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Strategy Session: Flybridge-Backed Fund Goes After ‘The Community’

This post is by Christine Hall from Crunchbase News

Strategy Session is a feature for Crunchbase News where we ask venture capital firms five questions about their investment strategies.

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A chance “meeting” on Twitter between Lolita Taub and Jesse Middleton became the starting point for a new fund called The Community Fund.

Taub is interim head of sales at software engineering company Catalyte–among other roles–while Middleton is general partner at Flybridge Capital, a seed-stage venture capital firm.

The fund, based out of the East Coast, went live in early October and includes a $5 million, three-year vehicle that will invest in 100 companies, providing $50,000 checks for pre-seed and seed rounds for startups that are community-driven.

Taub discussed the fund’s origins and strategy with Crunchbase News.

What led you to start The Community Fund?

Lolita Taub, The Community Fund

Taub: Jesse and I connected on Twitter after I posted a call to action for investors to share their investment criteria for founders to reach out to them. Jesse replied to the tweet and received over 50 leads. From there, we started a relationship. After that, I created a startup/investor matching tool that has since attracted 1,100 founders and 400 investors, and I’ve seen 11 checks written as a result.

Jesse told me he was thinking about funding a fund, similar to XFactor Ventures, but geared toward community. We aligned on investment in community-driven companies, and we decided to co-found The Community Fund together.

Flybridge Capital is the single LP, and we are definitely drawing on learned lessons on how XFactor is doing it and paving our own path. The future of the fund is to be seen, but we have big dreams. We already have some funds and other high-net-worth people ask to be LPs. In the last week, we have seen 150 deals come our way.

We personally believe in cold outreach. We’ve seen that the startup matching tool works, so we made the decision to make a form on The Community Fund website. It also allows founders to select an investment partner who makes the most sense to pitch to. As a result, we already have a couple deals we are seriously looking at.

Your path to finding your other partners is unique. How did you do it?

Taub: A month prior to our launch, we did a soft launch and invited people from the community to apply. So many funds keep this behind-the-scenes, but we invited everyone to participate. Within the month, we had more than 450 applicants.

Going through the interviews in two waves, we unfortunately had to pass on about 90 percent in the first round. We looked for things VCs look for, such as experience, proprietary deal flow, what communities they represented and their reach, as well as how engaged and active they are in the ecosystem.

Breakdown of The Community Fund’s gender and diversity compared to U.S. VCs.

The second round was very hard because we found some awesome folks. Here, we looked at their areas of expertise, and what potential culture they would add to the team, including their perspectives. Between Jesse and myself, we had two calls each with the final candidates and arrived at a team that includes three Latinx, three white, four Asian and three Black partners.

In your blog, you describe getting into venture capital partly because there weren’t many VCs that looked like you. Were you out to prove it could be done, or do you have some kind of other higher calling?

Taub: We were realizing there is a massive gap between men and women, especially with underestimated people. That put a fire in me to want to be a check-writer seven years ago. But, there has always been a chip on my shoulder to prove that I can be a role model for the community–not just I can, but “we” can. I am Mexican-American, so I grew up hearing, “Sí Se Puede,” and coming from a lower socioeconomic background, believing that is important for survival.

What about timing? Why is it a good time to go public with The Community Fund?

Taub: There are two aspects: Why is it harder for great founders to find funding, and why for underestimated founders in general? Why is this happening? There is so much money left on the table, and we need to be investing in these folks. And, why are we missing an entire population with funding? On a personal front, this is an aspect I want to prove for myself and my community. My community includes underestimated founders and investors. We need a lot of us to win, and I want it to be a group of us. I’m so excited to jump on board with Jesse and to kick ass with this team of people and what they find in the community.

What has been your proudest or biggest moment so far as a VC?

Taub: Launching with our “Avengers” team. When we look at the faces of the team we are working with, we get excited. How can you not look at this and be proud? This team we have built up is going to shift the image of what we think of with venture capital.

The Community Fund team

Photos courtesy of The Community Fund

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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