Serial entrepreneur Justin Kan, best known for co-founding Twitch, Justin.tv and Socialcam, has left his position as a partner at Y Combinator to start his own startup incubator program.
The venture is called Zero-F — think ‘zero to funding’ — and the idea, Kan told TechCrunch, is to take a very hands-on approach to building new startups in Silicon Valley.
“I joined YC to recover from the brain damage of starting companies,” he said in an interview. “But I want to get back more towards what I like doing, which is starting companies.”
Zero-F is starting out with an initial three companies: Whale, the Q&A video app that Kan helped launch late last year, online pharmacy startup ScriptDash, and one as-yet-unnamed venture that Kan said “will revolutionize the way law firms work.”
The idea is to introduce two to three new businesses per year, with Kan working to build out teams that can take promising ideas and turn them into tangible services. While each project varies, Kan sees himself pitching in on initial recruitment, design of prototypes, KPI thinking, structure and raising money, among other areas.
“Early-stage startups are all about the founders and team. I want to partner with people who are hungry and have the raw skills to build the app and get it out there,” Kan said.
Kan is funding the venture himself — he doesn’t plan to bring in money from others — with a plan to invest between several hundred thousand and one million dollars to kick off new projects. Beyond just initial financing, he said he wants to build businesses that, when ready, can go out and raise money from other investors, leveraging, of course, the relationships that he has developed as both a founder and an investor.
YC, for one, is down as a supporter of the new initiative.
“Y Combinator is excited to work with Justin as he launches this new startup incubator. He has been an amazing YC entrepreneur and mentor and we are confident that he will continue to help founders create billion dollar startups for years to come,” Michael Seibel, the program’s CEO and a Justin.tv co-founder, said in statement.
Besides YC and the Twitch exit to Amazon for close to $1 billion, Kan is a pretty prolific angel investor who has backed more than 60 startups, including his brother Dan’s startup Cruise Automation, which sold to GM for more than $1 billion. While Kan said that his portfolio commitments “are not anything like a full-time job,” he doesn’t intend to dive in as an executive officer on Zero-F projects. From talking to him, the blueprint seems to be the way he has worked with Whale.
“With Whale, I’m like the first user,” Kan explained. “My feedback is around my experience as a content creator. I like to help set the KPIs in a certain direction and identify areas to work on from a content creation standpoint.”
Kan said he invested an initial $200,000 into Whale, which also raised $500,000 more from angel investors. The startup began as a music-focused project before pivoting to a Q&A app based largely on Kan’s own experience and usage of Snapchat — which he began using prolifically last year.
The initial Zero-F team consists of Kan, Nick Cortes, who has worked with Kan for more than two years, and a marketing consultant. According to its website, the business is currently hiring for a program manager and a full-stack engineer to build out its numbers.
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