New fund leverages Kauffman connection

TrueBridge Capital has launched as a fund-of-funds manager that even Sequoia Capital could (maybe) love.

The Chapel Hill, N.C.-based firm was conceived by The Center for Venture Education, which runs the popular Kauffman Fellows program. CVE was looking to expand internationally and into other areas, such as limited partner fellowships, but was limited by a relatively small endowment. The solution, it felt, would be to form a professional fund-of-funds that would earmark some of its profits to help grow the endowment. The Shawnee Mission, Kansas-based group didn’t have experienced managers on staff, so it retained Sextant Search Partners to go find some.

What Sextant came up with was probably better than CVE had originally hoped for. Rather than reeling in a pair of underpaid/overworked state pension managers, it landed two big fish: Mel Williams from the UNC Management Co. and Edwin Post from the Rockefeller Foundation in New York.

“It’s not often that you get the opportunity to form a new firm with a partner who I respect tremendously as an investor and trust as a friend,” Williams says. “I’ve known Edwin since he was a freshman at UNC and I was a freshman. I think he’s looking forward to moving back here.”

Williams declined to discuss fund-raising or the specifics of the CVE relationship, but sources tell PE Week that TrueBridge is in market with a $250 million-targeted venture capital fund-of-funds. It is unclear exactly how CVE will benefit, but the agreement likely involves the organization receiving a few carried interest points. It will not be a limited partner in the fund.

TrueBridge is expected to follow its inaugural vehicle with other targeted funds-of-funds (some focused on buyouts) and will be aided by its access to the Kauffman Fellows network. The program has graduated approximately 90 fellows over the past 14 years, with many becoming partners at such firms as Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, New Enterprise Associates and U.S. Venture Partners. It even has an alumnus at Sequoia Capital India, which maybe will help convince the legendary Sand Hill Road firm to make an exception to its fund-of-funds ban.