New Partner, New Fund, and Still Looking for Underdogs

Eric Wiesen
Oct 1, 2020 · 3 min read

When Bullpen Capital launched 10 years ago, our goal was to back overlooked entrepreneurs left behind by the latest Silicon Valley fads. COVID-19 hasn’t changed that.

We still use data to find startups in underappreciated places and industries. We still admire and back diverse founders. And we especially like working with VCs, advisors, and founders who are willing to tell us we’re wrong.

For those reasons and many more, we’re delighted to announce that Ann Lai has joined Bullpen Capital as our newest General Partner. We’re also launching Bullpen Fund V, another $130 million fund that will make post-seed and small Series A investments.

Two years ago, we set out to recruit a new General Partner. Like many firms, we needed someone with an investor’s mindset, an ability to connect with founders, and experiences and knowledge that would complement our capabilities. Unlike other firms, though, we wanted someone who looks at a company coming off its fourth frustrating VC meeting of the day and thinks, “Here is someone I can help!”

Ann is everything we hoped to find in a GP. She is a tireless advocate for founders and is their first call when something goes wrong. She’s a true expert in the use and understanding of data, which is critical to Bullpen’s approach. She’s been an investor and an operator and brings both sensibilities to our team.

After we met Ann through a friend, she sent us a company she advises: Hemster. We didn’t get it at first. On-demand tailoring? Why?

Ann, in a reasonably polite (but not too polite) way, told us we had this all wrong. It’s a data company. Look again, this way. We did, and we got it. We led the investment, partnered with Ann on a variety of data projects, and asked her to represent Bullpen on Hemster’s board.

That was a year ago. Since then, we’ve learned time and again that Ann is unstoppable when she has conviction, utterly willing to stand up for her point of view. She also tends to be right again and again.

Why is Ann so good at spotting opportunities others miss?

For one, she’s a PhD-wielding mechanical engineer who uses her skills not to make those look-how-smart-we-are VC infographics (you know the ones), but to recognize untapped potential in companies like Bellhop, Havenly, Skiplagged, Sure, and 30+ other startups. Point being, Ann is a data scientist, not a data dogmatist. She differentiates between the metrics that catch everyone’s attention and the less straightforward numbers that represent what is really happening inside of a business. She emerges from the data with stories and context, not trite observations about MRR.

Economic turbulence hasn’t changed who we are and what we do. We’re the same team +1, and Fund V will invest in the underdogs, just as Bullpen always has.

At the risk of being trolled on Twitter, we’ve made these announcements because a) we’re excited, and b) we want to hear from founders who have been underestimated by other VCs and want a fair look. We don’t care where you’re located, what school you attended or how unsexy you have been told that your industry is.

Get in touch. And be ready to tell Ann, ok, you’re right about [fill in the blank]. You’ll thank her later.

Sincerely,

Eric Wiesen & The Bullpen Team

Bullpen Capital

The Leader in Post-Seed Funding