2048 Ventures raises $27M fund to back first-time founders and the ‘first-time founder mindset’

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2048 Ventures, a new early-stage firm founded and led by Alex Iskold and Paul Sethi, is announcing that it has raised a first fund of $27 million.

Iskold spent five years as the managing director of Techstars NYC, and he previously founded Info Lab and GetBlue. Sethi, meanwhile, recently served as CEO of Redbooks while also making angel investments for the past decade.

The pair told me that they’re looking to write first checks of between $300,000 and $500,000 for startups with genuinely differentiated technology in sectors like enterprise software-as-a-service, fintech, healthcare, cybersecurity, developer tools, hardware, genomics, artificial intelligence and biotech. They’re not ruling out consumer startups — but again, they said tech differentiation is key.

While the firm is based in New York, the pair said they’re “geo-agnostic,” at least within the United States and Canada. They’ll look at startups from Silicon Valley and New York, but according to Iskold they’re equally excited about the opportunity in cities like Atlanta, Austin, Toronto and Nashville. And rather than trying to convince those founders to move to one of the current startup hubs, they’re happy for them “to build in their hometowns and grow in their hometowns, at least until they get to a later stage.”

In each of these markets, Sethi added, “We’re playing very nicely with the other players in those ecosystems. We’re the ones who are bringing other angels to the table and other institutions that will invest at the early stage with us.”

They also said they’re looking for first-time founders, or serial entrepreneurs who still have the “first-time founder mindset.” In other words, they’re probably not interested in someone who’s already had a huge exit.

“There’s capital efficiency, hunger and drive that you can really sense — the founder who hasn’t yet had that big exit and really wants to execute,” Iskold said.

He also said there’s “no one single formula” of who they’re looking for: “Part of our message is: We’re not afraid to invest in first-time founders, single founders, couples. We want to defy the notion of what makes a first-time founding team.”

The firm has apparently made some investments already, but it’s held off on disclosing them while finishing its own fundraising.

As for where the 2048 name came from, the pair actually declined to tell me, because they’ve been asking job applicants to guess and getting what Iskold called “such a wonderful, diverse set of reasons.”

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