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Citing Star Wars, Kleiner Perkins closes a $700M fund for early-stage companies

After going “back to the future” with a $600 million fund last year, VC firm Kleiner Perkins is aiming for some “returns of the Jedi” with its freshest (and refocused) fund.  With Star Wars references on the forefront in its announcement, the firm today announced that it has closed its largest fund to date: KP…

After going “back to the future” with a $600 million fund last year, VC firm Kleiner Perkins is aiming for some “returns of the Jedi” with its freshest (and refocused) fund. 

With Star Wars references on the forefront in its announcement, the firm today announced that it has closed its largest fund to date: KP 19, a $700 million venture fund to invest in early-stage startups. Per the firm, it will invest in startups tackling issues like security, digital identity and the future of work. 

KP 19 is the second season of KP in a post-Mary Meeker world. When the legendary investor departed KP in September 2018, the firm refocused from late stage to early stage and brought on a crop of new talent. 

In 14 months, it spent KP 18, a $600 million fund, across 34 investments (sans follow-up money reserved), according to general partner Ilya Fushman. Of those 34 investments, 30 were Series A and seed-stage companies.

“One fun fact — we did about 18 competitive Series A’s in 2018,” Fushman told TechCrunch. “And we wrote 18 term sheets for that, so we have a 100 percent win rate.”

Despite the overcrowding of the early-stage market, Fushman pointed to KP’s legacy, reputation and focus on technical talent as key reasons startups choose the firm. Since KP pivoted to early stage, it has brought on at least three team members to bolster how it can help companies from business development to communications.

With more early-stage investment comes more board seats than Kleiner Perkins’ traditional past is used to. For example, Monica Desai, who joined Kleiner from Blockchain, is currently on the board of Bison Trails, Loom, Pillar, Propel and Nova Credit.

“Taking on a board role is what we like to do,” Fushman said. “And obviously as companies raise follow-on funding, you get to partner with other great investors who join and help you share the load. Overall we feel pretty good about load across the partnership.” 

It’s too soon to gauge how KP 18’s portfolio is performing or whether KP’s return to early stage will pay off, but the close of KP 19 gives us some hints. 

KP 19 will focus on consumer, healthcare, enterprise, hardware, fintech infrastructure and consumer. The fund looks to follow a two- to three-year investment cycle, and Fushman said the firm plans to invest across 34 to 35 companies. Perhaps most notably, Fushman and Desai both said the same thing: not much is changing. 

“We’re heading into interesting times so it’ll be interesting to see where macro environment trends, and what that means for pace, check size, and for the kinds of businesses that will be built for the next phase,” Fushman said. “But overall, as boring as it sounds, it’s really just the same old.”

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