Andrew Chung is thinking big. He just closed on one of the largest first-time independent venture funds -- with $200 million "in the bank" for the recently formed 1955 Capital.
Chung was most recently a partner at Khosla Ventures. Before that, he was at Lightspeed Ventures. Launched in the fall of last year, the team at 1955 Capital currently consists of just Andrew Chung.
Chung spoke to GTM about "investing in technology in the U.S. and Europe that can solve the challenges in the developing world" in fields such as energy, food, agriculture, health care -- "all the save-the-world stuff, instead of what's hot." He said that "people are scared" of these sectors and the potential of U.S.-China cross-pollination remains unplumbed.
“We believe that China, India and other developing countries face fundamental challenges that put the future of their societies at risk and place severe pressure on governments and business leaders for solutions,” said Chung, adding, "Disruptive technology is critical to solving these issues and can help bring nations closer together by matching the ingenuity of the West with the growing survival-driven demands of the East."
Chung envisions China as an accelerator for U.S. companies, with his new fund providing "direct access to these large and explosive end markets." He said it means that U.S. startups don't always have to "crack the code in the U.S."
Chung led Khosla Ventures' China activities and visited China 13 times last year. Chung said, “I’ve seen firsthand how this model can be successful...where American technologies had the potential to solve major American environmental challenges and create American jobs, but benefited from strategic support and capital from partners in China.”
Chung was a board member on several Khosla Ventures’ startups, including LanzaTech, Ecomotors, BioConsortia, Cogenra, Pellion and Wattpad. Chung suggests that LanzaTech is a perfect case study for bringing U.S. technology to China and getting China to take a bet and fund it fully.
There is still some life in cleantech VC. Last month, Capricorn Investment Group and Vision Ridge Partners started a $430 million fund to invest in renewable energy and sustainability. Capricorn is former eBay chief Jeff Skoll's money manager; its investments include Tesla and SpaceX. Private equity firm Vision Ridge's portfolio includes Sungevity, Proterra, Blu Homes, Powerhouse Dynamics and Mercatus. We've recently reported on the cleantech VC success of Nancy Pfund at DBL Ventures, Steve Vassallo at Foundation Capital, and Josh Wolfe at Lux Capital.
Chung is hoping to create a venture capital firm that will look at underserved sectors and take "a cross-border investing approach that may run contrary to the status quo."