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‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Author Starts VC Fund Backed by Peter Thiel

Lizette Chapman

(Bloomberg) -- 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 startups 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 the former head of AOL, Steve Case. 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.

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 Association, a trade group. Funds in those states more than tripled their cash from 2004 to 2018. During the same time period, Ohio firms 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.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lizette Chapman in San Francisco at lchapman19@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Milian at mmilian@bloomberg.net, Anne VanderMey

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