South Park Commons, an “anti incubator” founded by early FB and Dropbox engineers, gains momentum – TechCrunch


when South Park Commons A community of dozens of engineers (SPCs) in San Francisco’s South Park district gathered, most of them flying under radar, with the exception of the New York Times. profile 2017, one year after its formation.

Founded by Facebook’s first female engineer, Ruchi Sanghvi, she explained that her ambition for SPC was to create a technician’s answer to Bloomsbury Set or Benjamin Franklin’s Junto Club. road.

Fast forward and SPC — which raised a $ 55 million venture fund in 2018 to support a project created by community members — says the experiment is working. Currently, there are 450 members in the Bay Area and around the world. It just closed a new $ 150 million fund from tech celebrities and institutional investors.

It also says it has a very valuable portfolio. In fact, according to Sanghvi, SPC’s debut fund has already returned capital to investors thanks to Compound Labs, an open source platform for decentralized lending. token Some were distributed to early shareholders.

According to Sanghvi, there are 10-12 other so-called unicorns in the SPC portfolio.

We talked with Sanghvi and her husband and business partner Aditya Agarwal today. sold out Reported recruitment to Dropbox in 2012. (Sanghvi stayed for two years as Vice President of Operations for Dropbox. Agarwal, who participated as Vice President of Engineering for Dropbox, was promoted to CTO in 2016, retired in 2018, and joined Sanghvi at South Park Commons. did.)

The evolution of the SPC community, which began in physical space, became largely a highly structured virtual society during the pandemic, but it still focuses on connecting people to real life. increase.

In fact, Sanghvi and Agarwal strongly believe in the power of offline interaction, so in addition to the San Francisco hub, the New York location is currently under construction and may be followed by other locations, including Seattle and Southeast Asia. It suggests that.

Regarding its membership, Sanghvi says that about 70% of SPC members are “technical”, while the remaining 30% are “domain experts, operational experts, or even more. Is a scholar. ” Its composition is very design-based. “The funny thing is that when you talk to a great entrepreneur and ask if you want to get along with other entrepreneurs, the answer is always” no “,” says Sanghvi with a laugh. “They want to get along with the experts who beat the Stanford team with AI algorithms, so it’s very valuable to mix those operational experts into the community.”

Connections seem to lead to more than friendships and fresh ideas. According to Agarwal, more than 50% of the members of an organization find co-founders or founder employees within the community. This highlights another method that South Park Commons considers unique. Unlike Y Combinator, who meets VCs who oversee early teams and executives of large corporations, SPCs are clearly talented and probably in high demand, but in catching people who have left the last gig. Say they’re focused, they’re not immediately convinced of their next move, and most of the time it takes a little time to figure it out.

It aims to capture people whose next move is simply to explore ideas freely. “We’re really like a learning community that helps people in the’negative one-to-zero phase’to get their company up and running,” says Agarwal. .. “

Other notes: Members tend to work closely within the community for nine months before “graduating.” That is, have raised over $ 1 million for a new startup concept, have four or more full-time employees, or have worked. (Searching for ideas does not always lead to entrepreneurship.)

One early agreement when members of the community reached the funding stage was to give the SPC the right to first refuse investment. (Each member can also invest in an SPC fund if desired. Many members will accept this offer. According to Sanghvi, SPC’s new $ 150 million fund will have 100 members. Count as an investor.)

When it comes to the form of those investments, it’s pretty standard. According to Agarwal, SPCs typically invest in 7% to 10% of companies in the range of $ 700,000 to $ 2 million. He also said that the SPC network is so valuable that venture companies that tend to make subsequent investments usually take ownership percentages rather than diluting the SPC for short-term profits. It suggests that there is room to maintain.

Indeed, the formula seems to be working now.In addition to the complex lab, it includes several outfits (physical and virtual) for passing through the South Park Commons corridor. graph, An index protocol for organizing blockchain data that has gained the very general support of Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin. Currently supported by Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures $ 1.2 billionUnit21 is a no-code software startup that helps businesses monitor fraud in July. $ 34 million Series B funding led by Tiger Global.

In addition to the company’s two general partners, Sanghvi and Agarwal, SPC will invest in Mitra Lohrasbpour, who led revenue analysis and international expansion efforts at Dropbox, and Finn Meeks, who spent two years as Sanghvi’s chief. Count as.

Agarwal said the new SPC fund is three times larger than last time, but doesn’t expect the team to invest any more aggressively.

“Our focus is on quality over quantity. It’s great if quality goes up quickly, but it’s not a higher play.”

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