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There's a new venture fund founded by a former DJI and Tesla engineer and an ex-Kleiner partner

  • A filing on Thursday said Catapult is aiming to raise $50 million.
  • The partners are Rouz Jazayeri from Kleiner Perkins and Darren Liccardo from DJI.
Handout: DJI Spark
DJI

Darren Liccardo left Tesla's autopilot project in 2015 to help start Chinese drone giant DJI's Silicon Valley development center and to invest in drone-related start-ups.

Liccardo will still be making investments but now as part of his own firm.

According to a filing with the SEC on Thursday, Liccardo is aiming to raise $50 million for his first fund at Catapult Ventures, and he's teamed up with Rouz Jazayeri from legendary venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Catapult doesn't yet have a website and hasn't made any announcements. Liccardo's LinkedIn page says he left DJI in May and co-founded Catapult this month, while Jazayeri's profile shows that he's still the head of business development at Kleiner Perkins, where he spent five years after a decade at Intel.

Jazayeri declined to comment for this story because of SEC rules surrounding fundraising.

Given Liccardo's background at Tesla, DJI and before that in the technology unit at BMW, it's safe to assume that Catapult will be investing in drone technology, connected devices, autonomy and artificial intelligence.

At Tesla, Liccardo was central to the technology behind autopilot and advanced driver assist after helping start the advanced driver assist systems at BMW. In 2015, DJI nabbed Liccardo to join ex-Apple engineer Rob Schlub in opening DJI's research and development center in Silicon Valley.

According to a Fortune story in October 2015, DJI had a 12,000-square-foot facility, big enough for about 75 engineers, near Stanford's campus in Palo Alto, California. It was the Chinese drone maker's "first major effort to take advantage of American engineering talent," the story said.

Also in 2015, DJI partnered with venture firm Accel for the SkyFund to invest in robots and drone technology. Accel invested in DJI in a $75 million round that valued the company at about $8 billion.

Liccardo hasn't said why he left DJI. Nor has Schlub, who departed in December and is now doing consulting work, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Catapult's tentative address is in Los Altos, California. We can expect to hear more in the coming months.