Fueling the Innovation Economy @ DFJ Growth

DFJ Growth
DFJ Growth News
Published in
5 min readOct 12, 2021


by Randy Glein and Barry Schuler, co-founders and partners, DFJ Growth

The Foundation

We conceived DFJ Growth more than 15 years ago with a singular vision: Partner with extraordinary entrepreneurs and assist them on their journey to build iconic companies. We theorized that high-growth tech companies would benefit from staying private longer, driving to achieve greater predictability and scale before accessing the public markets. We believed entrepreneurs could benefit from engaged investors who bring experience and expertise to the table with operational skills to navigate through hypergrowth. And we had conviction the tech sector was poised to produce companies with far-reaching impact and unprecedented economic value. This would be our blueprint for growth-stage investing, a modern extension of the traditional venture capital industry.

Our Journey

We’ve invested in 75 companies and have seen our hypotheses prove truer than we could have imagined. We’ve built our firm during an era bookended by the Great Financial Crisis and the global COVID pandemic. Our background, combined with decades of prior operating experience, positions us to help companies navigate dynamic market environments. We’ve partnered with the most transformative companies of the past decade, including Coinbase, SpaceX, Stripe, Tesla, Twitter, Unity, and others, often as the first growth investor.

Much has changed since 2005. The tech markets have taken center stage as a driver of the global economy, and capital has flooded into tech markets, searching for returns associated with that trend. The growth stage financing market has grown and segmented, attracting new entrants with varying approaches.

Building on our foundation, we’ve continued to hone our strategy as present and engaged investors, acquiring crucial experience and knowledge that allows us to deliver value to current and future generations of visionary founders.

The Next Chapter

We are thrilled to announce our fourth core growth fund, DFJ Growth IV. We are grateful for all our investors who believe so deeply in our shared mission. This pool of capital, totaling nearly $1 billion, fuels our relentless pursuit of bold innovation and unbounded technological advancement. The stakes are high as we deploy this capital deliberately to deliver progress and prosperity for our society. If this sounds ambitious, it is.

We apply the same lens on ourselves as the entrepreneurs we back — bold vision, ambitious teams, and unwavering drive to succeed. While we are in the business of delivering outsized returns to our investors, we do so together with the mission of delivering real impact.

The venture and growth capital markets have experienced massive market expansion in recent years. An abundant supply of capital has emerged during the unprecedented bull market. New investors have poured into the tech sector. As laws of supply and demand dictate, valuations have escalated, and our cottage industry of venture capital has become more competitive. We march forward, remaining true to our mission while proudly partnering with nine companies in our new fund already, including disruptors like Alchemy, Hopin, and NotCo.

How do we compete? With great people. Experience, knowledge, domain expertise, brand, reputation, and good old-fashioned relationship building are byproducts of the team we put on the field. Like the companies we invest in, our people are our primary asset.

Expanding our Team

We’ve been nurturing an investment thesis that embraces the convergence of technology and life sciences for several years. We believe LifeTech presents tremendous opportunity for broad and sustained societal impact in the coming decade. To take advantage of this wave of innovation and opportunity, we welcome Justin Kao as our new partner at DFJ Growth. Justin is an incredible talent we’ve known for many years, first as a business school classmate of our partner Sam Fort, next as an entrepreneur who we backed at his genomics startup Helix, and most recently as a venture capital investor we have been collaborating with. We are honored Justin has chosen to join us. He brings valued and relevant experience as a founder, engineer, and investor, along with insatiable intellectual curiosity, enormous energy, and passion for innovation, hallmarks of DFJ Growth’s culture.

Justin Kao joins the DFJ Growth team as an investment partner.

We also love to build and grow our team from within. We work hard to provide a team-oriented culture grounded in collaboration and mentoring, allowing our team members to learn, grow, and flourish. Today we proudly announce the promotions of Sam Shapiro and Kevin Tu to the position of principal, where they will make even greater contributions to our firm and our portfolio. Congratulations to Sam and Kevin for this well-deserved recognition!

Our Guiding Principles

Armed with a new fund and an experienced team, this is a moment worth reflecting on the principles that continue to guide us. In that vein, we’ve composed a few of the tenants that define our approach and characterize our promise to give our best to the entrepreneurs and investors we serve:

  • We are bold investors who partner with visionary entrepreneurs in pursuit of extraordinary outcomes. We dream big, not tainted by conventional wisdom or beholden to the status quo. We have a long-term horizon and are committed to leveraging technological innovation to drive positive societal change.
  • We are builders. We are innovators. We are entrepreneurs, operators, and technologists. We are experienced and engaged mentors, advisors, and partners for entrepreneurs. We are present and active investors. We are connectors. We are leaders, not followers.
  • We play to win with fearless ambition but remain grounded in first-principles approaches. We invest in innovation cycles and see the future a decade forward. We are thesis-driven, highly selective, and operationally minded. We prepare thoroughly. We are deliberate and act with conviction.
  • We are principled. We are passionate and intensely loyal. We work tirelessly on behalf of our companies.

This is who we are. We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in the innovation economy and proud to partner with the world’s greatest visionaries and innovators.