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Exclusive: Airtree Ventures already returned its first fund thanks to Canva while maintaining the majority of its stake

Venture secondaries has exploded over the last couple of years. While some firms have used the increase in activity to build up their positions in their most promising portfolio companies, Airtree Ventures is taking advantage of the momentum a little differently.

The Sydney-based venture firm, founded in 2014, has been using company-led secondary sales to slim down its equity stakes and get liquidity from some of its most promising bets. The company’s portfolio is made up of Australian unicorns including Canva, last valued at $40 billion, Immutable ($2.4 billion) and LinkTree ($1.3 billion), among others.

Craig Blair, a co-founder and partner at Airtree, told TechCrunch that not unlike other venture firms, Airtree’s goal is to deliver the maximum level of returns to its investors. But unlike many other firms, Airtree generates returns throughout the whole lifecycle of an investment, rather than just when the company exists.

“Right from the start, we want to put as much energy and thought into the exit process that we do for the funding process,” Blair said. “We look at the lifecycles of the fund, we look at businesses themselves, and think about when could be a good time to exit that business.”

Airtree backs companies at the pre-seed and seed stage; as companies stay private longer, they aren’t returning money as often during the traditional fund lifecycle. So in 2021, Airtree started seeking alternative ways to get liquidity for some of their earliest stakes, Blair said.

One of which was Canva. Airtree originally invested in Canva’s $6 million Series A round in 2015. Blair said the firm slimmed down its stake in the startup in 2021 when the company was valued at $39 billion. Airtree got a 1.4x return on Fund I from a recent Canva sale and was able to maintain the majority of their original stake.

“There is no hard and fast rule,” Blair said on how the firm decides when to slim down its stakes. “We look at the position of the fund and the role of that company in that fund [and think], ‘If we sold today at that price, what sort of future value are we giving up that we could hold? [What is] the value of liquidity versus long-term TVPI and the effect on the fund?’”

Each time Airtree has done this, it’s purposefully maintained a majority of their stake, Blair said. He said the firm still wants to get that huge win at the end, but doesn’t want to put “all their eggs into that final basket.”

This strategy makes a lot of sense looking at how far some of the valuations for late-stage startups have fallen over the last few years. While some companies are working to grow into their last valuation, many have a long way to go and may still exit for lower than they raised their last primary round.

But Airtree’s strategy isn’t foolproof. Blair acknowledges that when a company does eventually exit, Airtree makes less money off of it because of this strategy — though the final exit isn’t guaranteed to be strong, either, he said.

Blair said Airtree wouldn’t rule out raising a continuation fund — the venture industry’s current liquidity vehicle of choice — and said it may make sense if the firm wants to start selling a bundle of its shares at once. But its current secondary strategy of raising its hand when companies look to run secondary tender sales has worked out well for them thus far.

“I’d say our responsibility as investors is to return money to our LPs at the right time,” Blair said. “Selling too early can be bad, for sure. There isn’t a single answer but rather having a process about having active decisions and not passive decisions [about liquidity]. Don’t just sit back and wait for [exits] to happen to you.”

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Bay Bridge Ventures is raising $200M for a new climate fund, filings show | TechCrunch

Climate investor Bay Bridge Ventures is raising a new $200 million fund, TechCrunch has exclusively learned.

Bay Bridge filed paperwork Monday for the new climate fund with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The raise comes at a time when venture investors are increasingly bullish on climate tech.

Though the last few years have been marked by a downturn in the general venture market, a number of firms have raised eye-popping sums to back climate tech founders. SOSV announced on Tuesday a $306 million deep tech fund that will be 70% focused on climate. New Summit Investments is raising a $100 million impact fund. And Congruent Ventures raised a $275 million fund in 2023, turning down $325 million in additional LP interest.

The difference, though, is that those are all relatively established firms. Bay Bridge Ventures is new, having been founded in 2022 with a focus on ESG more broadly and sustainability in particular. Though the firm participated in a $10 million round for SailPlan in 2022, according to PitchBook, it doesn’t appear to have any other investments or funds on record, based on a search of SEC filings and PitchBook data.

Still, that doesn’t mean Bay Bridge lacks experience. General partner Andrew Karsh left pension fund CalPERS to co-found the firm. His co-founders Joe Blair and Kim Kolt aren’t new to the scene, either. Blair previously worked at Cota Capital and Obvious Ventures and currently hosts the Epic Human Podcast. Kolt founded For Good Ventures and previously worked at Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank.

The firm did not reply to a request for comment prior to publication.

The team’s previous investments span a range of industries, including sustainable shoe company Allbirds, electric grid software startup Arcadia, fleet EV charging company Amply, and space launch startup Astra.

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Consumer tech investing is still hot for Maven Ventures, securing $60M for Fund IV | TechCrunch

When prolific venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Lerer Hippeau announced in early 2024 they were pivoting away from consumer tech, it sparked a social media debate about whether there are still opportunities.

Maven Ventures’ Jim Scheinman and Sara Deshpande say “yes.” And to prove it, they raised $60 million in capital commitments for a fourth fund to back “massive consumer tech trends.”

They say “massive” because this is the firm that seeded companies like videoconferencing giant Zoom and autonomous vehicle maker Cruise. Scheinman, founding managing partner, is even credited for coming up with the Zoom name.

As to the notion that no one wants to invest in consumer tech anymore, Scheinman told TechCrunch “it’s not true.” Like other sectors, this one also has cycles where consumers either think something is “the coolest thing ever” or “the worst.”

Consumer tech is in the trough of the cycle, Scheinman said. As such, he believes this is the best time to be an investor. “It’s less noisy, and there is a lot less competition as less people try to invest,” he said.

When he started investing, the internet was the first major platform. Then came mobile, then cloud and AWS. Scheinman thought web3 was going to be the next thing, but that was eclipsed by artificial intelligence. Jumping in, Maven will be there helping to build the next game-changing health AI company or robotics AI consumer business, he said.

“This is absolutely the time when multi-billion-dollar companies are born, from now to over the next three to four years,” Scheinman said. “There are dozens of companies that you’ve never heard of that will be household names with the likes of Zoom, Cruise and Facebook. This is the time to invest in it.”

Any new portfolio business will be in good company. Overall, 16% of Maven’s portfolio companies have reached a minimum $500 million exit or valuation, which is 10x industry average, Scheinman and Deshpande, general partner, told TechCrunch.

Scheinman started the firm in 2013 and brought in Deshpande soon after to focus on consumer AI and personalized medicine. They brought in investment partner Robert Ravanshenas in 2015, and again in 2020 after a stint in a startup operating role, to focus on fintech, longevity and consumer AI.

Together the trio remains committed to seeding similar consumer tech trends, including applications of AI, personalized healthcare, climate and sustainability, family technology and fintech.

Fund IV brings total assets under management to $200 million and more than 50 total investments. The firm makes six to eight investments each year, writing average check sizes between $1 million and $1.5 million.

Maven invested in seven new companies so far from the new fund, including Medeloop, a platform to help improve clinical research; Lutra AI, a startup that creates AI workflows from natural language; and AI agent company Multion.

A big theme for this new fund is investing in founders that have unique insight around how this technology can improve life for consumers. In addition, “figuring how, with this new emergence and improvement in AI technology, do we envision that we can actually improve life for consumers all the way to the consumer,” Deshpande said.

“Consumer trends will never go away,” Deshpande said. “Consumers are the spending engine of a healthy economy. We are all consumers. For us, it’s really this knack of being able to see what is changing consumer behavior or a new technology that can massively impact people’s lives. Founders come to us with an amazing vision worth fighting for, and that’s the type of stuff we’re spending a lot of time on right now.”

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Against games industry doldrums, Bitkraft Ventures raises $275M to back studios and platforms | TechCrunch

Bitkraft Ventures — a games investor based out of Denver, Colorado, but with European founders — is raising its third fund, coming in at $275 million. The fund will make seed and Series A investments in gaming studios and platforms to support game production. The moves come at a time when games investments have actually declined 72% year on year, according to a recent PitchBook report.

Founded by games industry veteran Jens Hilgers, Bitkraft has over 130 companies in its portfolio, and more than $1 billion in assets under management.

The VC is an investor in the Frost Giant studio, which Hilgers seemed particularly excited about.

“Frost Giant has set out to build a successor in the real-time strategy space. The team had previously been involved in building StarCraft and they’re now launching a game called Stormgate. It’s highly anticipated and has had great early reviews. That is a good example of the type of  games company we invest in.”

Other investments include Anzu, an in-game ad platform; Carry1st, a mobile gaming platform focused on Africa; InWorld, a social platform; Karate Combat, a martial arts league; and Immutable, the creator of the Gods Unchained crypto-based game.

He said the firm’s LP base is a mix of family offices and institutional funds, and confirmed a major global sportswear player as an LP but was not at liberty to release the name.

“The strategy we pursued with the second fund is about 30 to 35 companies, average ticket size about $4 million, 50% of the initial capital and 50% follow-on. That strategy has looked successful so far. We’re rated top decile in the latest Cambridge Associates ranking, and we’re happy with that performance,” he added.

Perhaps the best way of positioning Bitkraft is to compare it to Play Ventures in Singapore, which has raised $222.9 million across four funds but also invests across several types of games platforms.

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