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Using Deal Partners to Build a ‘Decentralized VC Fund’

Using Deal Partners to Build a ‘Decentralized VC Fund’

An interview with Julia Lipton of Awesome People Ventures.

Julia Lipton believes decentralization is the future of early-stage venture. 

“I’ll bet my career on it,” said Julia, founder of Awesome People Ventures, an early-stage fund focused on world-positive investments. “People will be plugged into the beast however they want, whenever they want.”

Julia is reimagining the future of Awesome People Ventures accordingly—investing in web3 companies like Syndicate Protocol and XMTP.  

Lipton recently talked to AngelList about what venture’s decentralized future will look like, how she’s building a decentralized VC fund, and how Deal Partners helps her accomplish this feat.

Matthew Speiser: What’s a decentralized VC fund?

Julia Lipton: It’s a fund that’s owned by the community. If you look at how early-stage venture funds function today, it’s a bunch of people in a network sharing and diligencing deals together. Sometimes these people are full-time VCs, sometimes they’re angel investors, sometimes they’re talent. The people in your network are indirectly on your team, even if they’re not working for you full-time.

If you were to send me a deal you love and I ended up making that investment, you just inadvertently became part of the team. You deserve to get some upside for that. That’s a decentralized fund, and that’s the direction I think things are headed.

MS: How will Awesome People Ventures become more decentralized?

JL: In Fund 1 and with our SPVs, we started the process of decentralizing via the AngelList Deal Partners feature. We used Deal Partners to share carry with individuals who weren’t check writers—but found and supported deals that we went on to invest in. In my opinion, that’s just the right thing to do. These people are doing something that’s way more valuable than providing capital.

In Fund 2, we’ll be giving up to 50% of the GP carry to the community. Anyone who sources deals and provides value—whether they’re an LP in the fund or not— can earn carry.

MS: What does decentralization look like across the broader venture ecosystem?

JL: I think fewer people work at firms full-time and instead build careers collaborating with a handful of different firms. Different types of operators will band together to selectively share deal flow and support companies. 

You’re already seeing this with syndicates, where you have 100+ machine learning folks across unicorn companies working together or a group of angels passionate about mental health working together. These groups often see the best deals in their niche because they know the founders personally, have worked with them, and are their friends. 

Underpinning it all you have infrastructure, like Deal Partners, to enable mass decentralized collaboration. 

MS: What’s the advantage of becoming more decentralized?

JL: Top operators, founders, and experts in each space have superior deal access, insights, and are way more helpful to founders than full-time VCs. 

Let’s take an investment category like DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) tooling. DAO leaders and contributors are going to find and pick better companies than a VC sitting in an office somewhere. These communities know the quality of the teams and market pain points better than anyone. 

In a decentralized model, decision-making power moves closer to the folks with the actual expertise. The value that a traditional VC firm will be able to provide will pale in comparison to groups of decentralized VCs who are actually on the front lines and seeing the best deals.

There will still be a place for the more traditional firms, but it will be at the later stages when companies need larger sums of capital to grow. At the early stages, they’ll be able to rely on these decentralized angel networks.

MS: How have you built your network?

JL: I’m genuinely helpful to portfolio companies. We made over 1.5k intros last year across founders, talent, and VCs. I aim to be kind, compassionate, and responsible. I try to go above and beyond to deliver for my founders.

I didn’t have any network two years ago. But if you focus on giving rather than getting, you’ll build a network pretty fast. One introduction leads to another, which leads to another.

Community building in venture is everything, especially as the industry becomes more decentralized. You won’t be able to win on your own. 

MS: How does your view of the future impact your investment thesis?

JL: Fund 2 will focus on web3 investments, specifically around the future of work, creators, and finance.

The way venture is becoming more decentralized is really how all labor markets will operate in the future. People will work for multiple DAOs and earn ownership. You’ll be able to pick the projects you want to work on based on what you care about. But we need to build the support infrastructure. 

That’s why I’m investing in things like decentralized labor marketplaces, B2B tools that make it easier for people to work within multiple DAOs, and education platforms that train people on web3 development.

___

Deal Partners makes it easy to share carry on SPVs or individual investments within your fund. Learn more.

To invest with Awesome People Ventures, click here

Disclaimer

This document and the information contained herein is provided for informational and discussion purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the interviewee and may not reflect the views of AngelList or any of its affiliates. This post is not intended to be a recommendation for any investment or other advice of any kind, and shall not constitute or imply any offer to purchase, sell or hold any security or to enter into or engage in any type of transaction. Past performance is not indicative of future results. All examples of past investments included in this presentation are purely for illustrative purposes and may not reflect the complete list of investments made. There is no guarantee that any fund will achieve the same exposure to or quality of portfolio companies held by any existing syndicate or fund. An investment in venture funds involves a high degree of risk and is suitable only for sophisticated and qualified accredited investors. Quotes included in these materials related to AngelList's services and should not be construed in any way as an endorsement of AngelList's advice, analysis or other service rendered to its clients. Any fund manager sharing carried interest and any deal partner accepting carried interest under the Deal Partners program must certify that the deal partner is providing substantive services to the fund manager in identifying, assessing, and negotiating a particular deal. Carried interest should not be shared with any person who is not providing such services.
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