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‘Community-Driven’ Investing Fuels Interlock Capital

Drawing from their experience founding startups and angel investing, Al Bsharah and Neal Bloom launched their venture fund Interlock Capital with two goals in mind – be unique and be accessible. 

Bsharah and Bloom have known each other for over a decade through various programs in the startup community. Both have experience founding companies; Bsharah founded Email Copilot, which was acquired by Seismic Software, and Bloom founded Portfolium, which was acquired by Instructure. Both also desired to become bigger players in the investing world.

 

“I’ve been a founder and early-stage operator of companies for 20 some years,” Bsharah said. “And doing that, I’ve always personally wanted to be an investor but couldn’t always write the big checks required, let alone a whole bunch of them to get good diversification.”  

A year and a half ago, the pair brought in 40 investors from their respective networks, set up an LLC and invested in startup online arts and crafts retailer Crafter.

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“It worked out great and we just kept doing more of them,” Bsharah said, adding that in the past 18 months they have done 17 deals involving 270 investors and raising $3.6 million in capital. “It’s moved rapidly and we’ve gotten a lot more interest than we initially thought we would.”

 

With a growing network asking to invest more but with the ease of writing a single check rather than a series of checks for one-off syndicates, Bsharah and Bloom decided it was time to grow into a venture firm.

 

An Involved Network

 

Interlock Capital started its venture fund “a few months back” and have raised $3 million of a $10 million fund, mostly from the network they had from their syndicates, Bsharah said.  

But with Interlock, investors do more than just write checks. “It’s a very community-driven organization,” Bsharah said. “Our investors, who we call venture partners, do far more than just invest capital.”  

As part of the community-driven approach, investors make themselves available to the companies they invest in with expertise and networking. On the Interlock website, investors and startups share profiles of what they do and have expertise in to better match talents with needs.

 

“It came from when we were raising funds and we met with high net-worth people who didn’t have expertise in things we were building and we thought we could matchmake better by making sure we understand our investment base group first,” Bloom said, adding that the community-driven approach saves time by only focusing on companies where there is some knowledge or expertise within the network of their respective industries. “Let’s only help the companies we know we can assess appropriately and invest in because of conviction, because the experts have said, ‘Yep, I like this company. I’m putting money in and then once you cut the check we can do even more.’”  

“We’ve had five or six people from our network for companies become full-time advisors and we’ve had one person become a full-time employee,” Bsharah added. “So we know we’re bringing some real value to the table for these companies.”

 

One of the companies that Interlock has invested in and has benefited from its network of advisors is Verity, a San Marcos-based packaging firm specializing in reusable metal containers for the beauty and personal care industry.

“Neal and Al are incredible community builders. They have brought together a group of value-add investors, many of whom are successful founders themselves,” said Verity CEO Kerri Leslie. “Having investors on your cap table who were also founders is a huge benefit to any startup. They can put themselves in your shoes. They are always respectful of your time, and they love to problem solve. The best part about working with Interlock is the network of founders who essentially become an extension of your advisory board.”  

Accessible Investing

 

In addition to growing the network of advisors for the companies Interlock invests in, the fund also wants to grow the pool of investors by making it accessible “not just to seasoned angel investors who have the capital and know what they are doing but also to aspiring angel investors,” Bsharah said.

 

For the one-off syndicate investments, the entry point for accredited investors is $1,000 per person per deal, Bloom said.  

“We want people to not think about the dollar amount as a way of investing but learn to almost index yourself – invest in a bunch and learn a lot about yourself and do a gut check on that,” he added.

 

To invest in the venture fund, the minimum is $100,000 through the next month as it gets to first close on capital and then will increase at that point to get to $10 million quicker. The goal for the fund is to invest in 40 to 50 companies, including follow-on rounds. Interlock plans to start building successive funds every two to four years.

 

Bloom said Interlock is “incredibly agnostic” in what industries to invest in. To date, Interlock’s portfolio includes deals weighted heavier in tech, green and clean energy, and food tech.  

“But we got streaming deals and nanotechnology deals and semiconductors and we did a sports team and education and training and VR – so we’re all over the map,” he said, adding that investment opportunities usually follow the available expertise in the network.

 

Transparency

 

Another aspect of Interlock’s goal of accessibility to investing is its transparency dashboard located on its website.

 

In addition to providing metrics like number of companies invested in, capital deployed, number of venture partners and sizes of investments, the dashboard also tracks diversity metrics of both the companies invested in and the ventures partners.

Interlock Capital

Founded: 2021

Managing Partners: Al Bsharah, Neil Bloom

Capital raised: $3 million

Companies funded: 15

Investors: 270

Website: www.interlock.capital

Notable: Interlock’s portfolio includes diverse investments from plant-based meat substitute company Impossible Foods to professional soccer club San Diego Loyal.

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