Initiative

Announcing the Leonis Venture Studio Program

Announcing the Leonis Venture Studio Program

Our initiative to support AI founders at the earliest stage, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds.

August 31, 2023

We are excited to announce the launch of a new initiative at Leonis Capital — our AI Venture Studio program. Designed with the express intent to cultivate, nurture, and support the growth of early-stage startups, this program aims to partner with technical founders who exhibit great promise at the start of their entrepreneurial journey. In particular, we have a strong interest in supporting founders from underrepresented groups. We at Leonis Capital see immense potential in passionate founders and this program aims to provide them with the guidance, support, and capital they need to thrive.

Our AI Venture Studio program is designed to be highly selective. Unlike a traditional incubator/accelerator that works with hundreds of startups at a time, we work with up to 2-3 technical founders at any one time. Other than the initial capital, Leonis Capital will act as a founders’ “founding COO” and will help you with anything and everything from company formation, market research,  product feedback, and customer intros. We aim to support the next round of fundraising from top-tier VC firms.

What Does the Venture Studio Program Offer?

Our Venture Studio Program brings together the best of venture capital and active partnership in a comprehensive package that aligns with the needs of today's startups. Here are the details:

  • We offer a funding amount ranging from $150k  to 1.5M. The funding amount is based on the founder and the stage at which they join the venture program. As we are looking to partner with founders at the idea stage, we expect most funding to be sub-$750k  — enough for a founder or small founding team to have runway for a year while developing their company.

  • We're targeting an initial ownership of ~20% — a number we believe strikes a balance between the founder's autonomy and our early investment (both financial and operational). Leonis’ partnership with these start-ups aims to offer co-founder-level value with the addition of meaningful early capital.

  • We'll be working with a maximum of 3 startups per year to ensure that our focus, resources, and support are distributed effectively. We understand that at this early stage, support can be critical and we want to be viewed as the best resource a founder can engage with — so we will keep our availability open for those in the venture program.

  • The duration of the program is set at one year, allowing us to truly engage with your business and contribute to your strategic goals.

  • Mentorship for diverse founders from underrepresented groups — We on the Leonis team have all been fortunate to be given the opportunity to break through via mentors who took us under their wings and bet on us. We need to do the same, particularly for minorities in tech.

In addition to capital, we offer a variety of value-added services tailored to suit each startup's unique requirements:

  • Operations support: We will assist with hiring, introducing potential customers, and managing internal operations. This is an area where we think we can add the most value. We are aggressive about making intros to hiring candidates and potential customers and look at adding value above and beyond just capital.

  • Product feedback: We provide assistance to help you build your MVP and iterate on your ideas. We’ve been founders ourselves, and know the process, ups and downs, and challenges you’ll face along the way.

  • Legal support: Founders can utilize our legal back office for legal needs.

Venture Studio Program Fit

In our quest to discover the next generation of AI pioneers, we seek out founders who embody a unique set of qualities:

  • Passionate about AI innovation: We are drawn to founders who live and breathe AI and have a desire to uncover groundbreaking possibilities within the realm of AI.

  • Highly technical experts: Our ideal founders boast a robust technical background, ideally with experience in engineering or AI research.

  • Entrepreneurial drive: Thriving in the early-stage environment requires a unique blend of grit, determination, and visionary thinking.

  • Long-term value creators: We prioritize founders who focus on creating lasting value rather than chasing fleeting hype. Building ventures with sustainable impact lies at the core of our mission.

  • Open-minded collaborators: Collaboration is at the heart of the venture studio program. We value founders who embrace diverse perspectives, are willing to debate, and are truth-seeking.

  • AI safety and responsible governance advocates: In addition to technical brilliance and innovation, we actively seek founders who prioritize AI safety and responsible governance in their endeavors. We believe that as the potential of AI grows, so does the importance of ensuring its ethical and secure implementation.

If these qualities describe you, then you could be the perfect fit for our highly selective program. In addition to looking for these qualities, we pledge to invest, in aggregate, at least 50% of our venture studio capital into underrepresented founders, including founders who are female, LGBTQ, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, and other underrepresented minorities in tech.

We are also particularly interested in AI startup ideas in these three areas:

  • AI-powered verticals: If you have a bold vision to disrupt traditional industries with AI-driven solutions, we want to hear from you. Whether it's healthcare, finance, logistics, or any other vertical, we are intrigued by startups that leverage AI to create transformative advancements and make a positive impact within specialized domains.

  • Enterprise SaaS: We believe AI will disrupt the next generation of enterprise SaaS solutions. Whether it's optimizing workflow efficiencies, streamlining data analytics, or enhancing customer experiences, we are excited to support startups that aim to drive innovation and productivity in the corporate world.

  • Developer tools: Founders who are dedicated to empowering developers with cutting-edge tools are of great interest to us. We seek entrepreneurs who envision a future where AI and software development are accessible and efficient, fostering a thriving community of developers.

We are also excited to hear about projects outside of these core focus areas — we understand that groundbreaking ideas can emerge from unexpected places. If you have a unique and innovative AI startup idea that challenges the status quo and pushes the boundaries of what's possible, we encourage you to share it with us.

Our Selection Process

To ensure the most effective partnership, our selection process is carried out in four stages:

  1. We'll present the Venture Studio option to pre-seed or even idea-stage companies.

  2. We'll thoroughly research the sector the startup operates in, considering the market opportunity, competitors, and potential go-to-market strategies.

  3. The entire Leonis team will meet with the founders to decide on the potential partnership.

  4. We'll engage in a trial period, during which we'll understand your team and market better while also showing you the value we can bring to the table.

We understand the uncertainty and challenges that often accompany the early stages of startup development. Therefore, we are committed to providing all of the support detailed above during the trial period, so that the founding team can feel comfortable that the decision they’re making to partner with Leonis is right for them.

Advisor and Corporate Strategic Network

We have high expectations of the value that we can provide our founders. One aspect of that value is tied to the unparalleled support through our extensive advisor and corporate strategic network which comprises advisors, experts, founders, and investors

Examples of people in our advisor network that have deeply engaged with our companies

  • AI: AI Lead @Nvidia, Head of ML @Upstart, AI Team Lead @OpenAI, AI Lead @Meta

  • Founders: Founder @Upstart, Founder @Sleeper, Founder @Lime, Founders @Current PortCos

  • Venture: Partner @YC, Founding Partner @ Top-tier Venture Fund, Head of Data Science @Google Capital G

This network gives our founders unparalleled access to insights and perspectives from across the tech industry. Our founders are able to tap into a wealth of knowledge and expertise, stay ahead of the curve, and succeed.

You will also become part of the Leonis family of portfolio companies, which include a diverse range of companies ranging from seed- and pre-seed-stage startups (just like yours!) to well-established public companies. This interconnected ecosystem is designed to provide you with invaluable opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and market insights, propelling your AI startup toward success and growth.

Ready to Leap into the Future Together?

We at Leonis Capital are thrilled to embark on this new journey, offering a launchpad for the startups of tomorrow. Our Venture Studio Program presents a unique blend of financial investment, operational support, and a deep partnership. We are eager to work alongside passionate founders and cannot wait to see the incredible innovations they bring to life.

For more information or to express your interest in our Venture Studio Program, please reach out to us (partners@leoniscap.com)

Let's leap into the future together!

We are excited to announce the launch of a new initiative at Leonis Capital — our AI Venture Studio program. Designed with the express intent to cultivate, nurture, and support the growth of early-stage startups, this program aims to partner with technical founders who exhibit great promise at the start of their entrepreneurial journey. In particular, we have a strong interest in supporting founders from underrepresented groups. We at Leonis Capital see immense potential in passionate founders and this program aims to provide them with the guidance, support, and capital they need to thrive.

Our AI Venture Studio program is designed to be highly selective. Unlike a traditional incubator/accelerator that works with hundreds of startups at a time, we work with up to 2-3 technical founders at any one time. Other than the initial capital, Leonis Capital will act as a founders’ “founding COO” and will help you with anything and everything from company formation, market research,  product feedback, and customer intros. We aim to support the next round of fundraising from top-tier VC firms.

What Does the Venture Studio Program Offer?

Our Venture Studio Program brings together the best of venture capital and active partnership in a comprehensive package that aligns with the needs of today's startups. Here are the details:

  • We offer a funding amount ranging from $150k  to 1.5M. The funding amount is based on the founder and the stage at which they join the venture program. As we are looking to partner with founders at the idea stage, we expect most funding to be sub-$750k  — enough for a founder or small founding team to have runway for a year while developing their company.

  • We're targeting an initial ownership of ~20% — a number we believe strikes a balance between the founder's autonomy and our early investment (both financial and operational). Leonis’ partnership with these start-ups aims to offer co-founder-level value with the addition of meaningful early capital.

  • We'll be working with a maximum of 3 startups per year to ensure that our focus, resources, and support are distributed effectively. We understand that at this early stage, support can be critical and we want to be viewed as the best resource a founder can engage with — so we will keep our availability open for those in the venture program.

  • The duration of the program is set at one year, allowing us to truly engage with your business and contribute to your strategic goals.

  • Mentorship for diverse founders from underrepresented groups — We on the Leonis team have all been fortunate to be given the opportunity to break through via mentors who took us under their wings and bet on us. We need to do the same, particularly for minorities in tech.

In addition to capital, we offer a variety of value-added services tailored to suit each startup's unique requirements:

  • Operations support: We will assist with hiring, introducing potential customers, and managing internal operations. This is an area where we think we can add the most value. We are aggressive about making intros to hiring candidates and potential customers and look at adding value above and beyond just capital.

  • Product feedback: We provide assistance to help you build your MVP and iterate on your ideas. We’ve been founders ourselves, and know the process, ups and downs, and challenges you’ll face along the way.

  • Legal support: Founders can utilize our legal back office for legal needs.

Venture Studio Program Fit

In our quest to discover the next generation of AI pioneers, we seek out founders who embody a unique set of qualities:

  • Passionate about AI innovation: We are drawn to founders who live and breathe AI and have a desire to uncover groundbreaking possibilities within the realm of AI.

  • Highly technical experts: Our ideal founders boast a robust technical background, ideally with experience in engineering or AI research.

  • Entrepreneurial drive: Thriving in the early-stage environment requires a unique blend of grit, determination, and visionary thinking.

  • Long-term value creators: We prioritize founders who focus on creating lasting value rather than chasing fleeting hype. Building ventures with sustainable impact lies at the core of our mission.

  • Open-minded collaborators: Collaboration is at the heart of the venture studio program. We value founders who embrace diverse perspectives, are willing to debate, and are truth-seeking.

  • AI safety and responsible governance advocates: In addition to technical brilliance and innovation, we actively seek founders who prioritize AI safety and responsible governance in their endeavors. We believe that as the potential of AI grows, so does the importance of ensuring its ethical and secure implementation.

If these qualities describe you, then you could be the perfect fit for our highly selective program. In addition to looking for these qualities, we pledge to invest, in aggregate, at least 50% of our venture studio capital into underrepresented founders, including founders who are female, LGBTQ, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, and other underrepresented minorities in tech.

We are also particularly interested in AI startup ideas in these three areas:

  • AI-powered verticals: If you have a bold vision to disrupt traditional industries with AI-driven solutions, we want to hear from you. Whether it's healthcare, finance, logistics, or any other vertical, we are intrigued by startups that leverage AI to create transformative advancements and make a positive impact within specialized domains.

  • Enterprise SaaS: We believe AI will disrupt the next generation of enterprise SaaS solutions. Whether it's optimizing workflow efficiencies, streamlining data analytics, or enhancing customer experiences, we are excited to support startups that aim to drive innovation and productivity in the corporate world.

  • Developer tools: Founders who are dedicated to empowering developers with cutting-edge tools are of great interest to us. We seek entrepreneurs who envision a future where AI and software development are accessible and efficient, fostering a thriving community of developers.

We are also excited to hear about projects outside of these core focus areas — we understand that groundbreaking ideas can emerge from unexpected places. If you have a unique and innovative AI startup idea that challenges the status quo and pushes the boundaries of what's possible, we encourage you to share it with us.

Our Selection Process

To ensure the most effective partnership, our selection process is carried out in four stages:

  1. We'll present the Venture Studio option to pre-seed or even idea-stage companies.

  2. We'll thoroughly research the sector the startup operates in, considering the market opportunity, competitors, and potential go-to-market strategies.

  3. The entire Leonis team will meet with the founders to decide on the potential partnership.

  4. We'll engage in a trial period, during which we'll understand your team and market better while also showing you the value we can bring to the table.

We understand the uncertainty and challenges that often accompany the early stages of startup development. Therefore, we are committed to providing all of the support detailed above during the trial period, so that the founding team can feel comfortable that the decision they’re making to partner with Leonis is right for them.

Advisor and Corporate Strategic Network

We have high expectations of the value that we can provide our founders. One aspect of that value is tied to the unparalleled support through our extensive advisor and corporate strategic network which comprises advisors, experts, founders, and investors

Examples of people in our advisor network that have deeply engaged with our companies

  • AI: AI Lead @Nvidia, Head of ML @Upstart, AI Team Lead @OpenAI, AI Lead @Meta

  • Founders: Founder @Upstart, Founder @Sleeper, Founder @Lime, Founders @Current PortCos

  • Venture: Partner @YC, Founding Partner @ Top-tier Venture Fund, Head of Data Science @Google Capital G

This network gives our founders unparalleled access to insights and perspectives from across the tech industry. Our founders are able to tap into a wealth of knowledge and expertise, stay ahead of the curve, and succeed.

You will also become part of the Leonis family of portfolio companies, which include a diverse range of companies ranging from seed- and pre-seed-stage startups (just like yours!) to well-established public companies. This interconnected ecosystem is designed to provide you with invaluable opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and market insights, propelling your AI startup toward success and growth.

Ready to Leap into the Future Together?

We at Leonis Capital are thrilled to embark on this new journey, offering a launchpad for the startups of tomorrow. Our Venture Studio Program presents a unique blend of financial investment, operational support, and a deep partnership. We are eager to work alongside passionate founders and cannot wait to see the incredible innovations they bring to life.

For more information or to express your interest in our Venture Studio Program, please reach out to us (partners@leoniscap.com)

Let's leap into the future together!

Leonis [leōnis]: Latin for “Lion Strength”. Alpha Leonis is one of the brightest and most enduring stars in the Leo star constellation.

© 2023 Leonis Capital. All rights reserved.

Leonis [leōnis]: Latin for “Lion Strength”. Alpha Leonis is one of the brightest and most enduring stars in the Leo star constellation.

© 2023 Leonis Capital. All rights reserved.