5 questions with Kevin Hartz

Kevin Hartz, a co-founder of international money transfer company Xoom Corp. and current CEO of event registration service company Eventbrite, recently launched an angel group with often overlooked YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim and Internet executive Keith Rabois.

The group calls itself Youniversity Ventures and focuses on investing in former and current students at Stanford University and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Both Hartz and Rabois have undergraduate degrees from Stanford and Karim is currently working on a graduate degree in computer science at Stanford after getting a bachelor’s in computer science from the University of Illinois.

Hartz is no stranger to early stage investing. He’s backed social networking company Friendster, RSS search company Feedster and video communications company TokBox, among others. Hartz is also an investor in funds by Sequoia Capital and The Founders Fund. So far, Hartz and the Youniversity team have made at least one disclosed investment, backing prediction marketplace BluBet, which allows users to make non-monetary bets on a variety of off-the-wall subjects.

PE Week Senior Writer Alexander Haislip caught up with Hartz to discuss the angel group’s plans.

Q: Will Youniversity raise a fund?


Not at this time. This is more of a hobby for us. Instead of going out and playing golf, we like to work on startups. We’re just three friendly entrepreneurial angels. We’re first and foremost entrepreneurs and don’t have any plans of raising a fund.

I kind of shudder at the venture fund notion. We don’t want to encourage that mindset where you’re coming in to get accepted or rejected. Just because we have limited time and resources, we’ve been referring deals to various investors.

Q: What are your investment targets?


We don’t have any goals in terms of investments per year. We just love working with entrepreneurs. The investments we got involved with, we got very involved with. We’ve been very active. If and when we find another, we’ll go forward. Our model is to be extremely selective.

Q: Is the economic downturn affecting early stage startups?


We’re in kind of a down cycle, t hough I think there’s still a lot of enthusiasm. We’re always excited about the hard times because we find the best entrepreneurs surface during those times.

Q: You focus on Stanford and the University of Illinois. Would you turn away a successful entrepreneur affiliated with another school?


We wouldn’t do that. We’re focused on first-time entrepreneurs. It’s just because we have very limited time that we decided to focus on those two schools.

Q: Could you see this scaling to other schools?


We have a very non-scalable model. The way that we work is that we don’t have the time and resources to dedicate to a lot of companies. We have to look for companies with an enormous market opportunity. We’re kind of students ourselves. It’s almost our own keiretsu operation in that I have my own startup and take and give to various entrepreneurs. Given our other personal commitments you’ll see that we’re investing only occasionally.