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Sequoia vet Mark Kvamme to step back at Drive Capital, months after firm raises $1 billion from LPs

October 28, 2022, 10:48 AM UTC

It was Mark Kvamme—the former Sequoia Capital partner who had led its investment in LinkedIn—who lured Chris Olsen to leave Sequoia and Silicon Valley, move back to his home state of Ohio, and help Kvamme launch a venture capital firm in the middle of the country.

Kvamme, who is also a race car driver, had arrived in Ohio in 2011 to launch the “JobsOhio” program as a favor to his friend, the then-Ohio Governor John Kasich. But he decided to stick around Columbus on the premise that there were companies in the Midwest worthy of his attention—and of venture dollars.

Since then, Kvamme and Olsen have assembled Drive Capital into a more than $2 billion VC firm focused on startups based outside of the Coasts, that now spans 33 people, and has backed the likes of Duolingo, Fast Radius, and Root Insurance. In June, Drive raised a fresh $1 billion—its biggest fundraise yet—across a seed fund and a growth-stage fund from its roster of pension funds, endowments, and other limited partners.

But not long after Drive Capital’s initial capital call, Kvamme, 61, announced this week via a local business newspaper that he is stepping back from Drive Capital and will transition away from fundraising and operations before the firm launches its next fund. 

Mark Kvamme announced that he is stepping back from Drive Capital and will transition away from fundraising and operations.
Courtesy of Drive Capital

The timing of Kvamme stepping back seems peculiar, as it so closely follows its most recent fund closure, but Olsen assured me that limited partners have been aware Kvamme would be stepping back since February.

“It was something that we had forecasted for… a couple of fund cycles,” he says, noting that this had been the plan since he and Kvamme had founded the firm. “It was certainly not a surprise at all.” (Kvamme did not respond to Fortune’s request for an interview).

A spokesperson for Tennessee’s Consolidated Retirement System, one of Drive’s LPs, said that the team “knew in advance the transition would occur” and said that the pension would “continue to monitor performance along with the rest of the portfolio.” (Four of Drive Capital’s other limited partners didn’t respond to a request for comment.)

Departures of key investment partners often become a point of contention for limited partners, to the point that clauses known as “Key Man” clauses are drafted into limited partner agreements, sometimes giving LPs recourse not to fulfill their funding commitments should a key partner walk. After all, it’s the partners at the top of the firm who have constructed the track record that warrants checks from LPs in the first place.

Olsen says that Drive Capital, prior to this fundraising round, had already made adjustments in its limited partner agreements in preparation for this transition. Drive Capital’s LPAs no longer name any one individual at the firm but are now structured around whether “a number of GPs would leave, or something like that,” Olsen says. 

Olsen emphasized that Kvamme’s plans to step back had no impact on the firm’s limited partners’ willingness to join this recent funding round, although it did spawn many questions. “Anytime you see a founding partner depart, I think everyone’s going to ask questions, and rightly so,” he says.

While Olsen was very appreciative of his long-time partner, noting that he is a “great friend” and “one of the most creative minds that I’ve ever had the chance to work with,” Olsen also pointed out how this was the right thing to do for the firm right now. “We have this young generation of folks…There needs to be enough room for everybody to be successful here.”

Some of the partners who have joined the firm are former Livongo director Molly Bonakdarpour and ex-Google employee Nick Solaro. All of the partners must agree on each investment before a Drive Capital GP will write a check, and Olsen said he didn’t like the language of people “leading” deals. 

What does Kvamme have planned next?

Olsen says he hasn’t decided yet. Kvamme is still racing cars, and Olsen thinks he may end up doing work for a non-profit or a service-oriented company. Will he stay in Columbus, full-time?

“As far as I know, yeah, he has no plans to leave. His nickname here is the ‘born-again Buckeye,’” Olsen says.

See you tomorrow,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com
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Jackson Fordyce curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.

Correction: The digital version of this newsletter has been corrected to reflect that John Kasich was Governor in 2011, not Mayor.

VENTURE DEALS

- Ascend Elements, a Westborough, Mass.-based engineered materials and lithium-ion battery recycling company, raised $200 million in Series C funding. Fifth Wall Climate led the round and was joined by investors including SK ecoplant, Oman Investment Authority, Lithium Americas Corporation, New Mobility Fund, Mirae Asset Capital & LS, Shinhan GIB, Hitachi Ventures, InMotion Ventures, TDK Ventures, Orbia Ventures, At One Ventures, TRUMPF Venture, and Doral Energy-Tech Ventures

- BioVeritas, a Bryan, Texas-based bio-based ingredients company, raised $65 million in funding from Ara Partners.  

- HealthJoy, a Chicago-based healthcare navigation platform, raised $60 million in Series D funding. Valspring Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Endeavour Vision, CIBC Innovation Banking, US Venture Partners, GoHealth co-founders Brandon Cruz and Clint Jones, Health Velocity Capital, Nueterra Capital, and Epic

- Classera, a San Francisco-based e-learning company focused on emerging markets, raised $40 million in Series A funding. Sanabil Investments led the round and was joined by investors including Global Ventures, Endeavor Catalyst, 500 Global, Sukna Venture, and Seedra Ventures

- Neocis, a Miami-based robot-assisted dental implant surgery manufacturer, raised $40 million in funding. Intuitive Ventures, DFJ Growth, Vivo Capital, Mithril Capital Management, Norwest Venture Partners, and Fred Moll invested in the round. 

- Canary Technologies, a San Francisco-based guest management system and digital authorization solutions provider for hotels, raised an additional $30 million in Series B funding. Insight Partners led the round and was joined by investors including F-Prime Capital, Y-Combinator, Thayer Ventures, Commerce Ventures, and others. 

- Cresilon, a Brooklyn-based hemostatic medical device technologies manufacturer and development company, raised $25 million in Series A-4 funding led by Paulson Investment Company. 

- Navina, a New York-based A.I. assistant provider for physicians, raised $22 million in Series B funding. ALIVE Israel HealthTech Fund led the round and was joined by investors including Grove Ventures, Vertex Ventures Israel, and Schusterman Family Investments

- Fox Robotics, an Austin-based autonomous forklift company, raised $20 million in funding. BMW i Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Zebra Technologies, Japan Airlines, Translink Innovation Fund, Foothill Ventures, Menlo Ventures, ENIAC Ventures, and SignalFire.

- Cruz Foam, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based regenerative replacements provider for single-use plastics, raised $18 million in Series A funding. Helena led the round and was joined by investors including One Small Planet, Regeneration.VC, At One Ventures, and SoundWaves.

- Cinchy, a Toronto-based dataware technology company, raised $14.5 million in Series B funding led by Forgepoint Capital

- Fun, a San Francisco-based blockchain software development company, raised $3.9 million in pre-seed funding. JAM Fund led the round and was joined by investors including SOMA Capital, NOMO Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, and investor Cory Levy

- Sidekick, a London-based digital active investment management company, raised £3.33 million ($3.82 million) in pre-seed funding. Octopus Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Seedcamp and Semantic.

- Fursure, a Miami-based pet insurance marketplace and mobile banking solution for pet owners, raised $3 million in seed+ funding. MaC Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Sure Ventures, Scrum VC, Western Tech Investment, Slope Fund, Winklevoss Capital, Streamlined Ventures, Upside Partnership, and other angels. 

- Martian, a New York-based Web3 wallet, raised $3 million in pre-seed funding. Race Capital led the round and was joined by investors including FTX Ventures, Superscrypt, Jump Capital, and Aptos Labs

- Oxford Medical Simulation, a London-based VR training platform for healthcare workers, raised £2.1 million ($2.44 million) in funding. ACF Investors and former head of McKinsey’s health care practice, Dr. Nicolaus Henke invested in the round.  

- Jago, a Jakarta-based mobile café company, raised $2.2 million in pre-Series A funding. Intudo Ventures and BEENEXT co-led the round and were joined by investors including CyberAgent Capital and Arkblu Capital

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Thoma Bravo and Sunstone Partners agreed to acquire UserTesting, a San Francisco-based video-based human insights company. The deal is valued at $1.3 billion. 

- Long Ridge Equity Partners acquired a majority stake in Acqueon, an Irving, Texas-based omnichannel customer engagement software provider. Everstone Capital has exited its majority stake and will retain a minority stake. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Nuveen, the investment manager of TIAA, acquired a majority stake in Arcmont Asset Management, a London-based private debt investment manager. 

- Outdoor Living Supply, a Trilantic North America portfolio company, acquired Geobunga, a Honolulu-based garden and landscape supplies distributor. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- QHP Capital, the management company for NovaQuest Private Equity, acquired AutoCruitment, a New York-based digital patient recruitment company. Financial terms were not disclosed.

EXITS

- TELUS International agreed to acquire WillowTree, a Charlottesville, Va.-based digital product provider, from Insignia Capital Group for $1.225 billion.

- Trelleborg Group acquired Minnesota Rubber and Plastics, a Minneapolis-based elastomer and thermoplastic solutions provider, from KKR for approximately $950 million.

FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS

- Market One Capital, a Luxembourg-based venture capital firm, raised €80 million ($79.71 million) for a fund focused on early-stage European marketplaces and network effects platforms.

PEOPLE

- Grant Avenue Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, hired Brian Berkin as a managing director. Formerly, he was with Tailwind Capital. 

- Market One Capital, a Luxembourg-based venture capital firm, promoted Jacek Łubiński to partner and Michał Mroczkowski to principal

- Venrock, a Palo Alto-based venture capital firm, hired Evan Neu as a partner and general counsel. Formerly, he was with TPG

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