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Slow Ventures picks up the pace with two new funds and some experimental strategies

·4-min read

Slow Ventures, a 12-year-old, generalist venture firm that's headed up by former Facebook execs Kevin Colleran and Sam Lessin, along with Will Quist, formerly of Industry Ventures, says it just closed its fifth flagship seed-stage fund with $195 million in capital commitments and its second opportunity-type fund with $130 million.

The announcement comes almost three years to the date from when the outfit last announced two new funds totaling $220 million, suggesting a pace that's reminiscent of days gone by -- before the pace of venture capital sped up to almost dizzying speeds.

That doesn't mean Slow is antiquated. Seemingly the opposite is true. In 2018, for example, Slow received approval from its limited partners to invest in crypto. One of the firm's first investments was a seed investment in the first financing round of what became the Solana coin. It wound up paying $.05 per coin; today, the coins trade at $100 each.

The firm has also rolled out Slow DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations that use smart contracts and provide participants with governance tokens to vote on fund allocation, among other things.

Slow -- which has an office in San Francisco, with outposts in Boston and New York -- formed its first DAO to purchase land in Montana. The firm says it was part of an effort to establish a repeatable DAO creation process that it could use again for other purposes. But also, the DAO enabled Slow to acquire some gorgeous property -- which is something its venture fund could not have invested in -- and to bring along some of its funds' investors if they wanted in on the deal.

Slow has meanwhile also begun dabbling with a third strategy that it's figuring out in real time. The idea is to invest directly in people in exchange for a slice of all of their future income or else a piece of their equity. Last November, it spent $1.7 million to invest in the career of Marina Mogilko, a 30-something YouTube personality with numerous channels who agreed to give Slow 5% of her creator earnings for 30 years in return.

Critics likened the contract to slavery -- it sounds more payday loan than venture investment to us -- but Slow also quickly established a kind of "enterprise version" of the offering, where, in one case, Slow invested in siblings known as "The Libermans" who are serial entrepreneurs in exchange for a percentage of their founders equity in all of the future companies they create. Slow also secured the right to invest additional money into the siblings' individual companies should the firm want to increase ownership.

The latter scenario strikes us as more sustainable, but either way, the money that Slow is setting aside to invest in all three alternative strategies is less than 10%, meaning the firm is stepping into its bold new future carefully.

In the meantime, many of its traditional venture bets appear to be panning out.

Earlier investments from the firm included Robinhood, Pinterest and Nextdoor, which are now publicly traded, even if their shares have been hammered along with nearly every tech stock over the last six months.

Slow is also an investor currently in Airtable, Ro and Embark Veterinary, all of which have seen massive bumps in their private market valuations over time.

Slow's seed-stage checks range in size from $500,000 to $3 million, with the average check in the neighborhood of $1.75 million. It targets ownership in a company of 10% to 12%, investing up to 100% of its pro rata in the Series A for all of its companies. (After that, companies then switch over to its Opportunity Fund to be evaluated anew for a Series B.)

As for deal flow, four of the first five partners at Slow and most of its original LPs were all early employees or co-founders at Facebook, so maintaining relationships may be in the firm's DNA. Indeed, Slow's limited partners include venture funds, partners at funds who have invested in Slow personally, and notable angels, and they collectively generate a significant portion of the firm's deal flow and founder referrals.

Like many enterprises these days, the team is mostly remote, with Lessin and Quist based in the Bay Area, and Colleran in Boston.

Slow has also more recently hired Megan Lightcap, who was previously an associate at L Catterton; Clay Robbins, a former product person at Square who was also a scout for Accel for several years; and Yoni Rechtman, who joined the outfit last month after logging five years at Tusk Ventures.

Robbins is based in San Francisco; Lightcap and Rechtman are based in New York.

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