6 Questions with Andrew Chung on his New $200m VC Fund

A former partner of the venture capital giant Khosla Ventures, Andrew Chung, today launched his own venture firm, 1955 Capital. The fund, which has raised $200 million at first close, will invest in startups in the energy, food and agriculture, education and health sectors.

The name of the firm is taken from the year that Albert Einstein, penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming, and jazz legend Charlie Parker died, and the year Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Vinod Khosla, and Google’s Eric Schmidt were born.

The fund’s mission is to invest in the US and European technologies that can be exported to developing countries — primarily China — to solve world challenges across the energy, environment, food, agriculture, health, and education sectors.

“In a lot of ways, this is a very natural extension to the five years I spent as a partner at Khosla. I was helping a lot of different entrepreneurs think through their global strategy, and went to China 13 times last year, which is probably more than any other investors in Silicon Valley,” Chung told AgFunderNews.

During those trips, Chung was negotiating venture deals and licensing agreements with Chinese companies on behalf of Khosla’s portfolio companies and gave the example of LanzaTech, the biofuel startup he helped land key pilot projects with Chinese steel manufacturers.

“Having that kind of experience at Khosla, where we had the largest portfolio in clean tech, gave me a really great position to get to know a lot of powerful companies in China and then fast forward to late last year and I got the entrepreneurial bug again. The fact that I was able to raise $200 million in a relatively short period of time is validation that this type of firm is needed,” said Chung.

The fund, which will also look to export US technology into other emerging markets like India, will invest between $10 million and $15 million in total in each company, according to Chung. It will likely invest at Series B or Series C round to ensure companies are ready to enter these markets, he added.

The fund will also look to export US technologies into other emerging markets such as India, where Chung also sees a need.

Some of the food and agtech companies that Chung has worked with on global expansion include Hampton Creek, the egg-less mayonnaise manufacturer, Impossible Foods, the meat-less burger maker, and BioConsortia, a biotech startup.

AgFunderNews caught up with Chung to find out more about the fund and its plans, particularly in food and agtech.

Which subsectors of AGtech are you most excited about?

Why have you decided to take this China commercialization focus?

What food and agriculture technologies are particularly needed in China?

On the data side, there’s a revolution over here with farmers becoming increasingly sophisticated in managing data on their land, but that’s only just beginning in China, and I think that type of tech will be very much needed.

Biologics is another area; if a company can present different ways to improve the way crops are grown at a biological level using different genomic techniques that are not necessarily GMO, the Chinese could love that. BioConsortia, for example, is working on understanding the microbial effect of various soil conditions on crops and their impact on yield rates.

And then in alternative food production, we’re already seeing a lot of interest in China. I spoke to Hampton Creek’s CEO very early on about the importance of bringing the opportunity to China and that followed with a Series B round led by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing’s VC firm and other Asian investors.

Are there any AGtech startups that might not find a market in China?

What challenges do you see for US AGtech startups going to China?

Ensuring real tech differentiation as I mentioned before is a challenge. If you have a marginal approach, the chances are that they’re not far behind, or they might even be ahead. Either way, they will be proud of their homegrown technologies and will be protective against any competition to where they think they can be in a year or two.

You’ve got to be willing to be creative about how to work with the Chinese. You can’t assume traditional business practices will work. It’s simple things like networking. Over here, I can connect with someone on LinkedIn and can meet them and get a deal done relatively quickly. The Chinese work in very long cycles and have to build trust up to a level where they want to work with you. They want to feel like you’re part of the family, and that’s very different here

What about the regulatory landscape for AGtech in China; could that be a challenge for startups?

I am already interviewing dozens of people and suspect that after today’s announcement there will be more people reaching out. I am hoping to recruit a really high-quality team, which can focus on executing the strategy. That’s the benefit of having already raised funds I don’t have to hire just for the sake of fundraising as lots of firms do. Now I’ve got a first close done; I can pick those I want to work with for a long time and that have the right qualifications to execute.

Will you have any staff based in China?

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*Fun fact about Chung; he was a finalist in Hong Kong Idol and turned down record contracts with music labels and artists in Hong Kong before moving into the world of venture capital. What are your views on the agtech landscape in China? Get in touch on Louisa@AgFunder.com.

Originally published at https://agfundernews.com on February 24, 2016.

Founder of 1955 Capital, Inventing a New Global Future | ClimateTech Venture Capitalist based in San Francisco, CA | Learn More: https://andrewchung.com/

Founder of 1955 Capital, Inventing a New Global Future | ClimateTech Venture Capitalist based in San Francisco, CA | Learn More: https://andrewchung.com/