Joshua Kushner of Thrive Capital Is Nonetheless Investing

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For most of its 12 years, Thrive Capital has been known as a fast-growing venture capital firm that has closed some smart deals, most notably an investment in Instagram that doubled in value in a matter of days.

But over the past four years, the company and its 35-year-old founder Joshua Kushner have also become famous for something unrelated to the Fund’s fortunes: Mr. Kushner’s older brother Jared, a top advisor and son-in-law to President Donald J. Trump.

And while having his brother in the White House may seem like an advantage to Thrive, the main questions that arose were whether the Trump connection would affect his ability to invest in startups, especially those of liberal-minded ones Entrepreneurs are led.

That filial bond had placed Mr Kushner in an awkward position, pending requests to press his brother and sister-in-law Ivanka Trump to change administrative policies. But Mr. Kushner steadfastly refused, at least publicly.

Now that Mr Trump is out of office, that complication can be reduced. But don’t expect Mr Kushner to say much about the challenges of the Trump years or whether there is an ongoing impact on Thrive, good or bad.

He declined to comment on this article.

The Kushner brothers are close. Employees say the two moved closer together after their father, real estate developer Charles Kushner, was jailed for two years after pleading guilty to illegal campaign donations and witness manipulation in 2005. The brothers have also done business together and invested jointly in companies like Cadre, a real estate technology start-up. (The younger Mr. Kushner never officially worked for the family’s real estate business.)

Jared Kushner sold his stake in Thrive before joining the White House, and no member of the Trump family has invested in the company, according to an educated person on the matter. After leaving the White House, Jared didn’t invest in Thrive.

In public, Joshua Kushner has said little about his feelings about the Trump administration unless counting in protests like the 2017 Women’s March and the March for Our Lives next year. He has also donated primarily to Democrats over the years, including Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker.

His wife, model Karlie Kloss, has criticized Mr. Trump more openly, ranging from elliptical notices of disagreement with her in-laws on talk shows to holding a 2020 ballot with a Biden-Harris face mask. (When a Twitter user pressed Ms. Kloss to reprimand her in-laws for the January 6 riot and the unsubstantiated electoral conspiracy theories of Mr. Trump, the model replied, “I tried.”)

In his private life, Mr. Kushner made his feelings clearer. Stewart Butterfield, the chief executive of Slack, recalled that shortly after the 2016 election, Mr. Kushner called, whose fund had invested in the messaging company in the workplace earlier this year.

“I don’t remember exactly what he said,” said Mr. Butterfield, “but it was a tactful way of saying,” These are not my positions. “

Mr Kushner advocates socially liberal ideals, say employees who are interested in topics such as racial justice. “He understands that we have a real challenge from racism,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, which has invested in several Thrive funds. He praised Mr. Kushner’s work with black entrepreneurs like Ryan Williams, the executive director of Cadre.

There are also business disagreements. Mr Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act threatened the existence of Oscar, the health insurance company co-founded by Mr Kushner, which draws most of its revenue from Obamacare plans. At a private event for Oscar in 2018, Mr. Kushner concluded a recap of the year’s challenges with the joke, “We survived Donald Trump.” Then he added, “Don’t tweet this.”

But those who know Mr. Kushner say he tends not to talk a lot about politics or his brother, especially in business settings.

“Unfortunately, he had to defend his brother – not me, I don’t talk to him about that – but that has put him on the defensive at times,” said Mr. Walker.

Mamoon Hamid, a partner in rival venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins who says he is a friend, urged Mr. Kushner to speak out in vain against Jared and the government on issues such as banning travelers from predominantly Muslim countries.

“Blood is thicker than water,” Hamid said, adding that he finally stopped trying to get Mr. Kushner to act. “At some point I don’t think my conversation made any difference, and my friendship was more important.”

The brothers also stay physically close: Mr. Kushner bought a mansion in Miami last August; A few months and a presidential election later, Jared and his wife bought a multi-million dollar property just a short drive away.

Since starting Thrive in New York in 2009 at the age of 25, Mr. Kushner and his team have built a reputation as reserved, nerdy investors who prefer to scour balance sheets and strategy documents rather than populate on social media.

Mr. Kushner has also benefited from a powerful network: early supporters included Princeton University and Peter Thiel. In 2013, Thrive hired Jon Winkelried, a former Goldman Sachs president who is now co-managing director of investment giant TPG. as a senior consultant. Employees include former employees of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

Thrive’s investments include early-stage startups and so-called growth rounds in older, more established companies. Unusually, companies are also set up, including Cadre and Oscar (named after Mr. Kushner’s grandfather).

Thrive controls approximately $ 9 billion in net worth after raising $ 2 billion in two new funds last month. The company declined to comment on its financial performance. “You have consistently performed well in our portfolio,” said Mr. Walker of the Ford Foundation.

Thrive initially focused on customer-facing companies such as eyewear retailer Warby Parker and the e-commerce platform Jet. Its first blockbuster hits included Instagram, where it invested $ 500 million in a funding round in 2012, only to see Facebook agree to buy the social network for $ 1 billion 72 hours later .

Despite all of the attention that was later given to Mr. Kushner’s high profile brother, Thrive didn’t seem to change his approach in the Trump era. A big win was the sale of the online code repository Github to Microsoft in 2018. Thrive had invested $ 150 million in Github to get a 9 percent stake. The company was sold for $ 7.5 billion.

In the final days of the Trump administration, Thrive was one of the first outside investors in Vimeo, IAC’s video platform, when she led a fundraising round for the company valued at $ 2.75 billion in November. In January, Vimeo raised another round valued at $ 6 billion.

Thrive was “a bit of an underdog” when Vimeo scanned investors, said Anjali Sud, the company’s executive director. But she was convinced of what she called “this insanely dense, nuanced analysis of Vimeo and our market”.

Since then, she said, she has texted or called someone at Thrive most days for advice or guidance as they prepare to be spun off from IAC this year.

Other portfolio companies that have either sold themselves or gone public in the past few months include Slack, which Salesforce was willing to buy for $ 27.7 billion; Affirm, the e-commerce lender whose shares doubled on its debut; and Opendoor, an online home sales marketplace that appreciated in value when it merged with a blank check company.

Although the political clouds hanging over the company may have lifted, Mr. Kushner and his business are not necessarily clear.

Take Oscar, in which Thrive has a stake of more than $ 1 billion. Despite last week’s heady first offering, raising $ 1.4 billion on a valuation of $ 8 billion, the insurer’s shares fell on its first day of trading and only recently fell back on their way. The company has warned that it will not be able to make a profit for some time. Skeptics say its core insurance business is too small and limited to warrant its rating.

“Oscar’s philosophy doesn’t seem very different from the rest,” said Les Funtleyder, portfolio manager at E Squared Asset Management, which focuses on investing in healthcare. “After looking at your finances, your execution was not spectacular.”

Mr. Kushner recently lost a longtime business partner at Thrive, Miles Grimshaw, who was involved in startups like the software company Airtable. In December, Mr. Grimshaw joined the Silicon Valley giant benchmark, though the breakup wasn’t bitter.

And then there’s the possibility of politics intervening again: Mr Trump has hinted that he could run for president in 2024, and Jared could once again serve as one of his top advisors. That would renew the tests of loyalty and associated complications that the younger Mr. Kushner might have thought were behind him.

What do you think? Will Joshua Kushner’s family ties always take precedence over his ventures? Let us know: dealbook@nytimes.com.

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