The Founders Age

Since the beginning of invention, humanity has advanced because the remarkable have pushed us forward. Because select women and men of their times have dared to Think Different, to build it better, to do what’s never been done. Across the ages, we’ve had many names for these people. Today, at Foundation Capital: we call them founders.

We back individuals who want to nudge the world ahead in some way, using a transformative business as their fulcrum. Great companies, like Apple or Amazon or Netflix, aren’t formed from code and corporate charters. They’re built on a foundation of dreams and desires; raised up through struggle and sacrifice. For such companies to succeed, their founders have to want success badly. It has to come from the deepest part of them—a hunger to create something consequential, something lasting; a need to prove themselves, whether out of a sense of mission, or a yearning for significance, or a heart full for disobedience. We look for founders who believe — even if they would never speak it out loud — that the purpose of life is to be briefly extraordinary.

But ambition alone won’t get you there. Smart is not sufficient. A clever idea is rarely clever enough. And pedigree does not mean prepared for the rigors of startup life. Standing an idea up and willing it into a billion-dollar business is a mad undertaking. The founder’s job isn’t just marketing, or product, or sales—the founder’s job is to build an entire company, which never happens in a straight line. That’s why the mark in our logo isn’t an F, it’s the Kryptonian symbol for “resilience.” Because there will be countless days of rejection, derision, overwork, exhaustion, loneliness, and defeat. The entrepreneurs we fund — sometimes based on little more than an audacious idea — have to have the superhuman grit to stand up from every fall, sweep the dirt off, and say to themselves, “Is that all you’ve got?”

Finding individuals who possess/are possessed by these qualities is an epiphany for us. And journeying with them — from founder to CEO, from idea to IPO — is why Foundation Capital exists. If there’s a sense of accomplishment that you’ve been searching for all your life, if you have inside of you the determination and vision to create a generationally important company — then this is your time: The Founders Age. Let’s get to work.


Foundation Capital

Foundation Capital was founded in 1995. As an early-stage venture capital firm, we’ve lived through the emergence of the World Wide Web, the IT war of the 90s, the dot-com bubble, Web 2.0, the mobile revolution, the Great Recession, the rise of Big Data, software’s ascension to the cloud, the birth of blockchain, and the age of AI. The wisdom of those experiences remains with us, transmitted to each successive generation of partners.

Two-thirds of VC firms never make it past their first fund; only 10 percent survive beyond their fourth. We are 28 years and 10 flagship funds strong, with over $3B assets under management, 31 IPOs, and 80+ acquisitions to our name. Our fintech, enterprise, and crypto investments have reinvented industries and defined new markets, with companies that include Solana, Lending Club, Sunrun, TubeMogul, Chegg, and Netflix.

For a quarter of a century — through boom and bust, prosperity or calamity — Foundation Capital has endured, evolved, and thrived. Building companies is in our bones.

Our record affords us the luxury of patience. We aren’t anxious to score a first win, nor concerned whether we’ll still exist in five years. So, we can help a startup to grow at its proper pace, rather than rushing it to an outcome that serves short-sighted interests. As a partnership, we are characterized by a steadiness of hand, which we use to help our founders navigate rationally when opportunities arise and through dark times, when winners are made. Regardless of the size or nature, we look on storms and are unshaken.

For a quarter of a century — through boom and bust, prosperity or calamity — Foundation Capital has endured, evolved, and thrived.

As people, the partners of Foundation Capital share a couple of fundamental traits in common. First, each one of us is constantly striving to be better. Better at our personal passions, better as partners for our companies, better at life writ large. We are never satisfied. We are insatiably curious and constantly learning. We are painfully self-critical and incurably overachieving. We are always trying and gradually improving, ever seeking and sometimes finding. We are … kind of intense — but friendly!

Whenever you meet one of us, whichever one of us you meet, you will be shaking hands with a diehard optimist. All of us are startup investors because, in some way or other, we want to be inspired in life. We fund wild-eyed ideas because we believe that we can create the world we want: a less aggravating, less wasteful, less cruddy, less stupid, more interesting, more efficient, more sustainable, more delightful world.

This is an amazing time to be alive. The capabilities that an average person now has at their fingertips is science fictional. And the pace of innovation is so fast that it feels like we’re on the cusp of the downright magical. Founders and their companies were the vehicle for getting us to this land of tomorrow; and venture capital was the accelerant for the future.

That’s why we at Foundation Capital do what we do. Because without this incredibly productive partnership between entrepreneur and investor, society would be decades of progress behind where it currently is. We would still be living in 1995.

No one knew precisely where our collaborations would take us, but that’s part of the thrill. When Foundation Capital backed a DVD-by-mail service in 1999, who could’ve imagined that Netflix [NFLX] would one day become the world’s first global television network. When we led the investment in Atheros (acquired by Qualcomm), to create the wireless technology that enables WiFi, no one envisioned that it would lead to a planet where billions of people now carry supercomputers in their pockets. Nor did anyone fully imagine that those devices would be used to summon, at the touch of a digital button, 24/7 study help from Chegg [CHGG] which we invested in a decade later. Who can predict the long-term impact of some of our more recent companies — like Lending Club [LC], which transformed the way people lend and borrow money; or Sunrun [RUN], which reinvented residential solar energy — how they will shape the world of wonders to come.

Ultimately, and in spite of it all, we believe in the possibilities of technology. We see business as a constructive good for society. We take chances on people whom others overlook. And we put our faith in scrappy, spirited teams to solve problems and push boundaries.

On any day of the year and any hour of the day, come what may, we bind our fortunes to those who dare to burn away the obsolete and forge the unimagined future.

We bind our fortunes to those who dare to burn away the obsolete and forge the unimagined future.

Who “We” Are

Beyond our shared values, “we” statements make us a little uncomfortable. The partners of Foundation Capital are defined by our differences as much as by our commonalities. The firm includes individuals from a patchwork of backgrounds, professional experiences, and walks of life. Our belief is that excellence comes in infinite variety. In fact, we regard these different, and differing, perspectives as our unfair advantage. They vastly enrich our understanding of the world, help us to reach truth, and light up what would otherwise be blind spots and biases.

“We” statements also make us uneasy because we draw strength from our disagreements as much as from accord. We go several levels deep in our conversations, with no filter other than mutual respect. This culture of open dialogue keeps us intellectually honest and leads to better analysis and decision making. We’re not a family or a club—we are a partnership. And as partners, we are held together by the power of our ideas, the force of our arguments, and the steel of our convictions. We are at our best when we debate passionately but still practice good fellowship. As Whitman wrote,

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I am American, I am Mexican, I am Canadian. I am from India, from China, from Africa. I am an engineer, a financier, a product designer. I am a scientist, a sales executive, an entrepreneur. I am an introvert; an extrovert. I coach Little League. I paint landscapes. Work is my hobby. I chase after my kids. I was a pro tennis player in my teens. I play soccer football on the weekends. You can find me cycling through the Santa Cruz Mountains. TV is so good now, that I don’t go outside unless I absolutely must. I like discovering great espresso in far-flung places. I haven’t had a sip of caffeine in five years. I’m a dog person; I’m a cat person. I love opera. I love Bruce Springsteen. I read science journals for fun and profit.

I am a man. I am a woman. I am either/or and neither/nor. I am a partner to my fellow partners and a fellow traveler to my founders and CEOs.

I am Foundation Capital.


What We Invest

Once we make a decision, the arguments stop and the individual I’s of the partnership fold into an indivisible fist, which will punch through any walls on our founders’ behalf. Whether that means helping them to recruit and hire 10X product engineers, connect with potential customers, think through market segmentation and revenue strategy, close a complicated funding round, or triage a PR crisis. Bottom line, this is what Foundation Capital invests in our startups: whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to help our companies succeed.

Building and scaling businesses is what we do, and hustling is in our blood. We’re a team of seasoned operators and former founders, with deep domain expertise in everything from technology, sales, and product to marketing, finance, and design. If there’s something we’re not personally expert in, we’ll pull in someone from our network who is. One of the benefits of being a longstanding firm is that we’ve built a massive community of founders, executives, and investors who’ve gone on to start their own VC firms. We can flood, pour, or anoint our founders and CEOs with as much expertise and assistance as they need.

The way we see things, capital is fundamentally a system of trust, a technology for productive cooperation. What matters most to us is nurturing relationships, not closing transactions. Or put another way: word travels fast when you’re a bastard. That’s a truth we at Foundation hold dear in our hearts, regardless of whether it’s a board meeting at a public company or coffee with a college student trying to launch her first startup. In all interactions with entrepreneurs, our commitment is to act in good faith, with integrity and professionalism, and to always add value. On this principle, each and every member of the partnership is held to account.

We view our relationships with founders as both an opportunity and a responsibility. Our pledge to them is this: we will make the meeting worthwhile. We will come with both prepared minds, having done our homework, and open minds, ready to embrace the seemingly crazy or impossible. We will ask difficult questions, push them on the hard parts of the business, and we will give tough, unsentimental feedback. But … they will walk out of the meeting a little bit smarter. They will leave with greater clarity on what they must do. They will come away from every experience with Foundation Capital feeling like it made their company better.