NVCA Member Spotlight: Tusk Venture Partners

Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we give a profile overview of our many diverse members. For this deep dive, we spoke to Jordan Nof, Managing Partner and co-founder of Tusk Venture Partners, to learn more about his firm.

Tell us about your firm. What makes it different?

My co-founder, Bradley Tusk, and I have different backgrounds. He spent most of his career in politics, and I was building my career as a professional venture capital investor. We came together and started Tusk Venture Partners when we realized no other firm understood the regulatory risks early startups would face as they continued to grow. We developed a thesis and playbook of investing in highly regulated markets and have been doing so for the past five years.

Together, our backgrounds allow us to understand regulatory risk better than any other fund and offer founders a platform that helps our portfolio companies execute against those risks like no other venture capital firm can.  Our portfolio includes some of the most transformative technology companies across fintech, transportation, and digital health sectors.

What defines your portfolio?

We are an early stage venture capital firm that invests in companies operating in highly regulated markets or is creating new business models where a regulatory framework may not exist yet. We are conviction-driven investors, which is apparent when you look at our concentrated approach to portfolio construction. A common thread you will see across the portfolio is what we call the “Tusk Edge.” With one look, most investors and founders can tell what a “Tusk deal” looks like. Some portfolio companies include Lemonade, Ro (or Roman), Bird, FanDuel, Coinbase, Sunday, Alma, Wheel and Latch. We believe that the days of VCs providing a plain vanilla “platform” are over, and the most successful VC funds of the next ten years will offer specific expertise, demonstrating that they are truly differentiated capital.

How is the firm different today than when you first started?

When I first partnered with Bradley, Tusk Venture Partners didn’t exist. We were entrepreneurs launching a new business, with a differentiated product, at a time when many VCs shied away from regulated industries altogether. We were, and still are, the only venture capital firm that sits at the nexus of technology, politics, and regulation. However, today, regulatory risk has become somewhat unavoidable for the most aspirational companies. The level of interest in politics has increased dramatically, which is very different from when we first started this firm. Although we have grown as a firm, our mission and values remain the same – it’s in our DNA.

Why is your firm a part of NVCA?

We are part of NVCA because they are an organization that stands up for the entrepreneurs we support and the ecosystem we live in. They understand politics and policy, and how they will potentially impact startups and the tech community. We joined in 2017 after our first fund was created and have been thankful for all the support we have received from their team and connecting to the larger venture ecosystem.

Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.

While our investment team is fully based in New York, we haven’t ever allowed geography to define us as investors. In fact, the boards I sit on span the U.S. and include New York, Texas, and Colorado. During the pandemic, we’ve seen the VC landscape “flatten.” It used to be that fundraises would be structured around geographies with trips to each coast to pitch a predetermined docket of investors. Funds and individual investors might have relatively stronger local networks, but no one is playing that game while stuck at home, and many are dislocated. So at least for now, geography just feels less relevant for our relationships with other investors and the deal environment.

What’s ahead for your firm in 2021?

As an emerging manager, we are very much in growth mode right now. We’re consistently challenging ourselves to build the next generation top-tier venture capital firm. This means bringing on new talent, continually questioning the status quo, working on new initiatives to support our portfolio companies, and pushing ourselves to evolve. As you can imagine, a new administration taking over in Washington is a significant shift in our operating environment. This is going to be a big year for us – stay tuned!

Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less.

Honest, intense, energized, curious, scrappy.

As the Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy at NVCA, Devin plays a central role in NVCA’s communications operation, communicating with key constituencies in the entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as enhancing NVCA’s brand in Washington, D.C. Devin develops and executes on the organization’s communications and public relations strategies and creates media content to support them.