Joshua Kushner, the 27-year-old scion of the Kushner real estate clan, is trying to be his own man. And for him — unlike his older brother Jared, who’s running the family’s development firm — that doesn’t involve bricks and mortar.
“Josh is fiercely independent,” said Joel Cutler, cofounder of General Catalyst Partners, a Cambridge, Mass., venture capital firm and a large investor in Thrive Capital, Josh Kushner’s investment fund.
“He wants to create something that is meaningful and lasting,” Cutler added. “Coming from a family that is so entrepreneurial and has such a huge work ethic, you combine that with Josh’s smarts and integrity. … It’s natural that he wants to build his own firm. It’s part of his DNA.”
And the younger Kushner — who sits on the board of Kushner Companies, though he is not involved in its day-to-day operations — is making headlines doing just that.
Thrive focuses on media and tech, making deals from its Puck Building headquarters, a downtown landmark owned by his family’s firm. The two-year-old fund has raised $200 million and invested in dozens of startups, including Kickstarter, a crowd-sourced fund-raising site; Instagram, the photo-sharing app; Fab, an online flash sales site; GroupMe, a group mobile texting service; and Art.sy, an art-discovery app. (The founders declined to comment, as did Kushner.)
While none of Joshua Kushner’s business investments have been in real estate so far, Cutler said he’s contemplating one — with a tech twist. “I think he’s more interested in how technology intersects with the real estate world in terms of distribution,” said Cutler, who helped raise capital for Thrive. “How do you have more transparency in a world that has historically been principal- and broker-driven? … He has a few investments he’s contemplating.”
Kushner’s taste for headline-making deals, alongside his family pedigree and Harvard education, has generated attention. His late-stage investment in Instagram, just before it was purchased by Facebook, was especially sexy. Instagram was valued at $500 million when Thrive invested, and sold days later for more than $1 billion. Though the numbers sound huge, most venture capitalists look for at least five times return on investment. And some in the startup world criticized it as a deal made on the others’ coattails.
Other investors are more generous. “The deals he’s in are showing good momentum,” said Charlie O’Donnell, a partner at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures. “Certainly if you’d ask Josh about his deals, he’d say, ‘We’ll see how things go.’ Only time will tell.”
O’Donnell also called Kushner a “down-to-earth and smart guy.” He added, “he never talks about his family. Everybody else seems to make a bigger deal about it.”
Still, Kushner’s upbringing and summer jobs at Vornado and SL Green Realty while an undergrad may shape his investment choices.
“Real estate guys always believe you’ll make money as long as you value the deal right,” says Cutler. “I think that’s a carry-over for Josh.”