Bordetsky leads NEA into Davis’ Spokn, TZP Group’s Edwards backs Griffiths’ Knix Wear, True Ventures’ Enjeti connects with Austin’s Somewhere Good and H Venture Partners’ Edwards invests in Assaf and Angelica Myers’s Prima
From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing May 24, 2021
Bordetsky does her first deal since joining NEA
Ann Bordetsky does her first deal since joining New Enterprise Associates earlier this year, teaming up with a group that includes Reach Capital’s Shauntel Garvey and Scribble Ventures’ Elizabeth Weil to tune into a company co-founded by Mariel Davis that has created a podcasting platform for work. Ann tells Women’s PE Briefs that Spokn is following Slack’s playbook. NEA led Spokn’s $4 million seed round which, in addition to Reach and Scribble, also included Y Combinator, FundersClub, Liquid 2, Share Capital, Soma Capital and Hack VC.
With many companies permanently shifting to remote or hybrid work models, internal communications and employee engagement have emerged as urgent priorities and companies have struggled to keep remote employees informed and connected. Based in New York, Spokn aims to transform internal communications and employee engagement by tapping the popularity of podcasting and social audio to strengthen culture and communication in a changed workplace. The financing will support further market expansion and enable Spokn to enhance the platform for content creators.
Launched in late 2020, Spokn has gained traction with such companies as Service Now, Podium, Cedar, MixPanel and Superhuman. Mariel founded the company with Fawzy Abu Seif and Mohammed Galal. She was previously the head of communications and partnerships at Education for Employment. Ann met the Spokn team through Y Combinator and said the round closed in less than three days. “As a former (chief operating officer) and consumer tech executive, I could relate to the acute pain points that companies face in redesigning employee systems, communication, and collaboration to support the new normal of hybrid, remote and virtual-first work,” said Ann. “Asynchronous, audio-first engagement is central to managing a distributed workforce and Spokn is defining a new category in this space. The global podcasting market is expected to reach $60.5 billion by 2027 and social audio has taken off as a consumer trend. Spokn is doing for podcasting what Slack did for messaging, introducing a popular consumer comms format into the workplace.”
Ann, who is a partner with NEA, was most recently chief operating officer of Rival, Inc., which was acquired in 2020 by Live Nation/Ticketmaster. She also previously held business development roles at Uber and Twitter. NEA in 2020 closed its 17th fund at $3.6 billion. The firm has now raised $24 billion since its founding in 1977.
In a blog post, Shauntel said that Spokn “is launching at a critical time as companies look for solutions to better engage hybrid and remote teams, all while reducing screen time and fatigue which has led to an increase in stress and brain noise,” Spokn, she wrote, has shown that a “a variety of communications and interactions in the workplace are perfectly suited for audio, including onboarding, executive communication and team building.” Reach, she added, is “especially excited about the ways podcasting can make corporate training more engaging and effective.”
Green, Katragadda and Kaden see their investment acquired for a reported $225M
A reproductive health company co-founded by Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy has reportedly been acquired for ten times what investors – a group that included Forerunner Ventures’ Kirsten Green, BoxGroup’s Nimi Katragadda, Union Square Ventures’ Rebecca Kaden and #ANGELS – put into it. San Francisco-based Modern Fertility, Inc. agreed to be acquired by well-funded Ro for what Axios said was $225 million. Ro, a primary care platform, has raised $876 million, according to Crunchbase, including $500 million earlier this year from such investors as General Catalyst, FirstMark Capital and TQ Ventures.
Modern Fertility developed a hormone test that women can take through a finger prick or blood draw at home and ship to a CLIA-accredited lab. Reviewed by a physician, the test result is made available online after five to seven days. The result comes with a fertility score. Afton is a former product manager at 23AndMe and Carly was an executive at UberHEALTH. Modern Fertility raised a total of $22 million, according to Crunchbase. In addition to Forerunner, Box Group, Union Square and #ANGELS, Modern Fertility also received backing from Maveron and First Round Capital.
Forerunner led Modern Fertility’s $15 million Series A round in 2019 with Kirsten joining the company’s board. In a statement at the time, Kirsten said she is “constantly tracking how people’s lives are changing and where there are high levels of dissatisfaction.” The fertility category, she said, “embodies these dynamics in spades” and presents an “incredible opportunity” for Modern Fertility to “be the beloved, trusted brand that women turn to throughout the course of their broader reproductive health experience.” Kirsten, a member of Forbes’ Midas List of top VCs, is a past speaker at the Women’s Private Equity Summit. Forerunner, in 2020, closed its fifth fund at $500 million.
TZP Group’s Edwards backs Griffiths’ Knix Wear
TZP Group’s Erin Edwards is involved in her third investment of 2021, this time backing an intimates clothing company founded by Joanna Griffiths in a round that also featured supermodel Ashley Graham. TZP led Knix Wear, Inc.’s Series B round which, in addition to Ashley, also included existing investor Acton Capital. The size of the round was not disclosed.
Founded in 2013, Knix produces leakproof underwear, wireless bras, sports bras, swim, lounge, shapewear, maternity, as well as the teen brand KT by Knix. The company sells through its website and has stores in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada.
In a statement, Erin said, “Knix is an authentic and innovative brand that is disrupting the women’s intimate apparel landscape. As pioneers in inclusivity and body positivity, and with an expanding portfolio of high-quality products, the brand has amassed a large and growing community of engaged and loyal consumers. As a digitally-first brand, Knix is well positioned to seize the opportunity for continued growth.”
Erin this year has also taken part in TZP’s acquisitions of Quintessential Tots, a maker of juvenile products co-founded and co-led by Kelly Meyer Douglas that does business as Itzy Ritzy, and Kindred Bravely, which produces maternity apparel and is co-founded and co-led by Deeanne Akerson. Erin, a partner, joined TPZ last July from North Castle Partners, and was also involved in the firm’s investment in Feel the World, Inc., which was co-founded by Lena Phoenix and makes Xero Shoes – shoes that are built with a foot-first design.
Duggal’s Female Founders Fund takes part in Fave’s $2.2M seed round
Female Founders Fund, whose founding partner is Anu Duggal, tunes into a company founded by Jacquelle Amankonah Horton dedicated to music fans. Female Founders Fund took part in Fave’s $2.2 million seed round, which also included HYBE, Sony Music, Warner Music, Concord Music, Quality Control, Right Hand Management, Techstars Music and Betaworks, according to TechCrunch.
Fave is broken down by fandoms allowing fans to connect with one another, create content and buy and sell fan-themed merchandise and artwork to one another. The company is focused on the fans themselves, with the hope to also bring creators on to the platform. Jacquelle worked at Google before founding Fave.
Female Founders Fund in 2021 has backed such companies as Rising Team, which was founded by Jennifer Dulski and helps managers motivate, organize, and effectively lead their team, and Base, an at-home lab testing and smart app company founded by Lola Priego.
Campise’s Rucker Park Capital backs Aranguren-led Waybridge
Rucker Park Capital, which is co-founded by Marissa Campise, backs a company led by Andrea Aranguren. Waybridge raised $30 million in Series B funding co-led by Rucker Park and Craft Ventures, with participation from Venrock. The round brings the total funds raised by the New York-based company to $40 million.
Waybridge provides a supply chain platform for raw materials, enabling clients to buy and sell commodities, have real-time visibility into their inventory, track shipments and save time and money by turning many offline manual processes into automated digital processes. The company intends to use the funds to accelerate platform development to tackle challenges like trade finance, traceability and sustainability, while expanding the types of industries it serves beyond non-ferrous metals consumers and suppliers.
Enjeti leads True Ventures into Somewhere Good’s $3.75M seed round
True Ventures’ Sahiti Enjeti connects with Naj Austin’s group-focused social media platform in a financing round that also includes such investors as Gabrielle Union, Ellen Pao, Ashley Mayer, Toyin Ajayi, Jackie Nelson, Lindsay Ullman, Helena Hambrecht, Tina Bou-Saba and Jillian Williams. True led Somewhere Good’s $3.75 million seed round which, in addition to the individual investors, also included Slauson & Co., 2PM, Inc. and existing investors Dream Machine, Debut Capital and Canvas Ventures.
New York-based Somewhere Good intends to displace social media norms by offering a new experience centering on group interaction over a traditional individual-first approach. It plans to launch the beta version of its app in mid-2021. The platform is designed to encourage discovery and simplify connecting with one another online. On the platform, groups share responsibility for their space and in the beta release, there are no profiles, friending, or following and all content is encouraged to have clear, cited sources.
In a statement, Sahiti said, “one of the aspects that’s so special about Somewhere Good is how it takes the curiosities of its members and invites them to discover more based on their interests. People are connected very intentionally. There just aren’t a wealth of digital spaces like Somewhere Good that offer an environment where there’s a sense of mental safety for coming together and connecting — without worry of judgement or harassment. This is the type of business we can see thriving now in our post-pandemic world while serving communities that have been overlooked.”
Gabrielle added in a statement, “it’s important to me as a black woman and mother that we are able to exist comfortably online and authentically connect with one another. It’s been so inspiring to watch the Somewhere Good team bring the vision to life and I can’t wait for other people to experience it.”
McGuckian-led NTR secures capital for Norra Vedbo
NTR, whose CEO is Rosheen McGuckian, secures capital for a Swedish wind farm that the Irish infrastructure firm is developing. The firm said it raised 115 million euros for its Norra Vedbo wind farm that is located in the county of Jönköping. Reichmuth Infrastructure II CIP is co-investing in the project with NTR, while Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB is providing debt finance. Having brought the project through its development stage to this important milestone, NTR will manage both the construction and continued operations of the project on behalf of both the NTR and Reichmuth funds. Once operational, Norra Vedbo will generate 165 million watts of wind – enough to power 44,000 homes.
Draper’s Halogen and Facchina’s Siddhi Capital pour money into Chandran’s Tea Drops
Halogen, which was founded by Jesse Draper, and Siddhi Capital, which was co-founded by Melissa Facchina, pour capital into a company founded by Sashee Chandran focused on changing the way people consume tea. Halogen and Siddhi took part in Tea Drops’ $5 million Series A round that also included BrandProject, AF Ventures and Cue Ball. The company has now raised a total of $8.4 million.
Tea Drops are organic whole leaf tea shaped into drops that dissolve. The company will use the new capital to make hires around e-commerce and operations. Tea Drops also operates a “female-forward” supply chain and primarily employs women.
Halogen, which invests in early-stage consumer technology companies with a female on the founding team, has in 2021 backed Preemadonna, developer of an in-home manicure device founded and led by Pree Walia. Halogen this year closed its second fund at $21 million.
Siddhi Capital is an early-stage venture fund in the food and beverage industry that was formed last year by Melissa and Steven Finn. Its investments include Copper Cow Coffee, a Vietnamese coffee company founded by Debbie Wei Mullin, and Thistle, a plant-centric meal delivery company co-founded by Shiri Avnery. Melissa is also co-CEO of a special purpose acquisition company that has filed to go public.
Lam’s Imagination Capital backs Rokyta’s Lance
Imagination Capital, which was co-founded by Rachel Lam, deposits a check into a company led by Oona Rokyta that enables freelancers to get business bank accounts. Imagination took part in Lance’s $2.8 million seed round, which also included Barclays, BDMI, Great Oaks Capital, Techstars and DFJ Frontier.
Based in New York, Lance aims to solve some of the financial challenges that freelancers face in the United States, especially around taxation. The Lance bank account automatically identifies any potential tax deductibles and will manage tax withholdings, while automatically making quarterly payments to the IRS. Oona is a former freelancer who co-founded the company.
In a statement Oona said, “it’s time to recreate banking solutions that are mindful of different people’s financial goals. Lance’s approach brings banking and accounting together in one business account because that’s what solopreneurs need today. They’re already juggling multiple income streams and evolving passion projects. What they need is a financial partner that works alongside their growing ambitions.”
Wong leads Lightspeed Venture Partners into Wheel’s $50M Series B round
Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Ling Wong spins the firm into Wheel, a digital health company whose founder and CEO is Michelle Davey and which has been backed by CRV’s Kristin Baker Spohn. Lightspeed led the Austin, Texas company’s $50 million Series B round that included existing investors CRV, Silverton Partners, Tusk Venture Partners and JP Morgan. CRV led Wheel’s $13.9 million Series A round that was announced early last year.
Wheel is a tech-enabled marketplace that helps both health care companies and clinicians improve the experience and quality of virtual care. Its core offering is a platform that matches the right clinician to the right patient. Michelle founded the company with Griffin Mulcahey and Philip Johnson in 2018. Prior to starting Wheel, Michelle was head of global talent and shared services with Medici and a technical recruiter for Sourcer.
In a statement, Ling said, “we have seen an explosion in demand for telemedicine across our daily lives from sessions with a physical therapist to advice from a specialist. Michelle and team are fundamentally building new health care infrastructure that will define and enable successful virtual care. Wheel has built its business to be symbiotic with their customers, so they’re able to scale and grow in lockstep with their customers, a powerful model.” In conjunction with the financing, Ling, a Lightspeed senior advisor, will join Wheel’s board.
van Lennep backs Palmeiro’s StudentFinance
Angel investor Victoria van Lennep backs a Spanish company co-founded by Marta Palmeiro that provides technology infrastructure for education providers to offer flexible payment plans for students. StudentFinance secured $5.3 million in a seed round co-led by Giant Ventures and Armilar Venture Partners, with participation from existing investors Mustard Seed MAZE, Seedcamp and Sabadell Venture Capital, along with angel investors.
Based in Madrid, StudentFinance helps to plug the growing skills gap and democratize education simultaneously, by providing both the technology infrastructure for education providers to offer flexible payment plans in the form of ISAs and data intelligence on the employment market to predict job demand. The company analyzes real-time job market data down to the skill level, before selecting education programs based on their alignment with job market demand and performance outcomes. In turn, students are assessed based on their future earning potential, and not past income or employment history.
Prior to co-founding the company, Marta spent 10 years at Credit Suisse in London and Madrid and co-founded Portugal Fintech. The financing will help the company to expand its operation into the U.K. later this year.
AmorChem’s Douville and Theodorus’ Escoffier help seed Kwong’s Giiant Pharma
AmorChem’s Elizabeth Douville and Theodorus Investment Funds’ Patricia Escoffier help seed a company founded by Elizabeth Kwong that is seeking to treat inflammatory bowel diseases. AmorChem and Theodorus participated in Giiant Pharma, Inc.’s $11 million seed round, which also included Amplitude Ventures, Genesys Capital, Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Anges Quebec.
Based in Montreal, Giiant has used its delivery technology platform to develop a lead candidate for IBD. The drug is an orally administered, colon specific PDE4 inhibitor prodrug with potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Sequoia Capital’s Chen backs Myrick’s Found
Sequoia Capital’s Josephine Chen backs a company co-founded by Lauren Myrick that is aimed at helping self-employed businesses. Sequoia led Found’s $12.75 million round that also included angel investors, according to TechCrunch.
Based in San Francisco, Found was created to help self-employed individuals deposit business income, obtain a debit card for business purchases and calculate how much they owe in taxes. The platform also offers a feature that sets aside the money for and facilitates the quarterly tax payment, as well as offers real-time business and tax reports.
Lauren was previously a project manager at Square, where she helped launch its first point of sale system and SaaS products. She eventually became GM of its payroll business unit and that was her first foray into taxes and understanding their implication. Lauren created Found with Connor Dunn. Lauren told TechCrunch that between her accounting background and what she learned at Square, she had a “big aha moment that we could become a ledger for these businesses and solve their bookkeeping and tax needs through software. So that’s what we’ve built.”
H Venture Partners’ Edwards invests in Assaf and Angelica Myers’ Prima
H Venture Partners’ Elizabeth Edwards invests in a hemp-based holistic wellness brand co-founded by Jessica Assaf and Laurel Angelica Myers. The Uplifters’ Prima, PBC closed a $9.2 million Seed Plus financing led by Greycroft, Defy and Lerer Hippeau, with participation from H Ventures, Adam Zeplain, Global Founders Capital, Emerald Health, One Gun and Purple Arch Ventures.
Based in Los Angeles, Prima offers 15 whole body care products across premium skincare, body care and supplements that unlock the therapeutic utility and power of organic, broad spectrum plant ingredients for everyday consumers seeking immediate functional benefits with recovery, performance, mood, sleep and overall well-being. The brand has partnerships with Sephora and Nordstrom.
In a statement, Laurel said, “our team brings institutional strategy, sophistication, capability and execution to a burgeoning sector that has yet to see any brands like Prima. As a Certified B Corporation that is Carbon and Plastic Neutral Certified and EWG Verified, Prima is built on strong, sophisticated, sustainable infrastructure across every touchpoint of the business.”
Elizabeth added in a statement that the company “encompasses everything we look for in a brand: it makes a meaningful impact on the lives of human beings, the products are science-based and clean, and the founders have true depth in consumer experience.”