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Former top Vision Fund executive swaps own fund for gutter company

Jeff Housenbold, a former top executive at SoftBank’s Vision Fund, has halted fundraising for his own venture capital fund and will instead become the head of a company best known for its gutter coverings.

Leaf Home, an Ohio-based company majority owned by the private equity firm Gridiron Capital, said Housenbold had joined the company as president and chief executive. The company projects it will make $1.5bn of revenues this year and plans to enter public markets as soon as the first half of next year.

Housenbold said he met the heads of Gridiron through a mutual friend, and informal conversations about Leaf Home led to formal discussions about a role at the company.

“I started discussing it with my wife, a couple of mentors and my advisers, and everyone was like, ‘Hell yes’,” he said.

The move is an unexpected departure from venture capital for Housenbold, who was behind some of the Vision Fund’s largest bets on companies such as the meal delivery service DoorDash and the bankrupt construction start-up Katerra.

Housenbold said he would likely cap his fund, Honor Ventures, at $100m and make up to five investments. He said he would continue to oversee the fund and did not rule out eventually returning to running it full-time.

Honor had secured $300m of commitments from SoftBank and wealthy individuals before targeting large institutions, Housenbold said. Before joining SoftBank in 2017, Housenbold served as chief executive of the photo publishing company Shutterfly and worked as an executive at eBay.

Leaf Home claims to be the largest gutter protection company in the US, with its flagship LeafFilter product installed by more than 900,000 customers. The company has also expanded into other lines of home improvement, such as elderly care installations and water filtration systems.

Revenues at Leaf Home grew by more than 80 per cent to $1.1bn last year as Americans spent more time at home during the pandemic, according to numbers viewed by the Financial Times. The company made revenues of $99m in the 12 months before it was acquired by private equity buyers for about $150m in 2016. Jeff Beck, the former chief executive, will stay on in the role of chief growth officer.

Housenbold said Leaf Home had the potential to become more “tech-enabled” by using new data analysis tools and systems to better co-ordinate delivery visits. He said the company generated about 30 cents of cash for every dollar of revenue, giving it room to pursue acquisitions.

“Just like eBay is not a technology company and DoorDash is not a technology company — they’re tech-enabled direct-to-consumer companies — I see Leaf Home in a similar vein,” he said.

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