Venture capital

Jake Paul’s VC fund is backing a startup building attack drones and the virtual border wall

We talked to the YouTuber-turned-boxer about Anduril and his fund’s investment strategy.
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Anti Fund

· 6 min read

The first time YouTube megastar Jake Paul spoke with serial entrepreneur Geoffrey Woo, he was pitching a social media business idea that Woo ended up passing on.

Seven years later, they’re partners in Anti Fund, the VC firm they announced in March 2021. The rolling fund—run through a quarterly subscription on AngelList—has over $24 million in assets under management, according to Anti Fund, and its limited partners include Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon of a16z.

Anti Fund’s manifesto underlines its focus on emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, and digital health. But in an interview, Paul and Woo said they’re also prioritizing defense technology.

Woo told us Anti Fund just made one of its largest investments to date in Anduril, the controversial defense tech company contracted to build the virtual border wall. Created by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, Anduril products include attack drones, autonomous surveillance towers, and it has worked on the Pentagon’s Project Maven. In January, Anduril was awarded a nearly $1 billion contract from the DoD’s Special Operations Command.

Paul and Woo declined to share specifics on their previously unreported Anduril investment. Anduril did not return a request for comment.

We spoke with Woo and Paul about their recent investment in Anduril and their overall strategy for assessing new companies.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

We’ve seen a bit of a roller coaster in the markets this year, and many investors are taking a pause to see how things play out. Are you doing the same? What’s your strategy like this quarter and next?

GW: We’re open for business. One, our LP base—our limited partners—are actually quite distinct from your traditional LPs, who are essentially overexposed to tech. So in that macro, you’re absolutely right that a lot of tech VCs and LPs have been forced to pause because their capital partners have told them to pause. We’re lucky to have our own capital, as well as our limited partners’ capital, which are pretty distinct from that shared pool [where] a lot of the same people fund all the same VCs.

We just did one of our largest investments to date in a company called Anduril, which is a military autonomous drone company that we think is really, really exciting. So when we think there are great opportunities and great founders, we’re ready to back the truck up.

Anti Fund messaging has said you’re looking for founders who want to “achieve the impossible and change the world.” To that end, which “world-changing” concepts have you prioritized over the past year?

JP: Anduril is kind of shaping the future of our nation’s military defense and the Department of Defense and protection of homeland security. And the autonomous systems that they’re creating are super advanced, like, fake Area 51-type shit that people are always thinking, like, ‘What are the weapons that the government has?’ So just getting to be a part of Anduril and the future of homeland security is awesome. And then on top of that, I think one of the big ones [is] the metaverse and just developing out virtual reality and becoming a part of a bunch of great companies in that space because we think video games and even the way you watch Netflix will be in those virtual worlds…These are all super futuristic concepts.

As far as Anduril, how do you balance the “innovation” you’re speaking of with the controversy over funding tech used for defense, and its potential harms?

GW: With the conflict in Russia, Ukraine right now, speaks toward the need for great engineers, great technologists to keep pushing forward what is possible for defense. It is potentially uncomfortable or unsavory to think about conflict in the future, but I think we’re fairly pragmatic and historians here. I hope to live in a world where there’s no conflict, no battles, and no wars, but I’m not betting on it. And if we can bend history toward Americans—our country’s having the most advanced defense technologies, because I believe in our civilization, I believe in American values and American democracy—then I think that’s a hill that we’re happy to fly the flag on. We’re happy to support making sure that Americans have the best access to the best technologies for security purposes.

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Jake, anything to add?

JP: No, I think Geoff crushed that, man. Geoff is amazing.

Before investing, how exactly do you vet companies—or, since they’re so early-stage, the founders themselves—on their ethics and potential impact?

GW: Technology fails. The core ethics that are baked in from the beginning to scale much quicker now—so I think it’s an increasingly valid concern and question…We have to back people that I think just from the technical side, but I think ultimately, have high integrity…If we’re investing our own money, our LP’s money, our time, our net worth, our reputation behind founders, it almost has to be said that we see these people, these men and women, as super high-integrity founders who are building businesses the right way. So far, we’ve been fortunate to have, I guess, no red alerts on that front, but it’s something that we will have to stay vigilant on.

JP: Just going back to good people, good founders, good network, and reference checks as well. You’re not always going to know someone, and time, I think, is really the only way to know someone’s integrity.

Part of Anti Fund’s strategy is using Jake’s influence to “create demand for its companies’ ideas, products, and services in anticipation of their delivery to market.” How do you plan to continue the demand Jake may incite over the long term, past the initial hype stage?

JP: What we really help with is behind the scenes—helping these companies build the infrastructure to sustain that hype, marketing, and branding and content flow. I’ve jumped on calls with multiple of our founders, giving them basically an hour-long brand consulting and marketing crash course, and that’s been super helpful. So for some companies, I’m in front of it, I post about it, and I’m public about my involvement, but for other companies, I’m just like a consultant. I help from a distance and give them tips and tricks on what I see their company could be doing better. We only sort of jump in where it makes sense.

GW: Jake can point and put attention anywhere, but I think what is durable for companies is…the process and infrastructure [of] the team to actually make this a repeatable process….We think we can build and scale this infrastructure, for each of the individual companies that we’re partnering with. And I think that when people look at investors on their cap table management, people look at the name-brand, top-tier VCs. We think that in a world where our dollar is the same color as a Sequoia Capital dollar, well, then what’s the added value on that, and I think we can point to our track record of knowing how to amplify and drive attention, which is arguably a more scarce commodity than capital these days.

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