Entrepreneur-turned-venture-capitalist Ryan Gilbert has struck out on his own, creating venture firm Launchpad Capital to back early-stage startups in fintech, insurance and real estate.
The venture firm, based in Oakland and Lithuania’s capital city of Vilnius, raised $35 million for its first fund. The money will be primarily used to back fintech startups in their earliest stages of creation — incubation, pre-seed, seed and follow-on financings. The money comes from almost 100 limited partners, including several Bay Area fintech entrepreneurs.
"I worked very hard to make access to this fund available to potential LPs who are not traditionally invited to invest in venture capital funds,” Gilbert told me.
Launchpad will also support later-stage fintech founders through SPACs and special purpose vehicles. “It’s never too early to invest in the future of finance,” Gilbert said. We’re taking a clear focus on fintech, which has expanded as a category.
“You’ve got the typical fintech verticals — payments, savings, credit and asset management. But the corners of the box have been pulled out, to include the rapidly growing insurtech space and the proptech space,” Gilbert said. “We’re focusing, to a large extent, on the tech in fintech.”
Launchpad Capital has a team of four, including another venture partner in the Bay Area and one associate in the Lithuania office.
“The Baltics is home to a number of very, very smart technologists who understand both data, financial services and customer acquisition,” Gilbert said. “We’re going to be setting up a base there, where we’re both investing in startups out of the Baltics, as well as starting our own companies in that region, with an eye on serving the U.S. market.”
Gilbert, who has built two fintech startups in the Bay Area, said he enjoys working in the earliest stages of a startup’s life. “It’s a time that you build the desks rather than buy the desks,” said Gilbert, who as an entrepreneur was always frugal. Gilbert has strong ties in the Bay Area fintech community, having served as an adviser to Jack Dorsey in the early years of building Square. Gilbert also worked with Marqeta founder and CEO Jason Gardner when the two founded PropertyBridge in 2004. The Oakland company, which allowed tenants to pay rent on debit and credit cards, was sold to MoneyGram International in 2007. Earlier in his career, Gilbert co-founded SBA lender SmartBiz.
Gilbert spent the past five years as a general partner at Propel Venture Partners, backed by Spanish bank BBVA. He left Propel this month.
Gilbert said he’s looking forward to using his team’s experience in building companies as it works with early-stage startups.
“We have the opportunity to be the first check into these opportunities. Naturally we also take the first line of risk, which can be significant,” Gilbert said. “Hopefully, we’ve seen what works.”
San Francisco Business Times