Feb 18, 2020 - Economy & Business

Building a new Playground Global, after Andy Rubin

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Playground Global is rebuilding, months after the departure of controversial founder Andy Rubin and just days after the failure of its highest-profile investment, Rubin's mobile-phone startup Essential Products.

What's new: Laurie Yoler, a Silicon Valley veteran with both investing and operating chops, has joined Playground Global as its fifth general partner.

Yoler tells Axios she was recruited by several venture capital firms, but chose Playground Global because she felt it was going after some of the toughest challenges in autonomous tech and artificial intelligence. She adds that all of her conversations with Playground came after the departure of Rubin, the "father of Android" who was accused of sexual misconduct while still at Google.

"We didn't overlap and, honestly, Andy wasn't even a thought for me," Yoler says.

  • Yoler has been advising self-driving startup Zoox for several years and serving on its board. She also was a founding director of Tesla Motors.
  • Her other roles have included president of Qualcomm Labs, managing director of GrowthPoint Technology Partners, founder of Sun Microsystems' corporate venture capital unit, and product manager for what became the Visa Check Card.
  • She's maintaining pre-Playground board seats at consumer electronics company Bose and home goods company Church & Dwight (maker of Arm & Hammer products).

Yoler says that Playground has invested less than half of a $500 million second fund raised in 2016, and that she recently led a round for digital contracting startup Leaf Logistics.

Playground also recently hired:

  • Allison Braley, a marketing-focused operating partner who most recently was VP of marketing for Fair.
  • Michael Tolo, a venture principal who previously was an analyst for Australian investment firm Future Fund.

Editor's note: The story has been corrected with Playground Global's correct name and that it has five (not four) partners.

Go deeper

Peter Thiel's Founders Fund isn't really Peter Thiel's Founders Fund

Illustration: Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Charles Eshelman, Steve Jennings, and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Founders Fund has raised $3 billion for a pair of new funds, so expect a slew of headlines about how "Peter Thiel's venture capital firm" is now flush with cash.

Behind the scenes: Thiel is essential to Founders Fund, but he's not autocratic. Instead, Axios has learned that he's one of three people with veto power over most FF investments, and is unable to do a deal without approval of the other two.

2019 saw record number of female-founded startups raise venture capital

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A record number of female-founded startups raised venture capital in 2019, representing more than a 500% increase from 2010, based on new data from PitchBook and All Raise. Median valuations also hit all-time highs.

Background: The bump in global deal numbers comes amidst a (slow) increase in female venture capitalists, including those with actual checkbooks, and against the backdrop of increased exits for mixed-gender founding teams (+7% in 2019, compared to a 4% year-over-year decrease for all-male founding teams).

Zoox scouts for funding ahead of self-driving taxi debut

Zoox CEO Aicha Evans. Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Zoox is in "advanced discussions with several strategic partners and corporate investors" for its next round of funding, CEO Aicha Evans tells Axios.

Why it matters: The self-driving car developer has been especially quiet for the past year or so, and venture capital sources say the company has struggled to raise capital to fund its ambitious plans.