Nearly a decade ago, Enrique and I set out to invest in early-stage companies that solve design gaps in industries like financial services, healthcare, and business software. Today, across our two funds, we’ve invested in over 60 companies. Designer Fund companies have a combined value of over $80B and include:
- Stripe is providing the financial platform for millions of companies, processing more than $640B in payments in 2021 alone.
- Gusto is trusted by over 200k small businesses in the US to help them run efficient HR, payroll and healthcare benefits.
- Netlify allows small teams to have the technical infrastructure traditionally reserved for only the biggest tech companies and is now used by over 2.5M developers.
- Omada Health is helping over 500k people improve their health through behavior change and integrated care.
- Forma is serving over 300k people with flexible life benefits to improve their wellbeing.
As more design-centric companies like these have succeeded, the venture ecosystem is finally starting to embrace the importance of design. There are more founders that value design, more investors that see the ROI, and more examples of design helping to create multi-billion dollar business outcomes.
However, despite this progress, the need for good design has increased exponentially. The problems we face today are daunting: climate change, a global pandemic, and economic instability to name a few. Additionally, startups taking on these problems have complex system design challenges that require a new level of product and design execution.
So, while we’re once again at an inflection point for design and the startup ecosystem, we believe exceptional founders and designers will rise to meet these challenges and we must be there alongside them.
Today, we're announcing our new $40M Fund III. This fund continues our mission of backing exceptional founders and empowering them with design to improve the world. We’ll continue to invest in early stage companies with founders who value design that solve major user experience gaps in legacy industries like financial services and healthcare. We'll also be pursuing opportunities where design can help unlock the power of frontier technologies like AI/ML, climate tech, and blockchain.
We’ll be investing $500K - $1M primarily in early-stage companies, pre-seed through Series A, to become their design partner for the long haul. This includes helping our companies hire great design talent, providing them with expert design advice, and connecting them to our community of design leaders they can call upon.
Designer Fund was one of our seed stage investors who've been with us for a large part of our journey. They’ve always been incredibly supportive, including helping with design hiring and interviewing as well as thinking through the role of design in our organization. They even went as far as helping design our Series A deck back in the day which led to 5+ term sheets!Matt Billman, CEO, Netlify
Today, we're also launching Designer Fund Partnership, the best investment and design support offer for early stage startups including:
- Average investment of $500K for 5%
- Monthly design sessions focused on the most common questions and challenges early stage startups face with design
- Membership to Designer Fund Collective’s growing community of top founders, designers, and advisors
- Professional development opportunities including events and trainings like our Business Value of Design and Designing Stories workshops
- An inclusive and streamlined application process
We're codifying the best practices we've learned over the past decade helping companies excel with design and creating a more inclusive way for founders to partner with us without needing a referral.
We hope this will lead to Fund III having more companies like Forma, who reached out with a cold email. Max and Jason started a benefits platform that now serves over 300k employees at companies like Square, Stripe, Twitch, Unity and many others.
Designer Fund Partnership applications are now closed. Join our newsletter to get notified when applications open up in the future.
Thanks for taking time to review our MVP today. One of our team members said ‘it always amazes me what designers are able to see on a product, it's like they're all wearing 4D glasses’ which I think says it all.Gloria Lin, CEO, Siteline
With this new fund we're raising the bar for the type of impact we want to see in the world. One trend we’ve seen is that the best founders and employees want to ensure their companies have a positive impact on the world. In Fund III, we will invest in companies that focus on:
- Sustainability: Replace legacy and harmful products with more efficient and renewable solutions.
- Health: Increase wellbeing by preventing disease and improving the cost and delivery of care.
- Prosperity: Create pathways, tools and infrastructure to give more people access to economic growth.
It’s rare to find an investment firm that prioritizes and understands design like Designer Fund. In working with them, we found the support we needed to build the product and brand we envisioned. When it comes to building impressive and impactful products, hiring talented designers, or helping navigate growth, there is no one better than Designer Fund.Max Hsieh, Co-founder & CTO, Forma
Additionally, we're continuing to grow Designer Fund Collective, our community of hundreds of founders, advisors, and design leaders who are committed to improving the world with good design. We regularly come together through discussions in our private Slack workspace, virtual events, and in-person gatherings around subjects ranging from scaling early stage design teams to driving business impact through design. We’re already seeing Designer Fund Collective help many more founders and designers create exceptionally designed products, teams, and businesses than our team could alone.
Designer Fund Collective includes leaders like:
- Alissa Briggs, Director of Design at Autodesk Construction
- Dan Becker, Head of Product Design at Instagram
- Diógenes Brito, Head of Design at Air
- Tomer London, Co-founder of Gusto
- Tiffany Chu, Co-founder of Remix
- Joe Robinson, Co-founder and CEO of Hummingbird
Though we aren't currently accepting new members, join our newsletter to get updates about Designer Fund Collective.
Finally, we'll continue to open-source knowledge and create opportunities for founders, designers, and investors from diverse backgrounds to thrive in the startup ecosystem. To date, thousands of designers have attended our talks and workshops and over a million people have read our articles and resources focused on design and startups. Moving forward we'll be releasing more resources that advocate for using design strategically, effectively and responsibly.
A few of our recent design resources
- Business Value of Design Workshop (9/19—9/23) - Gain the language, mindsets, and tools to advocate for the business value of your design work
- Designing Stories Workshop (10/17—10/21) - Learn how to persuade stakeholders at all levels by telling compelling stories that inspire action
- Design for Business Impact - 15+ case studies on the power of design to create business success
When we set out to build Designer Fund, we hoped that we would:
- Help build the next generation of great companies founded by founders that value design
- Accelerate the growth of thousands of designers, and
- Contribute to fundamental infrastructure to help designers succeed in tech
While we believe we are well on our way towards achieving these goals, there is much more work to be done. To all the people that believed in us along the way and supported us with your time, knowledge, or resources, we are eternally grateful. Let’s use design to create the world we want for generations to come.
– Ben, Enrique, Robyn, Dave, and Mamie