Anu Duggal’s Female Founders Fund, Elizabeth Edwards’ H Venture Partners and Sarah Hodges are among those making investments this week

From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing June 21, 2021

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Pillar VC’s Sarah Hodges and angel Ali Weiss back Mary Imevbore, Susana Hawken and Tiiso McGinty’s Waeve

Pillar VC’s Sarah Hodges and angel investor Ali Weiss back a lifestyle brand co-founded by Mary Imevbore, Susana Hawken and Tiiso McGinty seeking to turn wigs into a form of self-expression. Pillar VC led Waeve’s $2 million seed round, which also included Maveron and such other angels as Henry Davis, Bryan Mahoney, TJ Parker and Elliot Cohen.

The Boston-based wig brand was created to fill a gap in the beauty industry that has long overlooked and undervalued Black consumers. Waeve is breaking into the industry with wigs created by Black women that fulfill their needs. The funding will be used to launch the company and build a community that uplifts Black women by changing the way Black girls talk about, shop for, purchase and wear wigs.

In a statement, Mary said, “when I was going through my natural hair journey, I discovered wigs and realized that there weren’t any brands that spoke to me as a customer. When we created Waeve, we kept in mind that each woman has a unique relationship and journey with her own hair. As a result, we created a quality product that Black women want and need, with an easy-to-navigate experience and uncomplicated return policy.”

Sarah added in a statement, “When I met Mary and her co-founders and heard their vision for the Black hair care industry, it was clear that they were creating a company that would be transformative. Waeve is making wigs more accessible, wearable and fashionable by building a community and brand that will change the way the world views wigs.”

Pillar VC is a Boston venture capital firm that supports founders with early-stage and seed VC funding, investing in their professional and personal growth.

Kindra raises $4.5M from Anu Duggal’s Female Founders Fund, Abby Miller Levy’s Primetime Partners, Elizabeth Edwards’ H Venture Partners and others

A modern wellness brand for menopause essentials led by Catherine Balsam-Schwaber raises capital from a group that includes Female Founders Fund, whose founder is Anu Duggal; Primetime Partners, whose co-founder is Abby Miller Levy; H Venture Partners, which was founded by Elizabeth Edwards; broadcaster Katie Couric’s Katie Couric Media; 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki; and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. Kindra raised $4.5 million in a seed round that also included The Community Fund.

Based in Los Angeles, Kindra scientifically formulates estrogen-free and plant-powered menopause essentials and also seeks to provide reliable information and a supportive community. By approaching menopause thoughtfully and holistically, inside and out, Kindra’s goal is to be a partner on the menopause journey.

In a statement to Female Founders Fund, Catherine said, “we started Kindra with a seemingly simple mission: empower people who experience the hormonal changes of menopause to care for their bodies — naturally, safely, and holistically. As we continue in hyper-growth mode, we are focused on building a passionate, best-in-class team to support our ability to deliver for our community and customers.”

Karen Howland sees CircleUp lead Serenity Kids’ $7M Series A round

CircleUp, whose managing director is Karen Howland, spoons capital into a healthy baby food brand co-founded by Serenity Heegel Carr in a round that includes angel investors Colleen Wachob, Melissa Urban and Katie Wells. CircleUp, according to Crunchbase News, led Serenity Kids’ $7 million Series A round, which also included Wild Ventures and a group of angels.

Austin, Texas-based Serenity Kids offers low-sugar, healthy baby foods such as pouch purees including ethically sourced meats, organic veggies, grain-free snacks and toddler purees with bone broth. The funding will be invested into expanding its retail footprint, hiring in sales and marketing and product innovation. The company aims to build out its educational content offering, where it answers common questions about baby food.

In an interview with Crunchbase News, Serenity said, “we want to share information because a big part of this comes down to moms. Studies show that millennial moms are distrustful of big companies. I also think there will be more on nutrition on the horizon. Our message is resonating, people are starting to copy us and are here to revolutionize the baby industry.”

CircleUp is an investment platform providing capital and resources to innovative, early-stage consumer brands.

Loren Straub leads Bowery Capital into Stork Club’s $30M round

Bowery Capital Principal Loren Straub delivers additional capital to Stork Club, a maternity care platform founded and led by Jeni Mayorskaya. Bowery and fellow existing investor Slow Ventures joined new investor General Catalyst in Stork Club’s $30 million round that also included several angels. The round comes roughly a year after the San Francisco startup raised $2.7 million in seed funding with Loren joining its board.

Stork Club is focused on consolidating all aspects of fertility and maternity care into one concierge-like experience. By doing so, the company says it will produce better outcomes and reduce employers’ health care costs. Included in its offerings are egg and sperm freezing, IVF, surrogacy, adoption, childbirth with doulas and breastfeeding support. Stork Club claims that a company with a few thousand employees could save up to $3 million annually using its platform.

Rethink Impact’s Jenny Abramson re-invests in Sempre Health

Rethink Impact’s Jenny Abramson re-invests in Sempre Health, a behavior-based health care pricing company whose co-founder and CEO is Anurati Mathur. Rethink Impact took part in the San Francisco company’s $15 million Series B round, which included Blue Venture Fund, UPMC Enterprises and such other existing investors as Lifeforce Capital and Industry Ventures. Rethink led Sempre’s $8 million Series A round in 2018.

Sempre Health has developed discount programs that enable health plans to financially align members with broader clinical priorities, by allowing them to pay less when they take responsible actions, such as filling their prescriptions on time. Sempre allows health plans to select the medicines to make available. This round of funding will be used to advance Sempre’s two-sided network of payors and pharma manufacturers nationwide and further grow the number of chronic disease patients that Sempre can help better afford and access their medications. Unlike traditional coupons and cash card programs, Sempre aligns multiple health care stakeholders to dynamically adjust a patient’s out-of-pocket costs at the point of fill, based on individual adherence and benefit design. Anurati founded the company in 2015 with Swaraj Banerjee, who is CTO. Anurati’s background includes roles with Propeller Health, Practice Fusion and DaVita Healthcare Partners.

Chelsea Newell and Samar Mcheileh-led Scale Investors takes part in Handdii’s $3M seed round

An Australian property claim management platform co-founded by Christie Downs and Kathryn Wood raises funds from a group that includes Scale Investors, which is led by Chelsea Newell and Samar Mcheileh. Scale took part in Handdii’s $3 million seed round that included Brick & Mortar Ventures, Nine Four Ventures and Fifty-Second Celebration, according to Crunchbase News.

Handdii’s software works between insurance companies and vetted contractors, partners with insurance companies and typically handles small claims. Christie has a background in construction while Kathryn’s background is in insurance. The two came together to digitize the property claim process. Christie said in a statement to Crunchbase News that with the new funding, the company plans to invest in the product, with several integrations in the works and in expanding across the United States.

In an interview with Crunchbase News, Christie said, “if you think about all the parties in a property claim, there’s the insurance company, the homeowners and the contractor. And then there can be other parties like independent adjusters and attorneys. It can be a cumbersome manual process… so we made software to make it more streamlined.”

 Shuly Galili’s UpWest plants capital in InnerPlant

UpWest, which is founded by Shuly Galili, plants capital in a company co-founded by Shealy Aronov developing living plant sensors. InnerPlant raised $5.65 million in combined pre-seed and seed funding led by MS&AD Ventures and joined by Bee Partners, UpWest and TAU Ventures, according to Crunchbase News.

San Francisco-based UpWest uses R&D and a safe protein to enable plants to send out signals on their thirst and nutrient levels, even if they are being attacked by pests. InnerPlant debuted its first product, the InnerTomato, in 2020 and is currently developing additional crops, such as InnerSoy and InnerCotton.

“InnerPlant’s technology arms farmers with data for earlier detection of a plant’s needs, enabling them to be more proactive in controlling pathogens that can harm up to 20 percent of harvests,” Shely said in a statement to Crunchbase News. The funding will be used to derive data directly from plants so farmers can have better crop risk management and food supply chains.

Alicia Robb’s Next Wave Impact re-invests in Localized

Next Wave Impact, LLC, whose founder and CEO is Alicia Robb, and angel investor Esther Dyson re-invest in a company co-founded by Ronit Avni and Ariadne Papagapitos that is seeking to connect university students and alumni with employers and industry experts in emerging markets. Next Wave and Esther took part in Localized, Inc.’s seed round along with Trend Forward Capital, One Planet VC, Angel Ventures and fellow returning investor Bisk Ventures. The size was not disclosed. Next Wave, Esther and Bisk took part in a $1 million round for the company in 2019.

Localized is looking to fill a gap for employers trying to find talent in emerging markets by tapping into the growing number of emerging market students who are enrolling in higher education. It currently works with students from more than 100 countries. Ronit serves as CEO while Ariadne focuses on new markets.

Linnea Roberts’ GingerBread Capital and Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective take part in WaitWhat’s $12M Series B round

Linnea RobertsGingerBread Capital and Laurene Powell JobsEmerson Collective take part in a new financing round for WaitWhat, whose co-founder and CEO is June Cohen, and which has created portfolios of premium content and IP across podcasts and other forms of digital media. GingerBread took part in the New York company’s $12 million Series B round that also included Raga Partners, Lupa Systems, Capital One Ventures and Maywic Select Investments, and existing investors Cue Ball, Burda Principal Investments and Reid Hoffman. Investors in WaitWhat’s $5.8 million Series A round in 2019 also included individual investors Jacki Zehner, Julia Popowitz, Ann Lovell and Maria Thomas; Victress Capital, which is led by Suzanne Norris and Lori Cashman; Able Partners, whose investment team consists of Amanda Eilian, Lisa Blau and Alison Ryu; and Human Ventures, which is led by Heather Harnett.

WaitWhat creates premium, genre-defining digital content. June founded the company with Deron Triff in 2017. The duo was responsible for turning the TED Talks into a globally recognized media brand. WaitWhat’s offerings include the podcast “Masters of Scale.” It also just launched “Should This Exist?” – a podcast created in partnership with Quartz. All told, WaitWhat’s media properties have been downloaded 70 million times.

GingerBread’s 2021 investments include Toucan, a learning tool that helps people learn new languages whose co-founder and CEO is Taylor Nieman; Pair Eyewear, a direct-to-consumer, customizable eyewear brand co-founded and co-led by Sophia Edelstein; and Air Protein, whose co-founder and co-CEO is Lisa Dyson and which is out to change the future of food.

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