Threading the Needle: A Glimpse into Paul Judge’s Plans for Softbank’s Open Opportunity Fund

Judge talks about his plan to raise and invest $150 million in underrepresented founders

SoftBank last week renamed its Opportunity Fund to Open Opportunity Fund with the goal of opening the fund up to other LPs and organizations to support minority entrepreneurs and startups. He also launched a second fund with a target of $150 million.

For investor Paul Judge, who will co-own the fund with Softbank and serve as its chairman, the job is an opportunity to make a dent in the ecosystem.

However, we will need well over $150 million to get there: last year, black founders received just 1% of all venture capital funding, down slightly from 1.3 % raised the previous year. Still, Judge hopes he can help open doors more widely to underrepresented communities.

“One of the problems in Silicon Valley, traditionally, is knowing who you know,” he told me in a recent interview. “It was about getting a ‘warm intro’, and people brag about it – ‘Oh, you have to know someone to get a meeting with me.’ My view is that this led to the system shutting down.

The judge says this new fund aims to change that. “There’s an open forum on the website, there’s an open email address – just raise your hand and tell us about your business. We’ll take a look and set up a meeting. And that whether we invest or not, we will give you meaningful feedback on how we think you can improve,” he said.

Opportunity Fund’s first fund invested in 75 companies, half of which were start-ups. Launched in 2020, its portfolio now consists of five unicorns in addition to heavyweights such as Greenwood, Brex and Cityblock Health. To date, he has seen seven outings.

Previously a member of Opportunity Fund’s investment committee before being hired to lead the renowned effort, Judge seems aware of the challenge ahead. It aims to raise the $150 million for Fund 2 and invest it in at least 70 companies over the next three years.

His background will also come in handy: he’s a managing partner at Panoramic Ventures, a notable presence in Atlanta’s venture capital ecosystem, and he previously co-founded incubator TechSquare Labs as well as security firm Pindrop.

TechCrunch+ recently sat down with Judge to talk about his new appointment, the fund’s potential role in the wake of the Silicon Valley Bank collapse, and the broader changes that need to happen to accelerate society’s move toward equality. economic.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

TechCrunch: What’s the first thing you’re going to do next in your new role?

Judge Paul: Every day we will continue to support the current portfolio. There are 75 companies working hard to grow, to create products and to sell products, and we interact with them daily and weekly. We will continue to do so.

And there are conversations with investors. We will continue to engage with other organizations who wish to join us and join SoftBank in this mission.


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