Union Square Ventures is a small, collegial partnership based in New York City. We are generalist investors, working across many sectors and technologies, but with a consistent point of view on how to approach transformative opportunities.
Our Guiding Thesis:
USV invests at the edge of large markets being transformed by technological and societal pressures
This guiding investment thesis has emerged over 20 years of investing in and supporting companies and protocols that invent new forms of opportunity and solve important problems in new ways.
We look for:
The “edge” of large markets is often the best place to introduce new ideas and approaches. Startups at the edge may start out looking complementary or even unserious, but have the potential to take on incumbents in surprising new ways.
New Behaviors & New Business Models
New technologies enable behaviors that weren’t previously possible. They also enable new business models, often ones that incumbents are structurally unable to pursue. In hindsight, these new behaviors and new business models are obvious, but they require more effort to identify in real-time as they emerge.
Networks are formations of interconnected people, devices, data, assets, or other stakeholders that get more useful as they grow larger. We often ask ourselves, “is this a tool, or can it become a network”?
Rapid Experimentation and Avoiding Gatekeepers
Rapid experimentation is the fastest path to progress. We seek out projects with fast product development and go-to-market cycles (relative to industry peers), enabling rapid iteration on both product and product-market-fit. We love consumer-first, developer-first, and open source models for this reason — these approaches tend to avoid market gatekeepers and enable innovation at the edges.
We believe that technology can give individuals, groups, and small businesses more opportunity to invent, coordinate and create. We seek out opportunities that use technology to vastly broaden access to knowledge, capital, wellbeing, energy and other resources that may have been previously less accessible. Said another way: one way to quickly grow a market is to enable more people to participate in it.
How we operate
Since 2004, we have raised and invested 14 funds across three strategies. We are small team based in New York City but investing globally.
We have invested across many categories & technologies: social media, marketplaces, developer tools, learning, health, fintech, web3 & decentralized systems, energy & climate and more. While we are not experts in any one field, we take a consistent approach in how we invest in each of these sectors, and have supported the growth of large businesses in each of them.
We have always maintained relatively small fund sizes: our first early-stage fund in 2004 was $125mm, and our most recent in 2022 was $275mm. We believe small fund sizes create the most alignment among entrepreneurs, GPs and LPs.
We treat venture investing as a “team sport”, which means that we work collaboratively as a partnership across all phases of the game: developing investment theses, cultivating relationships with entrepreneurs, and supporting our portfolio companies over the long haul.
3 Funds: Core, Climate, Opportunity
Our “Core” fund invests in early-stage (typically Seed & A) opportunities across all sectors of internet-enabled businesses. Our Climate Fund invests in early-stage (typically Seed & A) startups that can provide mitigation for and adaptation to the climate crisis. Our Opportunity Fund invests in later-stage opportunities and special situations across all sectors. All three funds are being invested by the same team.
Lead Investors & Long-term Partners
We typically act as lead or co-lead investors, taking an active role in company development. We have a decades-long track record of partnering with founders for the long-term, through many ups and downs.