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Two VCs Known for Finding Hit Consumer Apps Step Out to Form Binary Capital

The pre-portfolio is Snapchat, Tinder, Instagram, Stitchfix, StyleSeat, Tinder and Whisper.

Vjeran Pavic

Jonathan Teo and Justin Caldbeck are the founding partners of a new venture firm called Binary Capital, which has raised $125 million for its first fund.

Between the two of them, they invested in Snapchat when it had 150,000 users. They found Tinder three months after launch with 65,000 users (while they didn’t invest, they are still close advisers to CEO Sean Rad). They invested in Instagram when it had 250,000 users, Stitchfix when it had a couple hundred users. StyleSeat, Whisper and TaskRabbit are also in the portfolio.

But all this time, they were junior guys at separate firms trying to convince their more established partnerships where the next big thing was. Teo was at Benchmark and General Catalyst. Caldbeck was at Bain Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Both of them say they pitched Pinterest twice internally in its early days to their respective firms, and weren’t able to get the other partners to commit.

Teo and Caldbeck are starting Binary with a blank slate. Binary will focus exclusively on early stage consumer technology startups. Its first fund came together in less than four months.

Caldbeck and Teo, wearing matching black V-neck T-shirts and jeans at a recent meeting, told Re/code they are very specifically looking for startups that have already launched products that are used by people, not companies.

“Consumer is perceived as hit-driven and unpredictable, and that is very true pre-product launch,” said Caldbeck. “But once the data is in the market, you can understand if you have the ingredients for growth.”

Binary’s plans include doling out checks for $3 million to $5 million to a portfolio of about 20 companies, and following on where appropriate. There will also be a mentor program where mentors get a share of the firm’s proceeds in exchange for participating.

Teo said Binary was reserving a substantial part of the firm’s proceeds for philanthropic causes, as chosen by entrepreneurs in the portfolio.

Added Caldbeck, “They’re putting 90 hours a week into building their company. They’re time-constrained, they’re financially constrained. We give them another channel to give back to other causes they care about.”

Update: This story has been edited to remove the mention in paragraphs eight and nine of companies that Binary did not directly invest in.

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