She Made an Early Bet on Tesla. Here’s What Nancy Pfund Sees Now

By Brian Eckhouse
August 12, 2019

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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