and Free Ventures.
There’s been a ton of interest in the fund so far, Bond said. “Our primary mission is to build a pipeline for startups at Berkeley and we’ll be leveraging our talented community of students, faculty, and alumni to help these startups succeed.”
After spending the past seven years working in hedge funds, private equity, and investment banking, Bond said he’s happy to return to the startup world.
“I came to the West Coast to pivot back toward entrepreneurship,” he said. “I had previously founded a few companies at school and university, and really enjoyed the journey, and so I wanted to get back into that world. Silicon Valley was the best place to pursue that ambition.”