When BeyondHQ founder Madhu Chamarty started raising funding for his startup that helps businesses decide how to expand their office footprints in November, a former boss backing his idea connected him to a Silicon Valley insider named Elizabeth Weil.
A former Twitter executive, operating partner at Andreessen Horowitz and partner at secondary firm 137 Ventures, Weil had struck out a few months before to start her own firm, Scribble Ventures. The ultra-marathoner, letterpress printing side-business owner and mother of a six-year-old and four-year-old twins wrote back immediately that Chamarty’s idea was one she could have used sorely at Twitter. It was 8:30pm on a Saturday. Weil said she could talk right away. Within 45 minutes, Weil said he could count Scribble in — and bring in several of her high-profile friends. “Consider your round done,” Weil told him.
“It was kind of like the original magic of Silicon Valley,” says Chamarty, who is now finishing closing the round — three or four of Weil’s network of investors included — as a convertible note. “She said something I hear a lot of VCs say, but it was incredible to see the follow-through.”
Such are the retro ambitions at Scribble Ventures, the firm founded in March 2020 by Weil, Annelies Gamble and Weil’s husband, Kevin. Scribble, which just closed its first fund of about $42 million, looks to write relatively small initial checks into early-stage startups at the pre-seed, seed and occasionally Series A rounds, with 18 investments made so far in companies like BeyondHQ, Nearby, the local business-boosting startup led by former Slack COO April Underwood, and Certn, a background-check startup that raised about $22 million in November.
Scribble is a new fund, but the Weils are well-known in Silicon Valley’s tech corridor. They met on the triathlon team at Stanford, where she received an undergraduate degree in economics and a master’s degree in engineering, and he a master’s in physics. At her urging, she says, Kevin joined a fledgling startup called Twitter in 2009 to build its analytics team; Elizabeth, who had cut her teeth at VC firm Menlo Ventures, followed six months later to work in corporate and business development, among other roles. After four years, Elizabeth moved to Andreessen Horowitz as an operating partner connecting portfolio companies to big corporations, then an investing role as a partner at 137 Ventures, a secondary firm. Kevin Weil left Twitter to run product at Instagram in 2016, before moving over to run parent company Facebook’s crypto product efforts two years later.
Along the way they made about 100 angel investments, including many started by ex-Twitter employees, such as Digits and Envoy, but also high-flyers like Coinbase, Postmates and Slack. Elizabeth Weil had met Gamble in a 6am spin class years before. An accomplished runner in her own right, Gamble worked stints at Barclays and as an early team member on Dropbox’s product analytics team before investing for four years at WTI. She and Weil became frequent brainstorming partners on the trails near Weil’s home in the Bay Area’s Portola Valley. “We joke now that we were on the world’s longest job interview for each other,” Weil says.
Realizing that she most enjoyed working with small entrepreneurial teams, Weil left 137 Ventures in January 2020 to work on Scribble; she and Gamble raised the fund through the Covid-19 altered summer on distanced walks and over Zoom, from successful tech founders, fellow venture capitalists, family offices and a handful of small institutions.
Writing $250,000 to $500,000 initial checks, Scribble has backed 18 companies so far, with plans to invest in about 40 — while saving half its capital to double down on emerging winners — from its first fund. Weil and Gamble, a Forbes 30 Under 30 alumna, are its two full-time partners, with Kevin, still a vice president of product overseeing Facebook’s digital wallets platform Novi, as “operator in residence literally down the hall.”
While her former employer Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia and other firms look to preempt rounds in their winners and build big positions, Weil’s confident they’ll make room for Scribble, which she bills as “operator investors with a collaborative mindset.” The market has plenty of large-sized funds with ownership expectations, and solo investors with intriguing rolling funds but capital limits to their checks, she says; Scribble can slot in between. “Where is that collaborative check like old venture used to be?” Weil says. “We actually like tech. We like the Valley; still like a lot of things that are very uncool right now.”
One key difference, several founders backed by Scribble tell Forbes, is that in an age of performative Twitter threads on startup building, Scribble’s ex-Twitter executives focus on problem-solving and actionable connections, not telling founders what to do. “They actually are really good people,” says Grant LaFontaine, cofounder of Whatnot, a startup building live auction or QVC-like selling tools for streamers. “I just think that’s a huge differentiator.”
When Andrew McLeod was finishing up raising the seed funding for Victoria, British Columbia-based Certn in early 2020, he had stopped taking meetings when he heard from two investors, Adam Bain and Katie Jacobs Stanton, that there was one more team of fellow ex-Twitter leaders he needed to meet. Reluctantly, McLeod met Scribble — then quickly made room for the firm to write a small check into the seed.
By November, Certn was raising a highly competitive Series A. McLeod made more room for Scribble this time to write a larger check, and asked Weil to join his board of directors. Along the way, Weil said she wanted to send McLeod something. “She said, I do letterpress printing, and I’m like, I don’t know what that is, I’m 33,” McLeod says. Custom thank you cards, hand-printed by Weil, arrived in the mail. The founder says he uses them all the time.
“It’s like I have a superhero on my board,” McLeod says now. “You can’t run that far, and do that much, unless you’ve got a special power.”