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This fund thinks it can make UC Berkeley into a Stanford-like Silicon Valley deal machine

Tech investors want a piece of Berkeley startups.

The House Fund

Stanford has long been considered the closest thing Silicon Valley has to its own Ivy League-level academic institution. And StartX, Stanford’s in-house startup incubator, is its official home for producing new tech companies.

Jeremy Fiance, a 24-year-old UC Berkeley graduate, wants to make his alma mater into something that can rival its neighbor to the south. Today, Fiance announced that he has raised $6 million from a group of well-known tech execs and investors to put money specifically into Berkeley startups, a project that has been dubbed “The House Fund.”

The House Fund’s backers include big names like Redpoint Ventures founder Jeff Brody, Sherpa Capital’s Shervin Pishevar, True Ventures founder John Burke and ex-Venrock GP Terry Garnett. Fiance says that the firm’s “sweet spot” investment is a pre-seed, five-figure check (“ideally a $50,000 investment”), and that it will also participate in seed rounds with $100,000 to $250,000 investments.

Fiance has spent basically the entirety of the last year putting the House Fund together. Previously he worked at CrunchFund, and he has led investments for the First Round Capital-backed Dorm Room Fund, a student-run project that invests in college-launched startups.

“I learned through Dorm Room Fund that as little as $20,000 could have a significant impact for very early-stage startups,” Fiance said in an interview with Re/code. “And we’re seeing the market validate these opportunities in seed, Series A and subsequent rounds.”

 Jeremy Fiance
Jeremy Fiance
Jeremy Fiance / The House Fund

Fiance’s success with Dorm Room Fund is one reason investors are backing him; two Dorm Room Fund companies — flying camera maker Lily Robotics and digital market AdsNative — have raised Series A funding. The other is that UC Berkeley has emerged as an attractive place for venture capitalists to source deals in the last couple years.

Last year, the University of California announced that it was launching a $250 million fund to invest in startups that emerge from UC research (presumably Berkeley companies would be a big recipient of that cash). The Berkeley computer science department’s big data-focused AMPLab has produced startups like Tachyon and Databricks, which have both taken on funding from well-known investors.

Though startup investment has slowed dramatically in the last few months, VC firms are still raising a lot of cash and looking for places to put their money. People like Fiance, who knows the Berkeley startup terrain better than anyone, are a valuable commodity for investors looking to source deals. And for entrepreneurs, the House Fund will serve as a one-stop shop for finding mentorship and cash that are otherwise tough to come by on campus.

“I think Berkeley is a center of great technologists and the entrepreneurial community has been a lot more active the past few years,” Greylock Partners investor Josh Elman, who has worked with Fiance in the past, told Re/code. “Jeremy has been at the center of it, and has done a great job staying on top of it. [It] will be fun to see how he invests.”

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