(Bloomberg) -- At first glance, 27-year-old Jasper Lau’s investment firm is just like any other trying to strike it rich in the world of startups. It typically invests $10 million to $15 million a deal, and has had its share of successes and setbacks in this year’s market tumult.
Yet behind the scenes, Lau is building a roster of backers — often young — from almost two dozen global billionaire families, allowing him to look past rising rates and widespread inflation as he maps out the ambitions of his 8090 Partners.
Lau, whose firm’s name is a nod to the decades of birth for many of its backers, started in venture capital in 2017 and was soon involved in early-stage investments with the billionaire Ozmen clan behind aerospace firm Sierra Nevada Corp. From there, the Ohio native increasingly built connections with ultra-rich families, sometimes meeting their youngest members at Wall Street banks’ private-wealth events and hosting dinners where he shared his goals to combine their capital with his experience of venture investments.
“A lot of the next-gens I met were smart, driven and ambitious, but they lacked access,” Lau, managing partner at 8090, said in a recent interview. “I told them, ‘Look, I can help source these opportunities and get you guys started.’”
With about $200 million in assets, 8090 is a small firm. Yet it’s emerging as a competitor to the big banks, which for decades have been trying to woo the next generation of super-rich with events, dinners and boot camps while they’re still in their 20s and 30s. What’s at stake is enormous: In the next 10 years, the younger cohort is poised to inherit trillions of dollars.
“Sitting in those conference rooms with those next-gens, I could feel the transfer of wealth,” Lau said about the private-wealth events he attended.
After working for San Francisco venture-capital firms Lumia Capital and Class 5 Global, Lau founded 8090 in June 2020 with a next-generation member of the Ozmen family, Kerem. Their goal was to build a community of like-minded people who are not only looking to grow their wealth but also want to have a social impact.
The families behind Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group Co., Canadian property firm Keltic Canada Development and Haza Group, an operator of Wendy’s and Taco Bell restaurants across the US, are among 8090’s partners. Indian entrepreneur Divyank Turakhia, who in 2016 sold the advertising technology business he built with his brother, is also one of the firm’s backers.
8090’s rise provides an insight into how billionaire money is increasingly playing a role in venture capital. Family offices — the private investment companies of the ultra-rich — have more than doubled their share of venture capital deals in the past decade, and they’re set to boost allocations further, according to research from SVB Capital and Campden Wealth published this year.
Since early 2021, 8090 has bet on more than a dozen startups in health care, energy and finance, mostly in the US. It’s a major investor in artificial intelligence firm Luminous Computing, along with Bill Gates and Uber Technologies Inc. co-founder Travis Kalanick. Luminous raised $105 million in a Series A round in March, with plans to double the size of its engineering team.
“Jasper was the very first person to place a bet on me when I started Luminous,” said Marcus Gomez, chief executive officer of the Santa Clara, California-based firm, which has received about $30 million from 8090. “When I have a problem, he is one of my first phone calls, and he almost always has a solution.”
Lau partly got his break in business through YouTube.
As a high-school student in 2011, Lau added FiscalNote Holdings Inc. founder Tim Hwang as a friend on Facebook after stumbling across footage on the video platform of the entrepreneur receiving an award.
The pair got to talking and stayed in touch. Before starting 8090, Lau helped oversee early-stage investments in FiscalNote that he said have returned more than 200%. Hwang later introduced Lau to Kerem Ozmen, who provided through his family’s investment firm some of the financing for FiscalNote’s $180 million purchase of media business CQ Roll Call from the Economist Group in 2018.
While FiscalNote shares have dropped since it began trading in August following a merger with blank-check firm Duddell Street Acquisition Corp., 8090 secured gains of 62% on an $18 million convertible note that matured in July, Lau said.
As recession fears rise, Lau is confident his firm’s small size and wealthy backers give it an edge, even if some tech entrepreneurs may prefer to take money from giants such as Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz that survived previous downturns. While 8090 has typically raised capital on a deal-by-deal basis, it’s now finalizing a fund focusing on tech founders and is increasingly zeroing in on debt transactions as startups avoid parting with equity in this year’s slump.
“One might think that things are slowing down, but they are speeding up,” Lau said. “Our ability to be flexible, agile and quick to our feet at 8090 gives us an advantage over other VC firms who have to go through so much bureaucracy.”
After initially focusing on younger members of billionaire families, 8090 is now also working with older generations on their venture investments as well as other areas, such as philanthropy.
The firm, which has a handful of staff in Los Angeles and New York, may seek to get more backers from the world’s ultra-rich, but they have to fit specific criteria.
“It’s really about finding families that are a good cultural fit and will be long-term partners with us,” Lau said. “We want families that actually can add more color to what we’ve already put on our canvas.”
(Adds details on Luminous investment in 10th paragraph.)
To contact the author of this story:
Benjamin Stupples in London at [email protected]