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‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author starts VC fund backed by Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen

Venture capitalist and author J.D. Vance, center, shakes hands with Tim Cook, right, chief executive officer of Apple, at the Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference in 2017.
Venture capitalist and author J.D. Vance, center, shakes hands with Tim Cook, right, chief executive officer of Apple, at the Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference in 2017.
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

With backing from Peter Thiel, Eric Schmidt, Marc Andreessen and other Silicon Valley kings, best-selling author J.D. Vance is spinning up a new Ohio-based venture capital firm.

Vance’s Narya Capital has raised $93 million from investors for its first fund, with plans to raise as much as $125 million total, according to a regulatory filing. The firm will invest in young start-ups in the fields of science and advanced technology with a typical check size between $5 million and $10 million, said a person familiar with the plans. It will eschew consumer-focused businesses, the person said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.

The fund reunites Vance and Thiel, who worked together on a venture fund called Mithril Capital. After the release of Vance’s hit memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” he joined a fund started by Steve Case, former head of AOL. Vance took a page from Thiel’s book by selecting a name for his new firm from the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, as Thiel did for several of his companies including Mithril and Palantir Technologies Inc. Narya Capital is named for the ring worn by the wizard Gandalf in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Vance declined to provide a comment on the new fund, citing regulatory restrictions around fundraising. The news was reported earlier Thursday by Axios.

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While there are many venture firms in the U.S., little investment goes toward companies based outside coastal cities. California firms had $228 billion under management in 2018, and New York had $56 billion, according to the National Venture Capital Assn., a trade group. Funds in those states more than tripled their cash from 2004 to 2018. During the same time period, Ohio investments increased 25% to $1.5 billion.

Vance’s move extends his quest to reinvigorate the country’s heartland, a topic he wrote about in “Hillbilly Elegy” and then practiced while investing on behalf of Case’s Rise of the Rest Fund. Vance started Cincinnati-based Narya Capital with Colin Greenspon, a colleague from Mithril and Rise of the Rest. They will work with Falon Donohue, the former chief executive of VentureOhio who joins Narya Capital as partner.


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