GP Interview: Julie Lein
Julie Lein is a co-founder and managing partner at Urban Innovation Fund. This is her Emerging Manager interview.
👉 Big Learning Up Front (B.L.U.F.): in such a fast-moving market, we’ve tightened up our internal team schedule so we can meet five days a week if necessary to solve a problem for a founder or close a round.
Julie, tell us about yourself
I was born in Moscow, Russia & immigrated to the US when I was five years old. I went to college at Stanford and eventually met my co-founder Clara in business school at MIT Sloan.
Both Clara & I had transformative experiences working for urban innovation startups. These companies were tackling meaningful problems in cities and scaling rapidly. After we graduated, we started an accelerator to help these entrepreneurs get off the ground. We leveraged that experience to launch the Urban Innovation Fund in 2016.
Describe your fund
The Urban Innovation Fund is a VC firm that invests in startups shaping the future of cities. We invest in pre-seed & seed startups in sectors like transportation, energy, and fintech. We’re very active, hands-on investors, and we place a special emphasis on regulatory support, since we’ve seen it be an area of need.
Share 1 process improvement you’ve used individually or as a team which has made you a better fund manager
The seed landscape has evolved a lot in the last few months -- multistage VCs are launching massive seed funds and rounds are getting MUCH bigger. Given how quickly everything is moving, we recently started adding team meetings to the calendar 5 days a week. That way, our entire team can jump on a call with a founder closing a round quickly. We’re looking to move on opportunities fast in this market.
Which founder from your portfolio has had the greatest impact on you and why?
One of the founders who’s had a massive impact on me is Muffi Ghadiali from our portfolio company Electriphi. He was passionate about electrification before it was clear this was a mass market trend. Muffi also navigated his recent acquisition by Ford with extreme thoughtfulness for everyone involved. The future is electric and we love how Muffi & Electriphi are leading the charge (pun intended :)
What’s one thing you wish you knew before you became a VC?
I wish I knew what a VC was much earlier in life, because it’s truly the best job in the world.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you recently fell deep into
We recently spent a lot of time talking about follow-on investing: how much of the fund to allocate for follow-ons, whether the best use of follow-on capital is during interim rounds (ex: Seed+, bridge) or Series A’s, etc. I think this will be an evolving topic of conversation for us, but where we landed is putting more capital to work up front, since the first check will lead to the highest % ownership.
Name one GP and one LP everyone should learn from -- and whom we should feature next
GP: I’ll make a shameless plug for my co-founder/ business partner Clara Brenner, because she’s the best and I’m constantly learning from her in business and life.
LP: Jason Portnoy at Oakhouse Capital, who’s an incredible operator, investor/ GP, and believes in managers early as an LP. Also, he’s a great human being.
Finally, what are the 3 best emojis?
💪 to appreciate a startup milestone, 🎉 to celebrate the wins, & 🤑 should be every entrepreneur’s favorite.
Julie Lein is now on the EM roster at EmergingManager.vc << View all these EMs, learn from them and then teach me some new things.
Julie’s contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter: @j2ulie, @UrbanInnoFund; on LinkedIn. Thanks to my friend Julie for doing this and for being a great co-investor too! — Reilly (email@example.com)