Techno-utopian Cathie Wood has become famous betting on the public markets. She’s also investing in private ones.
Wood is backing Santa Monica, California-based Up.Partners, a venture capital firm investing in mobility startups. Up plans to announce Monday it closed an inaugural fund of $230 million—raised from a group of investors that also includes Alaska Air Group Inc. and Woven Capital, a venture capital off-shoot of Toyota Motor Corp.’s subsidiary Woven Planet.
Wood invested in the fund personally, not through her company, Ark Investment Management. Up declined to say how much she invested. A representative for Wood declined to comment.
Philosophically, Up is a natural fit for Wood, who has bet on Tesla Inc. and other companies representing the tech-enabled future of transit. Wood and Ark rose to prominence over the course of the pandemic offering several technology-focused exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, and also backing other high-risk assets like Bitcoin. The company’s flagship Ark Innovation fund gained almost 150% in 2020.
Up’s new fund will focus on early-stage companies working on clean energy and software that can make transit and supply chains more efficient. It also plans to scout startups in fields like autonomous driving and aviation.
“The most obvious place for us to start is early stage, especially in areas that are quite nascent,” said Up co-founder and managing partner Cyrus Sigari.
Sigari and his partner, Ben Marcus, first met Wood in 2018 at Up.Summit, an annual retreat the duo has been hosting for company executives, investors and founders in the aerospace and mobility industries. Wood was a speaker at the Arkansas-based event that year, which was also co-hosted by two grandchildren of the founder of Walmart Inc. “She was our first investor,” Sigari said of Wood. “She was the first one to say, ‘You guys are on to something here.’”
Since the start of the pandemic, mobility startups have garnered billions in support from investors, and have raised money through special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs. BloombergNEF research found that young transport companies raised more than $43 billion in the first three quarters of 2021.
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