Left Lane’s first fund weighed in at $630 million. Today, the team is back with $1.4 billion to invest in growth capital for consumer technology and internet companies around the world from its offices in New York and London. I spoke with Harley Miller, CEO and managing partner of Left Lane, which closed $1.4 billion on its 33rd birthday.
“I’m the oldest person on the company’s investment team – about a year – but I’ve been doing this for 13 years. It’s the only professional discipline I know of and I’ve been working to hone and perfect this craft,” says Miller. “It’s a rare point of view because VC was not a traditional asset class or industry that lends itself to an institutionalized Analyst Program where people drop out of school. There was usually a more devious way to get there in the past. Maybe you were a banker or consultant and went to business school. Something we take seriously is ‘how do you build professional investors from the ground up and help shape them.’”
Left Lane has made 36 investments in internet and consumer technology companies in a dozen countries. The company targets businesses at key growth inflection points and leads the businesses in the Series A to C stage. The company invests in fintech, edtech, SMB technology, software, food technology, e-commerce, health and wellness. seating, games and entertainment and much more.
When challenged in the youth team – most venture funds tend to be managed by people with significant operational or financial experience – Miller responds enthusiastically.
“We have great regard for the human condition – not being a passing council member. It’s a privilege to be there, as opposed to a duty where you show up once a quarter and pontificate just so your voice is heard. It’s the classic word-spewing archetype,” says Miller, voicing his frustrations. “[I’m frustrated with] the VC who doesn’t do the due diligence, who outsources it to his mid-level subordinates and then shows up at the board meeting and the first six months asking rudimentary elementary questions. It’s like, ‘Hey, didn’t you do an ounce of due diligence? How are these basic business model questions? Why?'”
Miller encourages founders to be cautious about who they choose as their investors.
“Notably in recent years, there have been many new tourists entering the venture or growth equity asset class. They’re all ‘we’re super entrepreneur friendly, we don’t need to take board seats,'” explains Miller. “We don’t do that. It’s not a job for us. It’s a way of life. I think if you do it with that intention, by definition you’re doing better than the vast majority. Just showing up and caring isn’t enough. ONE a lot of funds have this concept of ex-traders turning VC, and I think it can be really powerful, but again, make no mistake, it takes years to hone your craft as an investor who has had the standard recognized in hundreds of deals. You have to have respect for the human condition. You have to be able to navigate and have a lot of surface area and variety of different archetypes and founder personas that you can work with, whether it’s someone from a different background, religion, creed, race, age, by the way, geography. ”
As the investment community has gotten better and better at investing in SaaS companies, Left Lane has decided to go after the spaces that were left behind, in particular Internet-enabled consumer technology with recurring business models.
“ONEamidst a world of generalists mimicking enterprise software, SaaS investors, we saw this blank. We are so blessed to have 60 or 70 high-profile CEOs or C-suite operators of internet and consumer technology companies as LPs and consultants,” says Miller, explaining why the lack of operational experience at the company’s investment levels is not as big of a problem as I was trying to make him. “We really bring this work on behalf of our existing and future portfolio.”
The company invests in the Series AC line and likes to lead the rounds in which it is involved. The team suggests that the sweet spot for your investments ranges from $5 million at the low end of the scale, to $75 million in higher end checks.