Justin Caldbeck

Venture Capitalist
San Francisco Bay Area
“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done”
– Amelia Earhart

Justin Caldbeck is an American businessman, financier, philanthropist, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and former Duke University basketball player.

Justin is the co-founder of Binary Capital, a firm that raised $300m and was a GP of Binary Capital Fund I and Binary Capital Fund II. He drove early-stage investments in Dia and Co, Toss, Skiplagged, Bellhops, Havenly, Lawnstarter, Toss and many other businesses.

His institutional and personal investing track record is extraordinary. Justin is a former member of the Board of Directors at Grubhub (where he was Board Observer from 2011-2014), Stitchfix, Styleseat, Taskrabbit and Bloomreach. He has and continues to support many charities.

Prior to co-founding Binary Capital, he was a Managing Director at Lightspeed Venture Partners, a venture capital firm with over $10 billion under management. Justin joined Lightspeed in 2011 and led key early investments such as Grubhub, Stitchfix, Taskrabbit, Styleseat, Knotch and others and was a partner alongside Jeremy Liew in the initial Snapchat investment.  Aside from that, Caldbeck was an angel investor in many consumer technology companies including Good Eggs, Eightfold.ai, Winnie, Boom Supersonic, Imperfect Produce, Opendoor, Anomalie, Collective Health, and has personally participated in growth investments in Uber, Lime, and SpaceX.

Prior to Lightspeed, Justin was a Managing Director at Bain Capital Ventures.  He was responsible for opening their initial West Coast office in 2008 and led or helped drive investments in Bloomreach, LinkedIn, Tokbox, and Media Radar. Prior to Bain Capital Ventures, he was at McKinsey in Washington DC and received his MBA from Harvard Business School.

Personal Journey

Caldbeck spent most of his childhood in Shelburne, Vermont where he spent many hours dreaming of playing basketball at the professional level. Caldbeck was a big fan of the Boston Celtics, especially their team in the mid-’80s and Larry Bird and Johnny Dawkins (from Duke) were his heroes throughout his childhood.

Caldbeck attended Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, Vermont and was a multi-sport athlete that held leadership roles on each of the sports team’s that he was a member of. He was inducted into the Rice Memorial High School Hall of Fame for basketball. After graduating high school, he went to Duke University. Caldbeck joined the Duke Basketball team during their 95/96 season as a student manager but had aspirations of making the varsity team–little did he know,that dream would become a reality.

Ahead of his Sophomore year at Duke, Caldbeck was offered an opportunity to try out for the  varsity basketball team by then assistant coach, Quin Snyder. This gave Caldbeck the opportunity to practice with the team for several practices in hopes of making the team and was the result of many individual workout sessions with former coach Pete Gaudet.  Ultimately, he made the team and was able to play for the legendary Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski).  He played several years on the team and during his Senior year on the Duke basketball team, Duke went undefeated in their conference (16-0), undefeated at home (19-0), and finished their season with a record of 37-2–only losing to Cincinnati and ultimately University of Connecticut in the national championship.

Causes Caldbeck Believes In

 

Not For Sale

Caldbeck believes that human trafficking, in other words, modern slavery, is a worldwide problem that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Especially in the United States; because unlike many other issues, human trafficking is not “in your face” if you live in the USA.  However, just because you don’t see it does not mean it isn’t widespread.

Today, there are approximately 45.8 million people caught in the trap of modern slavery around the world. This includes 10 million children, 15.4 million people in forced marriage, and 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation. Even those numbers are likely understated because of how difficult it is to get accurate statistics.

Not For Sale (NFS) provides direct resources and support for those affected by human trafficking. NFS provides food, shelter, education, and healthcare to those affected by modern slavery and exploitation, investigates the local economy to see if they can pinpoint and break the cycle of poverty that makes people vulnerable to being trafficked. And partners with entrepreneurs to create businesses and social enterprises that generate sustainable, fair-wage jobs in regions affected by Human Trafficking.

Caldbeck and his wife are passionate about trying to enable victims to be empowered to get out of the recurring cycles and find outlets to learn new skills and free themselves

 

Fly Program

Caldbeck believes his life could have gone astray without the guidance of his loving parents–Diane Schweitzer and Gareth Caldbeck–who both happened to practice and understand the law.

Unfortunately, many kids end up incarcerated because of their lack of understanding and appreciation of existing laws or how to interact with legal authorities. One on one mentoring, legal education, and legal training can help millions of teenagers stay out of trouble, and prevent juvenile crime and incarceration.  Through the FLY program, Caldbeck works with a select set of schools in the Bay area to provide children with these tools and resources. Caldbeck believes society can have a big impact on laying a foundation of success for these young people if they are given the tools and resources for success.

 

Defy Ventures

More than 5 million formerly incarcerated people live in the U.S, Unfortunately, 60% of those individuals are not employed one year after they have been released. That being said, the unemployment rate is over 5x higher for formerly incarcerated people than it is for the general population.

Justin does not believe that people should be defined by the worst mistakes they’ve made–which is one of the many reasons he supports Defy. Defy is a program that works with currently and formerly incarcerated people (Entrepreneurs in training- EITs) around employment readiness, healthy habits, and job training.  Defy is a program that is incredibly impactful, individuals in the Defy post-release program have an 82% employment rate, and Caldbeck is proud to be a supporter.

 

SOUL

SOUL provides the opportunity to work with at-risk student-athletes in high school in regards to college preparation and their academics.  Helping young men become better prepared for their lives post-high school is an enriching experience for Caldbeck. The impact that society can have on at-risk students’ lives is very real, raw, authentic and can have a significant impact on their future success. 

Soul programs help high school students see improvement in several areas of life that have a direct impact on success: self-awareness, cognitive development, social norms, accountability, and risky behavior. The College Access Study Hall program in particular provides a space for student-athletes to participate in college readiness workshops and receive homework support before attending practice.

 

Where We Are Today

Today, Caldbeck spends a significant amount of his time and money on the causes he supports, and even more quality time with his four children and wife. These days, Caldbeck works as an angel investor and is always actively searching for investment opportunities in the consumer technology sector. Currently, the majority of his investments are in supporting female and underrepresented founders primarily in the United States and Africa.

To stay up to date with Justin Caldbeck or to connect with him for insight, advice, or opportunities, you can find Justin on Linkedin and Twitter.

 

Advice for Aspiring Venture Capitalists

If you are right out of school looking to work in venture capital, or you are thinking of switching careers to work in venture capital, you should start thinking like a venture capitalist now. Try to go really deep in a few thematic areas that really interest you. If you can demonstrate that you can find and identify interesting companies before they become household names you will excel in the industry. Try to identify early stage companies that are NOT just ones backed by traditional top tier firms and create a fantasy portfolio.  Include a deep dive on WHY it looks interesting to you at the stage they invest.  Talk about it publicly, or, if you can, build relationships with individual investors, and share it with them.  Ultimately, if you’re sharing opportunities that convert into deals for the firm, it’s a great way to start a conversation around joining the firm.

15 years ago it was hard to get the attention of VCs through traditional means like email but today social media offers you a platform to build a personal brand long before you meet any other venture capitalists.

 

Hardest Parts Of The Job

Venture Capital is a job with a lot of highs and lows. Some companies work spectacularly well, but most don’t. This means many people who bet on that company, you, or the opportunity, may lose money and feel like they got burned and wasted their time. At times, you may have convinced really talented people–who often with families that depend on them–to leave a stable job to take a risk because of the upside and it fails.  It can be really challenging to have these tough conversations with founders who were the perfect person to start the company but are having trouble scaling and executing at the next level.  It’s also extremely challenging when there is any feeling of misalignment between investors and founders.

 

Recommended Readings

There are a few books that Justin recommends which can sharpen your thinking and mindset regardless of profession but which he has found valuable in becoming a better investor and partner to entrepreneurs:

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight 

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

Press

Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital: 10 Tips for Entrepreneurs in 2020

Starting a business is daunting for anyone. Its one of the scariest and riskiest professional experience, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. To go from working for someone else to becoming the master of your destiny career-wise is a feeling I hope every entrepreneur gets to feel at some point in their life.

View More

Advice for Prospective Young Entrepreneurs with prolific investor Justin Caldbeck of Lightspeed and Binary Capital and Duke Basketball

For anyone considering a move from their current career into the extremely exciting world of venture capitalism, I encourage you full-heartedly.

View More

Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital: What I Learned About Entrepreneurship From Playing Duke Basketball

When I walked-on to the Duke Blue Devils Men’s Basketball team during the 1998-1999 season, I accomplished something that the national media regarded as nearly impossible.

View More