Venture firm Formation 8 calls it quits

TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 - Day 3
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: Joe Lonsdale of Formation 8 speaks onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 at The Manhattan Center on May 1, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for TechCrunch)
Photograph by Brian Ach — Getty Images

Venture capital firm Formation 8 yesterday announced that it would disband rather than raise a third fund, an extremely unusual development in the world of startup investing.

This is the firm formed in 2012 to back Silicon Valley startups that had aspirations of expanding into Asia. It raised nearly $1 billion for a pair of flagship funds, and backed such companies as Oculus (acquired by Facebook), RelateIQ (acquired by Salesforce), Plated, Oscar Health and Radius. Earlier this year it added dedicated hardware and seed funds.

In a statement on its website, Formation 8 said:

“After thoughtful consideration, we have decided to continue with follow-on investments while managing our existing portfolio as we pursue different paths going-forward. Although we will not raise a Formation 8 Fund III, we are intently committed to our CEOs and will invest meaningfully in follow-on rounds for many years.”

My understanding is that each of the firm’s three founding partners — Joe Lonsdale (co-founder of Palantir Technologies), Jim Kim (ex-CMEA Ventures and Khosla Ventures) and Brian Koo (ex-Harbor Pacific Captial) — will effectively have a budget going forward, through which they can pay for advisors and other needs related to existing portfolio companies.

There will not be any sort of remnant crew sticking around, which means that a lot of folks will need to find new jobs. Formation 8 had a total of 32 employees and advisors, according to its website, of which 13 were in Asia.

So what happened? The best explanation I’ve heard so far is that the investment theses and interests of the firm’s principals had diverged a bit. Lonsdale, for example, is primarily interested in early-stage Silicon Valley companies. Koo is more intrigued by growth equity opportunities in Asia. Don’t be surprised to see each of them raise new funds, perhaps with fellow Formation 8 partners on board. The hardware fund has already re-branded as Eclipse Ventures, with ex-Formation8 staffers Lior Susan and Brett Cummings listed as partners.

I’ve also received some emails from folks pointing out that this announcement comes just days after one of Lonsdale’s ex-girlfriends dropped sexual assault charges against him (and he, in turn, dropped a countersuit) — two moves that were followed by Stanford University lifting a ban on Lonsdale being allowed to visit the campus. And, indeed, there have been rumors of this split coming for months (although, for the record, Lonsdale denied it was happening in a phone call several months ago, which is why I didn’t report it).

My best guess — and it’s only a guess — is that the timing had more to do with the firm’s annual investor meeting, which occurs next week, than it did with the court proceedings.

None of the firm’s principals are commenting yet, beyond the blog post.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the acquirer of RelateIQ.

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