Bridgewater Associates director of investment research Karen Karniol-Tambour has joined the board of CircleUp as an independent director, according to its new chief executive officer Nick Talwar.
Karniol-Tambour officially became a board member this week, Talwar told Institutional Investor in a phone interview. “She and I are already in very close collaboration with each other,” he said.
Founded in 2012, CircleUp provides venture capital to consumer-product companies. The San Francisco-based firm uses discretionary and systematic investing strategies in the private market.
Karniol-Tambour’s experience in “systematic investment-related processes” makes her well-suited for CircleUp’s push to build “scalable, repeatable approaches,” Talwar said. She has worked at Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund firm, for about 14 years, her LinkedIn profile shows.
A spokesperson for Bridgewater declined to comment.
Talwar became CEO of the firm this week. He replaces Ryan Caldbeck, who co-founded CircleUp and is transitioning into the role of executive chairman.
CircleUp’s board also includes co-founder Rory Eakin, Talwar, Rose Park Advisors co-founder Matt Christensen, Union Square Ventures managing partner Andy Weissman, and Deepak Kamra, a general partner of Canaan Partners, according to a spokesperson for the firm. Karniol-Tambour is the first independent director, the spokesperson said.
The firm aims to raise $275 million for its second venture capital fund, Talwar said, adding to the $125 million gathered by the first VC fund. About 20 percent of the second fund will target companies using the systematic strategy CircleUp developed with its machine-learning technology.
The firm had originally planned to raise a standalone, systematic fund in a pioneering effort to bring quantitative investing to private equity. As recently as February, CircleUp anticipated closing on $100 million by the end of June. But Talwar said the pandemic disrupted fundraising, prompting CircleUp to instead create a 20 percent “seed sleeve” of the $275 million VC fund it is targeting.
That translates into around $55 million of the fund’s investments being driven exclusively by the machine, as opposed to a human. “We’re by no means walking away from this,” he said.
The pandemic may have disrupted fundraising for CircleUp, but Talwar believes the firm naturally has an investing edge because of the machine-learning technology it uses, to various extents, across its business.
“Our company is built for this moment,” he said. “We are a digital, kind of by definition, socially-distanced approach.”