Accolade Partners’ Joelle Kayden

From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing May 24, 2021

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Raising a $200 million fund to invest in venture and growth funds led by women and diverse managers was a “herculean effort,” Accolade PartnersJoelle Kayden tells Women’s PE Briefs. But despite the challenges of getting institutional investors to commit to such a fund of funds, Joelle is hopeful that others will also do it.

“It’s super exciting,” she said. “I’m thrilled and I want more people to do this. It’s nice to have first mover advantage, but the more capital that’s deployed against these opportunities the better it is for all of us in my view.”

Accolade, which Joelle founded in 2000, has $2.9 billion under management and has long focused on backing early-stage venture and growth equity funds. In fact, in December, the Washington, D.C.-based firm closed its seventh flagship fund of funds at $300 million and its first dedicated growth equity fund of funds at $280 million. Firms that Accolade has backed include Accel-KKR, Andreessen Horowitz and Thoma Bravo.

Joelle said the “confluence of a couple of things” led to Accolade deciding to raise a fund dedicated to women and diverse managers – one she admits wouldn’t have succeeded five years ago. One reason for the new fund was that Accolade was seeing a critical mass of firms being formed by “some amazing women” such as BOND’s Mary Meeker, Oak HC/FT’s Annie Lamont and Acrew’s Theresia Gouw. In fact, Accolade has assembled a list of some 150 firms that would meet its criteria. A second rationale for the fund was that Accolade took notice of the fact that women were leaving established firms to form new firms. Dayna Grayson, for instance, left New Enterprise Associates to form Construct Capital with Rachel Holt. And a third reason was simply the responsibility that Joelle felt as a woman founder and owner. “As a woman-owned firm, we need to do this,” Joelle recalled saying. “It’s imperative, important and long overdue.”

Accolade will use the fund – Accolade Empowerment Fund LP – to serve as the anchor investor in first-time institutional funds. The funds that Accolade will look to back must be seeking $25 million or more and, says Joelle, her firm needs to have met the managers in person. To date, the firm has backed the funds of seven managers – five of whom have a woman founder. They are: Moxxie Ventures, which was founded by Katie Jacobs Stanton; Leadout Capital, which was founded by Ali Rosenthal; Biospring Partners, which was co-founded by Jennifer Lum and Dr. Michelle Dipp; Clearhaven Partners, which was co-founded by Michelle Noon; and Acrew, whose founding team includes, in addition to Theresia, Lauren Kolodny. The other two firms whose funds Accolade’s new fund has backed are Footwork and Base10 Partners.

Joelle said she is hopeful that this fund is “the first of many.” We, she said, “want to make sure we have a stellar performance.” Joelle has spoken at both the Women’s Private Equity Summit and the Women’s Alternative Investment Summit.

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