Adam, Yoo and Boyle are among those making noteworthy investments this week
From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing April 19, 2021
Adam helps lead Exeter Capital into NOBULL
Julia Adam, a principal with Exeter Capital, helps lead the Boston private equity firm into an athletic footwear, apparel, and accessory brand. Terms of Exeter’s partnership with NOBULL were not disclosed.
Founded in 2015 by a pair of Reebok veterans, NOBULL sells its footwear, apparel and accessories through its own website, permanent and pop-up stores as well as at numerous events. It is the title sponsor of the CrossFit Games and official footwear and apparel brand of Crossfit.
In a statement, Julia said that Exeter is “eager to support the management team as it continues to propel the brand in its vast addressable market.” In conjunction with the financing, Julia became an observer on NOBULL’s board. She is also an observer on the board of Daasity.
Prior to co-founding Exeter, Julia was a vice president at Advent International in the firm’s opportunistic fund, Sunley House. She also previously worked in the media and telecom group at The Carlyle Group and at Goldman Sachs.
Exeter is focused on investing in consumer-facing businesses and is comprised of a team that previously worked together at Advent International. The team includes principal Haegin Chang.
Charlesbank Capital Partners is selling Ensono to KKR
Charlesbank Capital Partners is selling a company that vice president Caitlin Riederer was involved with for a potential sizable gain. Charlesbank and M/C Partners are selling Ensono to KKR. Terms were not disclosed, but Reuters said the deal could be valued at $1.7 billion.
Based in Downers Grove, Ill., Ensono is an IT services provider. It was acquired by Charlesbank and M/C in 2015 in a $190 million deal, again according to Reuters.
Caitlin rejoined Charlesbank in 2020 after obtaining her MBA.
Earlier this year, Charlesbank closed two funds totaling $4.45 billion.
Fisher's Third Kind takes part in Itsme's $15.2M Series A round
Third Kind Venture Capital, which was founded by Shana Fisher, logs onto a social platform. Third Kind took part in Itsme’s $15.2 million Series A round, which also included Seven Seven Six, Allen & Co. and several angels.
Based in New York, Itsme centers on the creation of high fidelity, technologically advanced Avatars through which users meet, interact and grow friendships online. The app’s Avatar premise was created to make online conversations more expressive, comfortable and not dictated by physical appearance. Since Itsme launched a year ago, more than 4 million people have created Avatars.
Earlier this year, Third Kind backed TryNow, which enables consumers to easily try items at home before buying. Third Kind in 2020 backed such companies as Symbl, which has developed software to help companies generate insights from voice or text conversations and whose co-founder and CEO is Surbhi Rathore; Apparis, a vegan fashion brand founded by Amelie Brick and Lauren Nouchi; and Misfits Market, which offers subscription boxes of “ugly produce.”
Yoo leads Andreessen Horowitz into Tomorrow Health’s $25M Series A round
Andreessen Horowitz’s Julie Yoo has had a very busy 2021. Julie made at least her third investment of the year, leading Tomorrow Health’s $25 million Series A round, which also included Obvious Ventures and BoxGroup.
Based in New York, Tomorrow enables patients to get the equipment and supplies they require at home in a streamlined manner. Partnering with payors, referring providers and durable medical equipment suppliers, Tomorrow Health provides a data-driven intelligence platform to match patients with suppliers based on insurance coverage, service quality, geography and product specialization. The market the company is focused on is a big one as spending on durable medical equipment this year is expected to be more than $75 billion.
In a statement, Julie said "the home health space is still living in the Dark Ages and desperately needs an upgrade. Tomorrow Health is setting a new, patient-first standard for how we improve the process. Their holistic solution tackles each fragmented step of home health care and connects it all in one place.” In conjunction with the financing, Julie joined Tomorrow’s board.
Also in 2021, Julie led Andreessen Horowitz into Bold, a digital health and wellness service co-founded by Amanda Rees, and Firefly Health, which is developing a concierge medicine service for average Americans whose CEO is Fay Rotenberg. Also this year, another of her portfolio companies, PatientPing, agreed to be acquired by Appriss Health for a reported price of around $500 million.
Julie’s portfolio also includes Ribbon Health, a health care data platform. Julie, a general partner, is part of the investment team for Andreessen Horowitz’s $750 million biotech fund. She joined the firm in 2019 after previously co-founding and serving as chief product offering of Kyruus, a venture-backed developer of a scheduling platform for hospital systems.
Stray Dog Capital takes part in Atlast Food’s $40M Series A round
Stray Dog Capital, whose CEO is Lisa Feria, bites into a plant-based meat company. Stray Dog took part in Atlast Food Co.’s $40 million Series A round, which also included Viking Global Investors, 40 North, AiiM Partners, Senator Investment Group and Footprint Coalition Ventures, which was founded by actor Robert Downey Jr.
Based in Green Island, N.Y., Atlast uses a natural super ingredient called mycelium to grow nutrient-rich fibers that replicate the textures and mouthfeel of meat. It will use the capital to develop and supply whole cut plant-based meat to partners as well as directly to consumers through its MyEats brand. The company’s first product is a plant-based bacon that is made from just six ingredients.
In a statement, Lisa said that Atlast “is creating a new category of plant-based foods by offering whole cut options. Mycelium, Atlast's unique ingredient, is nutritious, versatile, and scalable — consumers should get ready to see a lot more mycelium in their stores and on their plates.”
Lisa’s background includes senior roles with Procter & Gamble and General Mills.
Stray Dog was founded by Jennifer Laue and Chuck Lane. Based in Kansas City, Mo., Stray Dog is a mission-driven venture firm that seeks to invest in companies that provide alternatives to the use of animals in the supply chain. Its investments include Good Catch Foods, a developer of plant-based seafood options co-founded by Marci Zaroff, and Miyoko’s Kitchen, a maker of non-dairy, vegan cheese and butter alternatives founded by Mikoyo Schinner.
Lai leads Bullpen Capital into in Pico
Ann Lai, a general partner with Bullpen Capital, invests in a company that describes itself as the “operating system for creator businesses.” Bullpen led Pico’s new funding round – the size of which was not disclosed. Pico did say it has now raised $10 million. Investors in the company include Precursor Ventures, Stripe, Bloomberg Beta and Village Capital.
Based in New York, Pico produces software that helps companies unify information about their audience in a single place. Companies use the software for such things as email collection, subscription sales and landing pages.
In a statement, Ann said Pico “has prioritized building the foundational technology that allows creators to see where their audience is coming from, who is willing to pay, and who comes back time and time again. With this ‘recipe’ of understanding, creators can cook up content, experiences, products, and community that are reliably optimized for conversion and interest.”
Ann joined Bullpen last year as a general partner. She has been an advisor to startups. Bullpen, a San Francisco venture firm, closed its fifth fund last year at $130 million.
The Drawdown Fund’s Laura Witt invests in Mori
The Drawdown Fund’s Laura Witt invests in a food technology company focused on reducing waste and creating more sustainable supply chains whose prior investors include The Engine, whose managing partner and CEO is Katie Rae. The Drawdown Fund led Mori’s $16 million Series B round that also included Knollwood Investment Advisory and such prior investors as Acre Venture Partners, Prelude Ventures, Refactor Capital and Closed Loop Partners.
Based in Boston, Mori uses salt, water and heat to harness the attributes of natural silk to create an edible, undetectable, protective layer that can be applied to the surfaces of both fresh and shelf-stable foods. This, in turn, adds flexibility to the supply chain, improves food access and enables a reduction in both food and packaging waste.
In a statement, Laura said that Mori is “explicitly focused on addressing major problems in the food supply chain. We’re confident that Mori will have a significant impact on reducing the 1.3 billion tons of global food waste while adding tremendous value to its customers.”
Laura is a general partner with the Drawdown Fund. She previously was a general partner at ABS Capital. Managed by Tiger Grass Capital, the Drawdown Fund invests growth capital to scale businesses that reverse global warming by sequestering carbon dioxide or reducing emissions. The firm was inspired by the book: “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plans to Reverse Global Warming.”
Boyle leads General Catalyst into Hallow’s $12M round
Believing the impact of the pandemic will lead more individuals to seek out religious insights, General Catalyst’s Katherine Boyle invests in a Catholic meditation and prayer app. General Catalyst led Hallow’s $12 million round.
The subscription-based app Hallow features more than 1,000 guided meditations, prayers, chants, songs, and reflections from Catholic figures. Since its release in 2018, Hallow has led users through nearly 10 million prayers.
In a blog post, Katherine writes that she met the company’s founder, Alex Jones, when she was judging a venture event at Stanford Business School. His pitch, she wrote, “was among the most contrarian and counter-cultural narratives I’ve heard.” And despite the well-publicized drop-off in attendance at Catholic churches, Katherine sees an upside for Hallow. In her blog post, she wrote that “while the media and demographers predict increasing secularization, Hallow is leading the way in showcasing a counter-narrative: that Americans are engaging with the divine in a different way than previously defined, and that prayer is more powerful and widespread than ever.” She adds that “while it’s hard to create a cathedral in an app, Hallow has built a powerful and rapidly growing community— a guide for the perplexed, the seeking and those who choose to practice greater engagement with their faith.”
Earlier this year, Katherine led General Catalyst into Titan, which is building an operating system for active investment management. Katherine joined General Catalyst in 2016 and has sourced or led investments in Anduril, Nova Credit, Spring Discovery, Vannevar Labs and Osmind, whose co-founder and CEO is Lucia Huang.
General Catalyst in 2020 closed on three funds, totaling $2.3 billion, including $600 million for its tenth early-stage fund.
Playground Global’s Laurie Yoler joins the board of Saltbox after leading $10.6M round
Playground Global’s Laurie Yoler joins the board of Saltbox after backing the provider of warehouse space for small businesses and e-commerce merchants. Playground Global, according to TechCrunch, led the Atlanta company’s $10.6 million round, which also included XYZ Venture Capital, Wilshire Lane Partners and existing investors Village Global and MetaProp.
Saltbox was created to address a big challenge for online entrepreneurs: finding a place to store items. The company also provides logistics services, packing stations and the ability to rent equipment. It has facilities in the Atlanta and Dallas areas and is looking to expand into the Seattle, Denver and Los Angeles markets.
In a post on LinkedIn, Laurie said she is “thrilled” to be joining Saltbox’s board “as they empower fast-growing e-commerce entrepreneurs with the workspace they deserve.” An active angel investor and former president of Qualcomm Labs, Laurie joined Playground Global in 2020 as a general partner. Also in 2020, a company that she advised, Zoox, a self-driving startup, was acquired by Amazon.
Messerschmidt guides Lightspeed Venture Partners into Level’s $27M Series A round
Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Jana Messerschmidt guides the firm into a company that she backed as an angel investor – a company that’s out to make employee benefits as simple as cash. Lightspeed and Khosla Ventures, according to TechCrunch, led Level’s $27 million Series A round, which also included Operator Collective, angels and prior investors First Round Capital and Homebrew.
The New York-based company, as Jana writes in a blog post, is looking to “rebuild benefits” with a “laser focus on the consumer (i.e. employee) experience.” Level is initially focusing on dental and vision and is offering plans in which everything is 100 percent covered. There are no copays or deductibles. Level also represents a means, wrote Jana, for employers “to stand out.” It currently has more than 10,000 members. Seeing great promise in the company, she says that “companies like Slack and Dropbox were the consumerization of the enterprise. Robinhood consumerized finance. Level will consumerize the $100 billion plus benefits space.”
Jana’s Lightspeed investments also include Runway and The Nudge.
KKR invests in Adopt A Cow
KKR, whose technology strategy in China is led by Karen Zhang, will seek to milk returns from a direct-to-consumer Chinese dairy company. The amount invested by KKR and DCP Capital in Adopt A Cow was not disclosed.
Founded in 2016, Adopt A Cow produces and sells pure milk, yogurt, cheese sticks and milk powder products. The company currently has more than 10 million customers and sees its digital sales strategy helping it attract China’s millennial and Gen Z populations. Adopt A Cow will use the funding to construct modern dairy farms and smart production factories, bring in Australian dairy cows and integrate its digital operation platform.
In a statement, Karen said that “China’s economic growth is benefitting from the expansive and rapid adoption of digital technologies that are bringing convenience into people’s everyday lives. This is creating attractive opportunities to support the innovative Chinese companies, like Adopt A Cow, that are transforming their industries for the digital economy.” Karen, a director, joined KKR in 2019 from General Atlantic.
Villiers takes part in YFM Equity Partners’ investment in RGE Services
YFM Equity Partners’ Helen Villiers takes part in the firm’s investment in a fire and electrical compliance services provider. YFM participated in management’s buyout of RGE Services. Terms were not disclosed.
Chigwell, UK-based RGE provides a range of services to local authorities and housing associations including electrical maintenance and testing and fitting of equipment such as fire alarms, dry and wet risers, fire extinguishers, door entry systems, emergency lighting and CCTV. Founded in 1985, the company generates 8 million pounds in annual revenue. Helen did the investment with colleagues David Wrench and Jamie Roberts.
In 2020, Helen was involved in YFM’s investments in ARRACO Global Markets, an interdealer broker for global commodities, and Unbiased EC1 Limited, a financial industry online platform led by Karen Barrett. Helen, an investment manager, joined YFM last year from Grant Thornton’s corporate finance team.
Forerunner Ventures’ Johnson seeds The Expert
Forerunner Ventures’ Nicole Johnson seeds a portfolio company of Sweet Capital’s Pippa Lamb that enables video consultations with interior designers. The round also includes angel investors Gwyneth Paltrow and Brigette Romanek. Forerunner led The Expert’s $3 million round, which also included Promus Ventures, Golden Ventures and WndrCo, according to TechCrunch.
Based in Los Angeles, The Expert provides one-on-one video consultations with top interior designers. It currently has 85 designers and claims to have 700 designers on its waitlist. In a blog post, Nicole said that the “home design space is ripe for transformation, and we are pleased to be partnering with the team at The Expert as they broaden access to interior beauty for designers and consumers.”
Nicole was promoted last year to partner. Forerunner also last year closed its fifth fund at $500 million. The firm’s team also includes founder Kirsten Green and general partner Eurie Kim.
GSV Ventures co-leads CoLearn's $10M Series A round
GSV Ventures, the edtech venture firm led by Deborah Quazzo, makes its first investment in Indonesia. GSV and Alpha Wave Incubation co-led CoLearn’s $10 million Series A round that also included AC Ventures and Sequoia Capital India’s Surge.
CoLearn has created an AI-powered problem-solving platform that enables students to receive instant homework support. The company’s video solutions were created by tutors to help students with various concepts. CoLearn users can also attend live online interactive classes taught by teachers. Since its launch last year, the company’s platform has been used by 3.5 million students. Indonesia is the world’s fourth largest education ecosystem with 50 million students, 3 million teachers and 500,000 schools.
Deborah, GSV’s managing partner, was quoted as saying that her firm “is thrilled to be backing CoLearn’s co-founders as they look to bring high quality instruction at scale to Indonesia’s youth. The opportunity to build efficacious learning solutions for the fourth largest country in the world is vast. The greatest businesses are created when entrepreneurs tackle large, important problems and CoLearn is doing just that.”
GSV in 2021 has closed its second fund at $180 million; backed Disco, a “business in a box” platform for creators co-founded by Candice Faktor; had one portfolio company, Coursera, go public; and had another, Nearpod, acquired by Renaissance Capital for a reported $650 million.
Silver Lake exits its investment in Aras
Silver Lake sells its stake in an industrial software company whose board included managing director Karen King. Silver Lake exited its investment in Aras after GI Partners made what was described as a “substantial growth investment.”
Aras produces a low-code platform and suite of digital solutions spanning the product lifecycle from global product development and systems engineering to manufacturing, maintenance, and digital twins. Its customers include Microsoft, Honda, and Airbus. Silver Lake invested in Aras in 2017 and 2018 through its Silver Lake Kraftwerk strategy.
In a statement, Karen said Aras “has established itself with a market-leading solution and has achieved significant growth throughout the duration of our investment” and that “it has been exciting to help launch a true innovator like Aras as the company continues to show strong momentum toward category leadership in this next phase of its expansion.” Karen has been with Silver Lake since 2004 and is the firm’s chief legal officer.
Bain Capital’s Smith and SemperVirens’ Baum Gates invest in Mathison
For the second time in 2021, Bain Capital Ventures’ Sarah Smith and SemperVirens Venture Capital’s Allison Baum Gates team up on a deal, this time backing one that Sarah tells Women’s PE Briefs can help companies “reduce bias, increase equity and measure inclusion practices.” Bain Capital Ventures led Mathison’s $4.2 million seed round, which in addition to SemperVirens included Animo VC, Grand Central Tech, Gaingels and Springbank Collective.
Based in New York, Mathison provides a SaaS platform with a suite of products that centralize a company’s diversity hiring strategy in one place. The company’s software includes a measurement system to detect bias in the hiring process and build a diversity hiring plan; an AI-powered system to source diverse candidates; and engagement tools to mobilize broader teams in diversity hiring and retention activities.
Sarah said a series of factors led her and Bain Capital Ventures to back Mathison. The firm, she said, noticed through its work around the HR/peopletech stack that many companies were hiring their first chief diversity officer and that estimated DEI budget growth would go “from $14 billion today to $50 billion in 2025.” But at the same time, said Sarah, “we also saw a lack of world-class scalable software solutions for this new C-suite leader and were searching for founders poised to serve this space.”
SemperVirens, which through its PeopleTech program meets founders building software solutions for HR needs, introduced Sarah to Mathison’s founders in the fall of 2020. “We’ve met many teams in the space but Mathison was the first to have a true platform that could scale to hundreds and even thousands of companies. What caught our attention is that it wasn’t just another point-solution, but instead could help companies assess their DEI efforts and create a strategic roadmap with the Equal Hiring Index to reduce bias, increase equity and measure inclusion practices.”
Earlier this year, Sarah and Allison led their firms into Rightfoot, which has developed a debt repayment APIs and was co-founded by Danielle Pensack and Deirdre Clute. Sarah, a partner, joined Bain Capital Ventures in 2018 after holding leadership roles at Facebook and Quora. Her investments also include e-scooter company Lime and Perksy, a market research company founded by Nadia Masri.
Freedman's Moderne Ventures announces its 2021 Passport Class
Moderne Ventures, the real estate-oriented venture firm founded by Constance Freedman, unveiled the companies that will be part of its 2021 Midyear Passport class.
Those taking part in the six-month industry immersion program are: JoyHub, a Culver City, Calif. data aggregation and business intelligence platform for owners and operators of apartments and rental properties; Kaiyo, a New York-based marketplace for gently-used furniture; Peek, a New York virtual leasing solution; Piñata, a New York platform designed to reduce accounts receivables; MotoRefi, an Arlington, Va. auto refinancing platform; Tailorbird, a Princeton, N.J. company that creates speed-to-market for multifamily owners and property managers; and Trash Butler, a Tampa, Fla. doorstep trash and recycling company.
Moderne uses Passport for companies that it wants to build a relationship with but who it has not invested in, or who are not raising capital or who are at an earlier stage than when the firm will invest. Moderne was founded to bring innovation to the real estate, mortgage, finance, insurance and home service industries.
The firm’s team includes partner Liza Benson. Companies backed by Moderne gain access to the firm’s 400-plus network of executives and corporate leaders. Constance has spoken at the Women’s Private Equity Summit and Liza at the Women’s Alternative Investment Summit.
Kayne Partners sells a portfolio company of Cummings
Kayne Partners has sold a portfolio company of Nishita Cummings. Terms of Kayne Partners’ sale of Azalea Health Innovations, Inc. to LLR Partners were not disclosed.
Azalea is a tech-enabled revenue cycle management and cloud-based electronic health record software provider, for the rural health care market.
Nishita, who is a managing partner, led Kayne Partners into Azalea’s $10.5 million Series B round in 2016. In a statement, she said that Kayne saw that “the rural health care market had lagged behind resource-rich urban environments regarding the adoption of (electronic health records) and (revenue cycle management) technologies, creating an opportunity for Azalea to help providers and health systems drive efficiencies and adapt to regulatory changes.”
Nishita’s investments include Atlas RFID, Careworx, Circle Cardiovascular, Creator IQ, DiCentral, Drivewyze, FreightWaves, Ideas United, Riviera Partners, Think Research and Zafin. She is a past speaker at the Women’s Private Equity Summit.
Kayne Partners is the growth equity strategy of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, L.P., an alternative asset management firm with more than $33 billion under management.