This Year’s Biggest Startup is a $1.85 Billion Hedge Fund

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Are hedge funds out of the woods?

Two ex-Citadel traders just blasted through their funding target to make their new venture the biggest startup of 2023, sources told Bloomberg Tuesday. That’s right–the biggest startup so far this year is not an AI company, or any tech company for that matter but hails instead from an industry that’s been practically presumed dead.

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Hedge funds’ live-fast-and-die-hard business model means most last only a few years. In the past five years, more than 2,500 hedge funds have folded, while roughly 2,100 launched, Bloomberg reported. And just last year, the industry lost more than $200 billion, the biggest single-year decline since 2008, according to LCH Investments data.

While the sector remains sluggish, a few outliers have appeared, including London-based Ilex Capital Partners:

  • The firm led by ex-Citadel traders Jonas Diedrich and Dave Sutton started trading with client assets of $1.85 billion on July 1, a source told Bloomberg. And the firm is likely going to add a few more hundred million in capital before they stop accepting money on August 1.
  • Ilex stands out in a generally uncomfortable market. According to the Alternative Investment Management Association’s quarterly Hedge Fund Confidence Index, the average measure of confidence among managers dropped by 2.1 points quarter-over-quarter.

“The macroeconomic uncertainty that dominated the narrative in [the first quarter] continues,” the report said. “Stubbornly high inflation levels (especially in the UK) and noises from central banks that they may hike rates further are adding to the melee of factors impacting confidence levels among hedge funds.”

Hey, Big Spender: Ilex isn’t alone in impressive fundraising among new hedge funds. In January, Mala Gaonkar’s SurgoCap Partners launched with $1.8 billion in client assets. And later this year, Todd Barker, another Citadel defector, is expected to kick off Freestone Grove Partners with more than $2 billion. All of this stands in contrast to a shaky venture capital market, with Pitchbook reporting that global VC funding dropped 48% in the first half of 2023.