Curious-Enthusiast Early Investor Seeks Fun, Future-Forward Firm

January 26, 2022
Jenny Kaehms

When opportunity knocks, do you answer the door? As someone who is insatiably curious, I find myself opening many doors. That’s why I ended up using my bioengineering background as an entree into the world of technology startups. I went from researching biofuels at NASA Ames, to building bioengineering startups, to investing in emerging tech (AI/BIO) and fintech at Canvas Ventures, to building teams at One of the perks of being an early investor in AI startups, including Luminar (LAZR) and Lambda Labs, is that every day I meet other curious enthusiasts.

At the start of the pandemic, I noticed a lot of curious enthusiasts were moving to Austin. After doing some research — reading books like The Alamo, The Big Rich, and Weird City — it was clear Texas had a sense of pride, innovation, adventure, and creativity. I also learned that, in addition to being the live-music capital of the world, Austin has a budding technology scene. There are ~2,000 engineers graduating from UT Austin each year. Once these engineers graduate they go to Google, Apple, Oracle, etc. to be trained in product, engineering, and sales. Once they are bored at Big Tech, they often join one of the many promising startups headquartered in Austin.

So, in the spirit of adventure, I moved to Austin and built a product studio to help founders. The product studio helps founders with the three Rs:  research, writing, and recruiting. The goal was to help early-stage founders build companies. I’ve had the privilege of working with founders on everything from an investment bank for Hollywood to ML optimization for battery operators. Over that time, two things became very apparent.

First, there is no shortage of problems that need solving. As they say, the only constant is change. Entrepreneurial people will always look to build products to foment or facilitate change. Second, people move technology forward. For every technological advance entering our world — data management tools, DAOs, telecommunications, even interplanetary travel — it’s people driving innovation.

It was while working with innovators that I met the team at Foundation Capital and was intrigued. Foundation Capital, founded in 1995, was the first to invest in some of my favorite companies. They were the first check into Netflix — distributors of my favorite show, Tiger King. They were also the first institutional investor in Solana, a blockchain network that does 35,000 transactions per second (for comparison, Bitcoin does five tps). Foundation has also invested in amazing Austin-based startups like Jasper.AI.

It was obvious from their record that Foundation Capital invests in people solving fun and interesting problems. And after speaking with the members of the enterprise team, it became clear that the investors were a fun and interesting bunch. General Partner Joanne Chen and I had several joyful talks over Zoom about her vision for Foundation Capital. General Partner Ashu Garg and I went for a walk-and-talk while he was in Austin, and it was palpable that he put his heart and soul into partnering with founders. Sid Trivedi invented a KPI all VCs should consider: once a year he calls his founders and asks, “If something goes wrong, am I your first call?” Apoorva Pandhi and I spoke in the SF office about how to build data-science teams. Steve Vassallo and I caught up after the Solana developers conference in Lisbon and chatted about how to iterate through product development.

The meetings were wonderful and left me excited about how Foundation Capital nudged the future forward by helping early-stage founders. So I signed up and am thrilled to be joining the firm! Over the next year at Foundation, I’ll be focused on startups in the modern enterprise, which includes everything from classic data silos to managing distributed teams to treasury management (what do you do if you need to manage both cash and crypto on your P&L?). So, if you’re interested in chatting about your startup, or are based in Austin and want to join me for one of our in-person events, reach out!