Evan Fisher, BBA ’17: Launching an Investment Fund to Back the Crypto Economy
Since a young age, Evan Fisher, BBA '17, has loved following the markets. Throughout his academic and professional career, he's searched for a way to merge that love for investing with something that would make a real impact on society.
Fisher sees cryptocurrency as a vehicle for meaningful social, political, and economic change over the coming decades. He left his investing role at one of the largest global venture funds, Insight Partners, to devote his full effort towards accelerating that future. Today, Fisher is the founder and general partner of Portal Ventures, and is launching his over $30 million debut fund to invest in and support ambitious crypto founders at the earliest of stages.
Business as the impetus for social and economic change
When Fisher started at the University of Michigan in 2013, he had interests across other disciplines outside of business, including physics, philosophy, and economics. He wasn't sure what path he would take, but he was confident that Michigan would help him succeed.
His first year at the university, Fisher joined the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity and found his home in a community on campus.
“Through conversations and mentorships within AKPsi my first year, I realized that Michigan Ross was where I wanted to spend my time,” said Fisher.
Fisher applied to the Ross School of Business in the second semester of his first year. In the summer of 2014, an internship with a startup in Tel Aviv, Israel, opened his eyes to the power of startups. He met founders that viewed the world as something malleable.
As a result of that internship and his experiences at Michigan Ross, Fisher realized he could leverage the incentives of capitalism to use business as a vehicle for social change. He became interested in understanding how the worlds of business and impact intersect.
That interest led Fisher to take social entrepreneurship classes with Professor Michael Gordon, including one in which he worked with the founder of a social enterprise to empower business owners in Detroit.
“Profitable and competitive businesses can uniquely coordinate both human and financial capital at scale. I realized I wanted to spend my time and energy in industries with game-changing positive externalities,” said Fisher.
From traditional venture capital to cryptocurrency
After graduation, Fisher joined the Investment Banking Division of Goldman Sachs where he advised on mergers and acquisitions, public markets activism, SPACs, and more.
In early 2019, Fisher left Goldman to join Insight Partners, which today manages over $90 billion in capital across growth software. At Insight, Fisher sourced and diligenced investments in fintech, software, and internet, across geographies including North America, Europe, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. He worked on investments where checks ranged from as little as $5 million to as much as hundreds of millions.
All the while, Fisher continued to go deeper into crypto in his free time, spending his nights and weekends consuming the latest protocol design and playing with new primitives. He soon realized that he needed to find a way to devote his full energy to the industry.
In 2020, Insight began investing in crypto-focused companies such as FTX and TaxBit, but Fisher still wanted to work with early stage businesses and founders. This led to his decision to spin out and launch Portal Ventures in 2022.
“With Portal, I’m fortunate to be able to focus all my energy on finding and supporting the most ambitious crypto founders at the earliest of stages,” said Fisher. “My scale and focus helps me take a hands-on approach to help them on their journey. The success of the businesses and protocols I back will be catalysts to the larger impacts crypto will have over the coming decades.”
After investing, he helps the founders work through strategy, go to market, value capture, roadmaps, hiring, internal culture, and more.
Support from the Michigan Ross community
Fisher has greatly benefited from the support he’s received from other Michigan Ross alumni — from landing internships in undergrad, job hunting, and partnering on business deals — it is something he believes has contributed to his career success.
“The Michigan community is a really robust one, and also one where people love rolling up their sleeves to help others,” said Fisher.
When he first started at Insight, Fisher found a supportive environment among other U-M graduates. In particular, Ian Sandler, LSA ’96, COO of Insight, met with Fisher on his first day to offer his mentorship. To this day, Fisher will still meet with Sandler for guidance on portfolio construction, LPs, and more.
Moreover, Fisher has found support in the Michigan Ross alumni base.
While working with Insight, Fisher read a Michigan Ross article about TJ Nahigian, BBA ’09. In an effort to connect with more people across venture capital, he reached out to Nahigian, formed a friendship, and within a couple months he had invested in one of Nahigian’s portfolio companies. Over the years, the two alums have made even more investments together.
Curiosity is a compass
Along with his experiences at Michigan Ross, Fisher credits his own curiosity for motivating him to found Portal Ventures. Throughout his career, he has always pursued what interested him the most.
“What I’m most proud of is trying to always operate as genuinely, authentically, and thoughtfully as possible. The reason venture is something I enjoy is because I get to support founders who are viewing the world as malleable, and I get to help them arrive at their destination sooner,” said Fisher. “I love being a supporting character for so many people who are trying to morph the world.”
To those who are considering business school or just starting out in their careers, Fisher’s advice is simple: “Just follow your curiosity. It’s really simple advice, but it’s advice that — looking back across every step — for me holds true.”