For many venture capital firms, subjects like disinformation and surveillance, user privacy, and online ownership rights are tangential to their startup investment strategies. However, for new fund manager Zoe Weinberg and her fund, ex/ante, these issues are everything. ex/ante has raised $33 million to focus on “agentic tech” — a term they define as technology that relates to human agency and rights in the digital age.
The Fund’s Background
ex/ante was spun out of Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic venture arm of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. It will invest in pre-seed and seed stage startups and has already gained the backing of major industry players, including Cendana Capital, Marc Andreessen, the Ford Foundation, and Union Square Ventures.
Tackling Global Issues
Weinberg, a Brooklyn-based former NGO aid worker and policy wonk, has positioned ex/ante to tackle daunting global issues from internet-based threats to democracy to intellectual property in the era of AI-generated deep fakes. The goal is to build tools that advance a positive vision of the world.
Weinberg’s partner in the fund is Michael Mosier, a former top lawyer at crypto startups and a former official in leadership roles at the U.S. Treasury and Department of Justice. The duo will look to invest in companies in traditional categories such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, fintech, and web3.
ex/ante has already made nine investments, including deep-fake detection startup Reality Defender, consumer identity company Lockr, and self-custody business Webacy.
Praise and Support
The launch of ex/ante has been praised by Eric Schmidt, who believes that technology for the next era must protect and advance democratic values. Schmidt and his wife Wendy Schmidt, through Schmidt Futures, have incubated and supported the launch of ex/ante.
Weinberg’s journey to founding ex/ante was shaped by her experiences abroad and domestic. Working in the developing world, she saw how technology could be both beneficial and restrictive for local citizens. Back in the U.S., she worked for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and gained further degrees from Yale and Stanford.
Building an Investment Vehicle
In 2020, Weinberg joined Schmidt Futures with the idea of building an investment vehicle that could accelerate technology while making democracies more robust and resilient. Weinberg and ex/ante split off on their own and attracted a diverse group of limited partners.
Weinberg’s approach to investing is focused on privacy, user protection, and societal impact. She understands the convenience and potential creepiness of certain technologies but also emphasizes the risks of inequality and misuse. Weinberg’s expertise in data security and privacy has made her a valuable asset for startups like Anon.
An Ideological Ally
ex/ante’s mission-driven approach and policy positions have positioned the fund as an ideological ally for founders. Its focus on privacy, civil liberties, digital sovereignty, and democracy appeals to different spectrums within the tech sector.