Responding to popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Navid Alipour was recorded in January 2019.
Navid Alipour, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Analytics Ventures, talks about their AI-focused venture studio in San Diego.
Sramana Mitra: Tell us about Analytics Ventures and yourself. What are you looking at? What is your investment thesis? Let’s get acquainted.
Navid Alipour: We are based here in San Diego, California. I like to describe Analytics Ventures as a three-legged platform. One leg is our fund, which is a dedicated fund. The mandate from our investors is to invest in companies that we co-found with other scientists for academic entrepreneurs or other public or private corporations under the venture studio model.
We thought of a new model. One of the best known is Idealab in Pasadena, California where Bill Gross started. We have ScienceLabs from where the Dollar Shave Club came out. We have Atomic VC and other larger VC funds like Canaan Partners, Domain Associates, or Avalon Ventures that have deployed this venture studio model to help create a company that didn’t exist.
One leg is our fund. Then one leg is our studio where we have our own full-time marketing, HR, recruiter, and analysts that help accelerate the growth of the company so that the CEO can focus on building the team and the product. The last leg is what really differentiates us the most.
We have our own artificial intelligence lab of data scientists. 100% of them are PhD’s in physics and math. I haven’t validated it but we’ve been told we may be the largest independent AI lab in Southern California, independent being that we’re not an academic institution like Stanford, MIT, UCSB, and UC Berkeley. We’re not a Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. That’s the high level of Analytics Ventures as a platform.
Sramana Mitra: How big is the fund?
Navid Alipour: We haven’t closed the fund yet. I can’t disclose that but we will be able to share that soon.
Sramana Mitra: You haven’t closed, as in this is the first fund? Is this just starting up?
Navid Alipour: This is our first fund. Analytics Ventures has been around for six years but for the first four and a half to five years, we were investing our own capital with three equal partners. From investments in companies we’ve started, we’ve had various degrees of success – the largest being one of my partners Blaise Barrelet, who started a company called WebSideStory back in the late 90’s.
It’s one of the few internet companies that made money from day one that ultimately went public and was acquired by Adobe for $1.7 billion. Initially, we were investing our own capital and then bringing in co-investors. We have some co-investors and some of the companies we’ve started like CureMetrix which has been now recognized globally as the best company that detects breast cancer using their artificial intelligence algorithms.
As we started some of these companies, some co-investors that had gotten in at a later evaluation said “We love these companies you guys have started but how do we get founding shares like you have?” At that time, we were just an LLC investing our own capital. We’re not a dedicated fund with LPs and investors. That’s where I’m talking to our attorneys at Cooley. We said “How do we do this bigger, better, and faster?”
They said, “Why don’t you form a dedicated fund so that you’re not just investing your capital?” Now when start the companies, Analytics Ventures fund one is literally a co-founder on the cap table with the other co-founders. CureMetrix was the first one we did in the AI space.