Nate Williams of UNION Labs on the studio model & investing in deep tech, Venture Unlocked 012
In this episode, we speak with Nate Williams, Co-founder and Managing Partner at UNION Labs. Nate Co-founded UNION Labs in 2018 with his partner, Chris Kim while an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at Kleiner Perkins.
Nate is a seasoned Operator and angel investor including August Home, where he served as Chief Revenue Officer and Head of Business. Following their acquisition in 2017, he went on to join KPCB as EIR where he spent time helping entrepreneurs and sourcing investments including Proxy. While EIR, Nate formed a thesis on the opportunity in verticalized IoT which he published in TechCrunch and began to see a lane for a new type of fund.
UNION Labs is an early stage firm that both backs and builds companies. They deploy venture investments, as well as manage a structured EIR co-creation program to incubate companies. The core firm focus is on the commercial application of deep technology in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics, that solve real-world problems in smart cities, intelligent homes, or connected transportation. Since its inception, UNION has made five investments, been the lead on three deals, and averages 11% ownership across its current investments.
In this episode, Nate and I discuss the following:
03:04 - What it was like being an EIR at Kleiner Perkins, and what he learned.
06:51 - The dramatic changes in the venture capital industry over the past decade.
13:16 - The venture studio concept and when and why it makes sense for a seed firm like theirs to co-create a company.
16:47 - Why growth in new corporate venture capital funds may signal a lack of alignment between Fortune 500 companies and Sand Hill Road.
17:47 - Nate’s three-pronged approach to raising funds, aka “The Sandwich Strategy.”
23:51 - Why transparency is so important both for both Limited Partners and General Partners
26:11 - A key observation UNION made early in fundraising from LPs.
33:18 - The structural advantages of being a small and specialized fund
35:40 - Why deep tech doesn’t automatically mean capital intensive and doesn’t have to include hardware
Mentioned in this episode:
· Nate’s thesis on the opportunity on verticalized IoT in TechCrunch
· Charles Hudson’s podcast
· Laurence Toney’s post on Quora, “What Is An Entrepreneur in Residence? What Do They Do? How Does It Work?