Nancy Pfund has been turning ideas into businesses for most of her life. Soldering wires with her inventor father instilled an affinity for entrepreneurs that drew her to venture capital. Pfund made early investments in companies such as Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. and in 2008 spun off a “double-bottom-line” fund—focusing on both profits and social impact—from JPMorgan Chase & Co. San Francisco-based DBL Partners, where Pfund is co-founder and managing partner, has raised a total of $750 million across four investment pools. Here, Pfund, 63, describes what she’s learned and where she’s investing now.
Brian Eckhouse: How did you find your way to venture capital?
Nancy Pfund: I didn’t know what venture capital was when I was in college. I was very interested in innovation and policy and tech. I worked at Intel for a few years after business school and then moved to San Francisco. There weren’t any tech companies there back then, which is hard to believe, but there were a few VCs and investment banks that were funding tech companies. I joined Hambrecht & Quist in 1984 as a securities analyst. But I switched a few years later to venture capital after realizing that I was much more interested in private companies than public stocks.
BE: What drew you to cleantech and policy?
NP: Well, my father was a patent attorney and an inventor. My mother was very involved in campaigns and policy. While in college at Stanford, I was part of a student group to identify whether gas prices were transparent. My first job out of college was with the Sierra Club, and I worked with Stanford Medical School on biotech policy. So it’s always been in my DNA, kind of that intersection of where technology, innovation, and the environment meet policy.
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