24-year-old podcaster turned VC scores $140 million from MIT, Spotify backer to invest

June 16, 2021, 12:00 PM UTC
Updated June 16, 2021, 8:05 PM UTC

Harry Stebbings, who while still a teenager made a name for himself in Silicon Valley with his popular The Twenty Minute VC podcast, has cemented his transformation from venture capital fanboy to full-fledged investor.

The London-based 24-year-old said his new venture capital firm, called 20VC, has raised two funds totaling $140 million from a list of top-tier investors, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s endowment; RIT Capital Partners, the publicly traded investment vehicle founded by one branch of the Rothschild family; and Shakil Khan, an early investor in Spotify and cofounder, along with Spotify’s Daniel Ek, of the investment fund Prima Materia.

Also investing in the fund are several founders of successful startups, including Johnny Boufarhat, the CEO and founder of virtual events software platform Hopin, and Alex Will, cofounder and chief strategy officer at mental health app Calm.

Stebbings said that a $33 million fund will be dedicated to pre-seed and seed investments, each totaling between $250,000 to $500,000, and a larger, $107 million fund will target “growth stage” startups, with investments of $3 million to $5 million each.

He said the fund, in which he is the sole general partner and will make all the investment decisions, would back startups from anywhere in the world. Stebbings also noted that the successful founders who are also investors in 20VC’s funds would be able to provide operational assistance and advice to the companies in the firm’s portfolio.

An $8.3 million “micro” seed fund that Stebbings began managing under the 20VC name in April 2020 has made investments in several companies that experienced runaway growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Hopin and social media app Clubhouse, as well as RevenueCat, a startup whose technology makes it simple for companies to take in-app payments from users.

Stebbings is best known for his twice-weekly podcast, in which he interviews venture capitalists and entrepreneurs about how they do what they do for, as the name suggests, 20 minutes. Begun in 2014, it has garnered some 200,000 subscribers and has been downloaded more than 80 million times.

The podcaster made his first foray into making his own startup investments in 2018, when he joined veteran venture capitalist Fred Destin in creating Stride VC, a London-based firm focused on making seed investments. The fund got off to an inauspicious start: Just as Stride was courting investors for its first fund, Bloomberg News reported that at a previous fund, Destin had once made inappropriate sexual advances toward a female founder trying to raise money for her startup.

Destin apologized for his conduct, saying he had sometimes “acted without awareness at parties.” Still, the story hurt Stride’s fundraising drive, and it wound up raising just £50 million ($70 million), half the amount it had initially targeted. (Stebbings says that Stride to eventually raise the full £100 million it had initially planned for, but that achievement of the milestone was never formally announced.)

Later, Stebbings began managing his 20VC microfund alongside his Stride role. He formally announced he was leaving Stride in February. (In May, Stride announced it has raised a second $138 million fund.)

Stebbings told Fortune that while he admired Destin and considered him a mentor and friend, their investing styles ultimately diverged. “He wants to invest one way and I wanted to do something else,” he said of Destin. He said Destin is primarily interested in investing in European startups, and that the veteran VC likes to lead investment rounds and take a seat on the boards of his portfolio companies. Stebbings said he wanted to invest globally, was happy to play a secondary role alongside other venture capital firms in funding rounds, and was not interested in having a formal governing role in the companies he finances.

“I don’t want to lead rounds and sit on boards,” Stebbings said. He said that once a venture capitalist is on a startup’s board it changes the relationship the investor can have with a founder, making it harder for the founder to confide in the venture capitalist and seek honest and frank advice. “If you say to a board member that you are struggling, they can fire you,” Stebbings said.

Still, in what may be the ultimate vote of confidence in his former protégé, Destin has personally invested in Stebbings’ 20VC fund.

This story has been updated to add Stebbings comments on Stride VC’s first fund eventually hitting its target size.

Subscribe to Fortune Daily to get essential business stories straight to your inbox each morning.

Read More

Artificial IntelligenceCryptocurrencyMetaverseCybersecurityTech Forward