08: From the CIA to Google to 400+ pre-seed investments, first and early to define pre-seed - Charles Hudson, Precursor

Hailing from Michigan, Charles developed an early obsession with the public markets in high school. Charles Hudson is now the Managing Partner at Precursor Ventures, a pre-seed venture fund that has defined and has become synonymous with “pre-seed”. Charles is known for his ability to identify and mentor early-stage companies that have the potential to disrupt their industries - first and early - including companies like the Athletic (acquired by the NY Times for $550M), Bobbie (recently raised a $70M Series C), Carrot Fertility (recently raised $75M Series C) and Pair Eyewear (recently raised $75M Series C).

Charles writes checks of $250k - $500k at Pre-seed and Seed. He is a Generalist with a focus on digital health, media, and software.

  • The boomerang back to VC: Charles shares his unique path from Michigan to Silicon Valley, starting in VC, then moving to Google and various startups before returning to VC.
  • Founding Precursor Ventures: Charles spotted an opportunity to invest in non-obvious founders pre-product and pre-revenue while other firms moved upstream in 2015. This made him one of the first in a second wave of pre-seed firms to launch, and 10 years later, he’s become the go-to first funder.
  • Evaluating Founders vs. Ideas: Charles is a founder-first investor (founder 70%, idea 30%). He shares his criteria for assessing talent and reveals indicators of success that have generated alpha in his portfolio.
  • Investment Strategy over Trends: Even in the face of trends like crypto, AI, and the economic downturn, Charles stays steady and focused on people and his definition of pre-seed, not morphing with industry shifts.

Follow Charles Hudson on Twitter: @chudson
Read Charles’ blog on Substack
Learn more about Precursor Ventures: Precursor Ventures
Connect with Charles Hudson on LinkedIn: Charles Hudson

Connect with Us:
Follow the First Funders Podcast
Newsletter with behind-the-scenes access and key takeaways
Twitter/X: @shaherose | @avirani
Email us with feedback and suggestions on topics and guests

Disclaimer: This is for information purposes only. This is not investment advice.

  • (00:00) - Intro
  • (00:52) - Early Days and Building Community
  • (03:09) - Interning at Smith Barney to the CIA's Venture firm
  • (08:59) - Embracing Risk and Independent Thinking defines a solo GP
  • (11:05) - Operating Experience As Product Manager, then Business Development at Google and a Return to VC
  • (16:50) - Charles' first role as an advisor surprisingly had a $300M acquisition by Paypal
  • (19:55) - Joining Softech (now Uncorked) in 2010 when Seed investors were known as Super Angels
  • (21:10) - Launching Precursor to fill the gap created by Super Angel Funds going upstream and defining a new category - "pre-seed"
  • (23:50) - First Investments: the role of macro tailwinds and headwinds
  • (27:57) - Evaluating Founders 70% and Ideas 30%
  • (31:03) - The Role of Business Model Innovation in Generating Alpha
  • (33:25) - Learning from Challenging Investments: If you don't know its ok, but say something
  • (38:01) - Staying True to Your Investment Strategy
  • (40:44) - Charles' best investment: The Athletic, acquired by the New York Times for $525M
  • (45:55) - How he Decides: Evaluating Founders and Their Potential, Weird Patterns, Product Velocity, Remote Teams
  • (51:38) - Current Investment Strategies, Focus Areas and Check Sizes
  • (53:25) - Following High-Potential Talent vs. Investing Theses: People vs. Market vs. Product Evaluations
  • (57:00) - Speed Round

Creators and Guests

Aamir Virani
Aamir Virani
Helped 50+ orgs grow product and scale teams.Software Engineer ➡️ Product Manager ➡️ Founder (Nest Cam fka Dropcam) 🔀 Investor, CRE, Founder@pifgov 2021
Shaherose Charania
Shaherose Charania
Venture Investing at @CakeVentures and @joindvc | Always helping founders | Raised on Atari, MS-DOS, Bollywood & Hip Hop. 🇨🇦in 🇺🇸
Charles Hudson
Charles Hudson
Managing Partner @precursorvc. Fan of @chelseafc @lafc @lions and all things Michigan. Most days in Jackson Square in SF. I invest $250-500K at pre-seed or seed
08: From the CIA to Google to 400+ pre-seed investments, first and early to define pre-seed - Charles Hudson, Precursor
Broadcast by