Mayfield Launches New $250 Million AI-Particular Seed Stage Fund

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Longtime enterprise capital agency Mayfield Fund is launching a brand new funding automobile particularly to again synthetic intelligence startups.

The “AI Begin” fund will dedicate $250 million to corporations on the seed stage and earlier so as to capitalize on a wave of nascent ventures being based amid the present growth interval in generative AI. Mayfield didn’t increase new capital however is slightly drawing the cash from its present dry powder, the agency’s chief Navin Chaddha informed Forbes. That pool sits at about $1.3 billion.

“Having participated on net, cell and cloud, we predict AI is an excellent larger alternative and that is going to make people superhuman,” he mentioned.

Chaddha, a perennial Midas Record investor who ranked no. 5 this 12 months, mentioned he started to plot out an AI-specific enterprise fund some six months in the past, not lengthy after OpenAI’s ChatGPT catalyzed a craze for the know-how in Silicon Valley. He plans to guide the buildout of the brand new fund and has up to now employed one new accomplice — Vijay Reddy, who previously labored at Intel Capital and Clear Ventures — who can be centered particularly on investing out of the brand new fund. He added that he might also make one or two extra partner-level hires.

The brand new fund is the primary seed stage-focused automobile that Mayfield has ever launched. Its 54-year-old flagship fund invests from the seed stage as much as Collection B; it has loved success beneath Chaddha’s stewardship with early investments into Lyft, Poshmark and HashiCorp. Seven years in the past, it added a later-stage fund to double down on its most profitable portfolio corporations.

However whereas Mayfield has adopted a conventional VC playbook with its present funds — usually writing $7 million to $12 million checks and taking 20% stakes into corporations — Chaddha informed Forbes he believes the generative AI ecosystem necessitates a unique method. The brand new fund, greater than asserting Mayfield’s intent to lean in on AI, will permit the agency to “widen the aperture,” as he places it: backing corporations that may not have in any other case match the invoice for funding by the first fund.

“Dinosaurs by no means survive,” he defined. “You must meet the entrepreneurs at day zero and of their wants, which we weren’t doing.”

“When the raises grow to be huge, the smaller funds again off.”

Navin Chaddha

Investments via AI Begin may very well be a lot smaller and see the agency taking possession stakes under 10% so as to make room for extra angel buyers and different corporations to get on a startup’s cap desk. Reddy, who has expertise engaged on such syndicate-style investments at Clear Ventures, mentioned the method is useful for fledgling startups as they stand to obtain a wider array of assist — say, a robotics startup that may profit from Mayfield’s high-level institutional data and a robotics-specific micro VC agency’s slender experience. “When the raises grow to be huge, the smaller funds again off,” Chaddha mentioned.

Mayfield additionally has a large aperture on the way it defines an AI firm. Chaddha mentioned he’s fascinated by corporations throughout the tech stack, from software software program to semiconductors. Reddy informed Forbes he’s significantly excited for the approaching crop of co-piloted AI purposes, which maintain people within the loop of determination making, in addition to corporations constructing infrastructure instruments for AI belief and security.

The agency will not be alone in committing a pool of capital to the burgeoning area — Bessemer Enterprise Companions and Sapphire Ventures have every introduced plans to spend $1 billion from their present funds to AI investments. Nonetheless, a sector-specific method has scared some buyers off within the wake of an enormous pullback for crypto funds (final quarter, VCs invested simply 19% the quantity into the sector in comparison with its first quarter 2022 peak, per PitchBook). Mayfield will not be anxious: “Having been to the metaverse, the basics do not assist the hype,” Reddy mentioned. “With AI, there’s good fundamentals. It’s creating significant enterprise modifications for enterprises.”

The brand new fund additionally gives Mayfield with a inventive solution to lower the scale of its predominant funds at a time when total enterprise capital funding has slowed. Founders Fund reportedly pushed about half its $1.8 billion fund to a future automobile. In Could, Mayfield introduced $580 million for its seventeenth flagship fund and $375 million for its third follow-on fund (it has about $300 million left over from its earlier funds too, Chaddha estimated). The agency can be taking cash out of these funds to bankroll AI Begin — easing the load of later-stage capital deployment whereas concurrently placing more cash in on the seed stage, which has traditionally rewarded buyers who make investments throughout a downturn.

Nonetheless, Chaddha insists the brand new fund represents a long-term technique for his agency. If the AI-focused fund is successful, he mentioned he might launch further seed stage funds in different sectors, similar to deep tech. For now, the veteran VC who has made a reputation for himself by taking a generalist method in investing throughout sectors mentioned he anticipates spending nearly all of his time over the following 4 to 5 years on AI Begin. “This wave is ceaselessly. AI goes to the touch all our merchandise,” he mentioned. “I’ve informed my workforce this must be, from a mindset perspective, 90% of what I am serving to the agency with.”


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