Clara Sieg backs a portfolio company of Hope Cochran, Jordan Gaspar-led AF Ventures makes a new investment and Leslie Frécon’s and Cindy Padnos’ firms see portfolio companies acquired
From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing July 26, 2021
Revolution Ventures’ Clara Sieg backs a portfolio company of Madrona’s Hope Cochran
In last week’s Women’s PE Briefs, we told you about Madrona Venture Group’s Hope Cochran backing Paro, a portfolio company of Revolution Ventures’ Clara Sieg – one led by Anita Samojednik. Well now, we have news on Clara backing a portfolio company of Hope – one co-founded by Angela Angelovska-Wilson. Revolution led Sila’s $13 million Series A round, which also included Madrona and such prior investors as Oregon Venture Fund and Mucker Capital. Hope led Madrona into Sila’s $7.7 million seed round that was done last year.
Based in Portland, Ore., Sila is seeking to make it easier to enable white-label payment processing, money transfers and digital wallets. Angela, an attorney and former executive with Digital Asset, founded the company with Issac Hines, Alexander Lipton and Shamir Karkal, who is CEO. Angela is the company’s chief legal officer.
In a statement, Clara said, “led by a seasoned leadership team including one of the original fintech pioneers, Sila is the go-to platform for integrating regulatory-compliant payment capabilities into products. By tying together the disparate, archaic services currently required to transfer funds and ensuring compliance within a complex regulatory landscape, the Sila platform makes it simple and seamless to move money.”
In conjunction with the financing, Clara joined Sila’s board. Clara also recently backed Wagmo, a pet wellness and insurance company co-founded by Christie Horvath and Alison Foxworth. Her portfolio also includes Bloomscape, Playa, SRS Acquiom, Policygenius and Good Buy Gear, an online site to easily sell used baby and kids’ gear that was co-founded by Kristin Langenfeld and Jessica Crothers.
Leslie Frécon’s LFE Capital sees a portfolio company led by Mary Pigatti acquired by Wondr Health
LFE Capital, whose founder and managing partner is Leslie Frécon, has a portfolio company led by Mary Pigatti acquired by a private equity-backed portfolio company. Terms of eMindful’s purchase by Wondr Health were not disclosed, but Leslie tells Women’s PE Briefs that existing shareholders in eMindful will be able “to participate in the upside from the accelerated growth of the combined businesses.”
Wondr Health, a portfolio company of The Riverside Company, is a digital behavioral change company focused on weight management and preventing chronic disease within the employer-sponsored space. Based in Orlando, Fla., eMindful provides evidence-based, mindfulness programs for everyday life and chronic conditions. It is hoped that the two companies together will create a “preventive care powerhouse” that helps employers achieve their best health outcomes and highest return on investment. Mary was tapped to lead the company two years ago. She had previously led Retrofit, Inc., which was acquired in 2018 by Livongo. She replaced Diana LaTour, an LFE operating partner, who had been serving as the company’s interim CEO.
LFE invested in eMindful in 2016. The mindfulness company was founded by Kelley McCabe Ruff, who also served as CEO. It provides online, live, interactive and evidence-based programs that are focused on such things as stress reduction, treatment of metabolic syndrome, living with chronic pain, managing diabetes and smoking cessation. The courses are utilized by corporations and health care payers and providers and utilize research from such institutions as Vanderbilt University and Harvard Medical School. “What attracted LFE to eMindful originally was its unique positioning as a digital mental health platform for the large and growing corporate wellness market,” Leslie said. “eMindful’s product offering was based on live courses with clinically validated outcomes, which really set them apart from the consumer apps. Over the past couple of years, the demand for effective employee programs that promote overall wellbeing has increased dramatically and the combination with Wondr Health creates an even more compelling solution.”
eMindful is LFE’s second liquidity event of 2021. Earlier this year, The Big Know, which is led by Allison Gage, was acquired by mPulse Mobile. LFE, which was founded in 1999 and has offices in Wayzata, Minn. and Naples, Fla., has three funds under management. The firm provides growth equity to second-stage businesses in the health and wellness sectors. In addition to eMindful, LFE’s portfolio also includes Wellbeats, Jackson’s Honest, Halo Innovations and Avant Healthcare Professionals.
Cindy Padnos’ Illuminate Ventures sees a portfolio company founded by Kristine Steuart and Katherine Berry acquired
Illuminate Ventures, which is guided by founder Cindy Padnos and partner Jennifer Savage, has a portfolio company acquired – one founded by twin sisters Kristine Steuart and Katherine Berry – and one that Illuminate has come to refer to as “a true needle in a haystack.” Terms of Allocadia’s acquisition by BrandMaker were not disclosed, but in a note to contacts Illuminate called it a “strong exit” with an all-cash outcome. Illuminate first backed Allocadia in 2014, learning about the company from Mark Organ, the CEO of another portfolio company.
Based in Vancouver, B.C., Allocadia produces marketing performance management software. In backing the company, Cindy told Women’s PE Briefs that Illuminate was drawn to Allocadia by what it was trying to do: help global enterprises better manage and analyze their marketing planning and budgeting. It was also attracted by the founding team, which included Kristine as CEO and Katherine was chief product officer. In its note on the sale, Cindy and Jennifer said that “from day one, Allocadia was a company that always put the customer first. That resulted in unusually high account retention rates and strong-word-of-mouth referrals.” Allocadia raised $24 million, according to Crunchbase. Other investors include Altos Ventures, Inovia Capital and Susquehanna Growth Equity.
BrandMaker produces marketing operations and marketing resource management software solutions. With Allocadia, BrandMaker will look to further address the needs of chief marketing officers and marketing teams by enabling them to orchestrate and optimize all of marketing’s core resources and operational processes across strategy, campaigns, investments, work, content and brand.
Allocadia is Illuminate’s second significant liquidity event of 2021. Earlier this year, Coupang, Inc., which Illuminate became investors in via an acquisition of a portfolio company, went public. Oakland, Calif.-based Illuminate focuses on Series Seed stage investments the B2B/enterprise software space.
Chevron Technology Ventures pumps capital into Gia Schneider’s Natel Energy
Chevron Technology Ventures, whose president is Barbara Burger, pumps capital into a supplier of sustainable hydropower solutions co-founded by Gia Schneider. CTV, the venture arm of Chevron Corp., took part in Natel Energy’s $20 million funding round that was led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
Based in Alameda, Calif., Natel Energy’s mission is to scale sustainable, distributed hydropower solutions that produce reliable renewable energy, are climate resilient and balance the competing demands on water using a combination of innovative hardware and AI. The company will use the funding to build momentum in the deployment of its product, the Restoration Hydro Turbine, which enables cost-effective production of distributed reliable renewable energy, while supporting the health and climate resilience of watershed ecosystems.
In a statement, Gia said, “Natel Energy is on pace to grow the footprint of modern, distributed, fish safe hydropower as a climate-resilient solution supporting the transition to a reliable, zero carbon grid. The future of renewable energy, and specifically hydropower, hinges on the ability to consider environmental impacts of deployment alongside the urgent need to shift our grid for a more sustainable future, and Natel’s solutions do just that.”
Barbara, also in a statement, said that Chevron is “excited about Natel’s potential to unlock distributed hydro resources, further advancing the integration of lower-carbon power into the grid.” CTV made the investment out of its $300 million Future Energy Fund II, which launched earlier this year.
CTV, also in 2021, backed Mainspring Energy, an onsite power generation provider founded and led by Shannon Miller. CTV identifies and integrates externally developed technologies and new business solutions with the potential to enhance the way Chevron produces and delivers affordable, reliable and cleaner energy now and into the future.
Five Seasons Ventures’ Saskia Hoebée backs Chanyu Xu’s her1
Five Seasons Ventures’ Saskia Hoebée backs a German-based all-natural women’s health brand founded by Chanyu Xu that aims to boost gut health. her1 secured 5.5 million euros in a Series A fundraising round led by Five Seasons with participation from previous investors Rheingau Founders and IBB Ventures.
her1 develops all its own products using natural, plant-based, gluten and sugar-free blends made from locally sourced whole foods and containing prebiotics and probiotics to feed the gut microbiome. In addition to powders and supplements, her1 offers customers care packages, which help create new healthy habits and provide accessories.
In a statement, Saskia said, “her1 is our first portfolio company where the founder, the majority of the management team, and a large part of the company is all-female – a true for women, by women approach! At Five Seasons Ventures, we were already convinced that there was a big opportunity for gut health as a large addressable market, but until we spoke with Chanyu we didn’t realize that almost twice as many women suffer from digestive health issues on a weekly basis, compared to men. We believe in her1’s vision to provide a convenient, effective and elegant remedy for an underserved market and help more women to go with their gut, focusing on health and wellness from within.”
Chanyu added in a statement, “with this investment and the support of Five Seasons Ventures, we’ll be introducing more products to an even wider market as we look to expand to help more women across Europe.”
Hana Yang’s Allocate raises $5M in seed funding
Hana Yang’s effort to enable investors of all sizes to invest in venture capital funds captures the attention of a group of VCs that includes Basis Set Ventures, which was founded by Lan Xuezhao; Fika Ventures, which was co-founded by Eva Ho; Urban Innovation Fund, which was founded by Clara Brenner and Julie Lein; Ulu Ventures, which was co-founded by Miriam Rivera; and Anthemis Group, which is led by founder Amy Nauiokas. Allocate raised $5 million in seed funding from investors that also included Liquid2 Ventures and Tusk Venture Partners, according to TechCrunch.
San Francisco-based Allocate is seeking to address a supply and demand issue, namely that many institutional investors are not taking on new relationships and VC firms are struggling to find and access family offices. At the same time, family offices often have trouble accessing venture firms for an array of reasons. Allocate’s platform creates venture fund products for wealth advisors, family offices and qualified individual investors based on their investment objectives. It then also handles transactions and reporting activities.
Hana founded Allocate earlier this year with Samir Kaji, both of whom were Kauffman Fellows and then worked at First Republic Bank.
Drive Capital’s Masha Khusid leads an investment round in Yeva Hyusyan’s Sololearn
Drive Capital’s Masha Khusid leads an investment round in a mobile-first coding education app founded by Yeva Hyusyan. According to TechCrunch, Sololearn absorbed $24 million in Series B funding led by Drive Capital with participation from previous investors Learn Capital and Prosus Ventures.
Based in San Francisco, Sololearn is a community learning platform that breaks the stereotypes of institutional instructor-centric learning and creates a student-centric open crowd-learning that provides for a fast, effective and fun code-learning experience available anytime, anywhere for free.
In a statement to TechCrunch, Masha said, “Sololearn provides bite-sized habit-forming instruction at scale, a warm and supportive community, and amazing user-generated content. And with Sololearn bringing that same proven approach to a subject matter with such a profound impact on millions of peoples’ financial futures, it’s particularly exciting and rewarding to be their Series B lead.”
Drive Capital is a private investment firm that partners with entrepreneurs in building long-term, sustainable businesses.
Betsy Hambrecht and the Portfolia Active Aging and Longevity Fund invest in Suelin Chen’s Cake
A platform led by Suelin Chen for end-of-life planning and navigating mortality gathers funds from Betsy Hambrecht and the woman-led Portfolia Active Aging and Longevity Fund to help consumers curate their legacy. Cake gained $3.7 million in funding from a group which also included AARP, InHealth Ventures, Two Lanterns, Scrum Ventures, Reflect Ventures, existing investors GoAhead Ventures, Pillar and OCA Ventures and such other angel investors as Arnold Whitman and Bill Hambrecht.
Based in Boston, Cake is a one-stop-shop for all aspects of death and end-of-life including health care, funerals, financial and legal concerns. In a statement, Suelin said, “the pandemic sped up existing trends in consumer views on end-of-life. We’ve seen increased demand and decreased stigma around end-of-life topics. This has not only led to spiking consumer engagement but also a surge of interest from enterprises that serve these consumers and view end-of-life planning as an essential part of people’s health and financial well-being.”
The Portfolia Active Aging and Longevity Fund is led by Bo Arlander, Elaine Bolle, Kathy Dodd, Dr. Christina Jenkins and Chantell Preston.
Neka Pasquale’s Urban Remedy raises $18M in Series D funding with help from Manna Tree’s Pamela Shepherd
Manna Tree’s Pamela Shepherd sprinkles capital on a plant-based food company founded by Neka Pasquale that offers certified organic ready-to-eat meals, snacks and cold pressed juices. Urban Remedy digested $18 million in a Series D fundraising round led by Manna Tree, with existing partners The Builders Fund and Obvious Ventures participating.
Based in Point Richmond, Calif., Urban Remedy is a plant-based organic food company that embodies the belief that food is healing, empowering consumers to conveniently eat ultra-fresh and clean. Urban Remedy’s ready-to-eat meals, snacks and cold-pressed juices are all certified organic, non-GMO project verified, gluten free and low glycemic.
In a statement, Pamela said, “consumers recognize Urban Remedy as a leader in providing highly nutritious and convenient product solutions. They never cut corners on ingredients and are wholly committed to the future of the planet and human health.”
Pamela joined Manna Tree last year from The Bobby Company. Manna Tree, whose CEO is Gabrielle Rubenstein, is an investment firm committed to improving human health through nutrition.
NEA’s Carmen Chang and JAZZ Venture Partners’ Meghan Reynolds lead their firms back into Woebot Health
New Enterprise Associates’ Carmen Chang and JAZZ Venture Partners’ Meghan Reynolds lead their firms back into Woebot Health, which was founded by Alison Darcy and which has created a mental health chatbot. JAZZ and fellow existing investor Temasek led the San Francisco company’s $90 million Series B round that also included BlackRock Private Equity Partners, Owl Ventures, Mirae Asset Capital, Kicker Ventures, Alumni Ventures, Gaingels and AI Fund.
Woebot was created to address the global mental health crisis by providing tools that make therapy accessible and stigma-free. The company’s app uses natural language processing to analyze daily one-on-one interactions with users to deliver a self-guided version of cognitive behavioral therapy. In May, its digital therapeutic for reducing the burden of postpartum depression received FDA Breakthrough Device designation. Alison founded Woebot in 2016 and serves as president.
Carmen, who is partner, chairman and head of Asia for NEA, called Woebot “a trailblazing digital health technology” that has “the ability to make significant contributions in both the clinical and global community.” She is on Woebot’s board. Meghan, a partner with JAZZ, has been an observer on Woebot’s board since last fall.
Andreessen Horowitz’s Connie Chan leads Queenly’s $6.3M round
Andreessen Horowitz’s Connie Chan fits capital into a start-up co-founded by Trisha Bantique and Kathy Zhou that has developed a marketplace and search engine for the formalwear industry – a company whose angel investors include Rachel ten Brink. Andreessen Horowitz led a $6.3 million financing for Queenly. The San Francisco-based company has now raised $7.1 million from a group which, in addition to Rachel, also includes Y Combinator, The House Fund, Interlace Ventures, Dragon Capital, NextView Ventures, MyAsia VC, Shakti Venture Capital and James Park, who is FitBit’s CEO.
By combining a personalized, resale marketplace experience with small-business sales and data analytic tools, Queenly says it is providing the first comprehensive search engine for the formalwear industry. The company categorizes dresses through their computer vision and machine learning system. It has more than 125,000 users, more than 60,000 unique dresses listed on their platform and a total inventory value of $15 million. Trisha and Kathy built Queenly combining their national and international pageant experiences and professional domain expertise.
A general partner with Andreessen Horowitz, Connie, also in 2021, has backed Beacons, a business platform for social media creators, and Whatnot, a livestream shopping platform. Her investments also include Run the World, an online event site founded by Xiaoyin Qu and Xuan Jiang.
Jordan Gaspar-led AF Ventures backs Mia Funt’s ByHeart
AF Ventures, a food-and-beverage-focused venture firm that is led by Jordan Gaspar, backs ByHeart, a producer of baby and infant formula that was co-founded by Mia Funt and whose board includes Polaris Partners’ Amy Schulman. AF took part in ByHeart’s $90 million Series B round that also included Gaingels and prior investors Polaris, D1 Capital Partners, OCV Partners, Red Sea Ventures, Bellco Capital and Two River. In 2020, Polaris, D1 and OCV led ByHeart’s $70 million Series A round. The new round coincides with the completion of a clinical trial that saw the company successfully meet all its endpoints.
Mia founded ByHeart with her brother, Ron Belldegrun. Prior to co-founding ByHeart, Mia was director of global business development and partnerships and global product marketing at Huffington Post and AOL / Verizon, respectively.
Earlier this year, a portfolio company of AF, Harmless Harvest, was acquired by Danone Manifesto Ventures.
Ada Ventures’ Check Warner plants capital in Sproutl
Ada Ventures’ Francesca “Check” Warner plants capital in a U.K. based gardening marketplace co-founded by Anni Noel-Johnson. Sproutl gained 6.5 million pounds in a round led by Index Ventures, with participation from Ada Ventures and C-Suite angel investors from companies such as Slack, Airbnb, Farfetch and Made.com.
Sproutl manages logistics, packaging sourcing and delivery apart from the online marketing and customer services, allowing local garden centers, shops and nurseries to develop their online presence and reach new national audiences. Its online marketplace makes plants accessible for new plant growers, bringing plants and products from phone to door. Sproutl will use the funds for the launch of its platform and its expansion, as well as to expand its team and hire senior talent.
In a statement, Check said, “at Ada, we are looking to invest in dynamic founders with bold ideas. The Sproutl team is reinventing and reshaping the online gardening landscape in the U.K., making gardening more accessible and inclusive. The depth of experience of the team and their passion for celebrating independent garden retailers made us really excited to partner with them on this ambitious mission.”
Check founded Ada with Matt Penneycard. The firm closed its debut fund at the end of 2020 at $50 million. It invests in overlooked founders and overlooked markets in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Capstar Ventures’ Kathryn Cavanaugh invests in Adelle Archer’s Eterneva
Capstar Ventures’ Kathryn Cavanaugh invests in Eterneva, which was co-founded by Adelle Archer and celebrates the deceased by turning their ashes into diamonds, in a round that also features Kara Nortman of Upfront Ventures and Lydia Jett of SoftBank Investment Advisers investing individually. According to TechCrunch, the Austin, Texas company raised $10 million in Series A funding from a group that also included Tiger Management, Goodwater Capital, Next Coast Ventures and Mark Cuban. The new round comes a year after Eterneva raised a $3 million seed extension round that included investments from Springdale Ventures, which was co-founded by Genevieve Gilbreath, and SoGal Ventures, which is led by Elizabeth Galbut and Pocket Sun.
Eterneva has designed an eight-month process to create remembrances. Customers personalize the diamonds’ size, cut and inscriptions so they serve as meaningful connections to their departed loved ones. Eterneva grows the diamonds at labs in Austin, Germany and Switzerland. Adelle founded the company with Garrett Ozar after she lost a friend and mentor and wanted a new way to memorialize the person’s life. The company appeared on “Shark Tank” in 2019 and received backing from Cuban. Eterneva now has raised $16.7 million since its founding in 2016, according to Crunchbase.
In conjunction with the financing, Kathryn joined Eterneva’s board. Capstone just closed its debut fund at $41.3 million. (See Story in That's A Wrap).
Felix Capital’s Susan Lin leads Mridula Pore’s Peppy Health’s $10M Series A round
Felix Capital’s Susan Lin backs a London-based digital health platform co-founded by Mridula Pore that aims to support employees’ health. Felix led Peppy Health’s $10 million Series A funding with previous investors including Outward VC, Seedcamp and Hambro Perks also participating.
Peppy provides specialist employee health care and wellbeing support, including fertility, pregnancy, postnatal and menopause advice. The company provides tailored, expert-led support to individuals before they need to see a doctor, bridging the gap between online searches and hard-to-access clinical care. In addition to scaling new and existing products, the funding will be used for international expansion and to grow the team.
In a statement, Mridula said, “the pandemic has shown us that employers can’t just talk about supporting their employees’ health and wellbeing anymore, they have to take action. More and more leading businesses are turning to us to provide the support their people really need – not a one-size-fits all solution, but support that is trustworthy, personalized and delivered by experts. We’re still at the surface of what is possible for Peppy.”
Susan added in a statement, “Since Felix started, ‘aspiration for a better life’ has been a core theme and we believe in the strong opportunity for digital health and wellness solutions to improve this. Peppy is at the forefront of three huge market trends and we believe is positioned to become a category-defining brand. First, massive growth in targeted employee benefits, driven by increasing awareness of the importance these have in boosting morale, productivity, and retention. Second, demand for much more convenient ways to access health care, which has been further accelerated by Covid-19. And finally, a need for much more personalized solutions, especially in critical life stages such as menopause and early parenthood.” Susan joined Felix two years ago from HgCapital.
BGF’s Daina Spedding, BlackRock’s Persefoni Noulika and Hiro Capital’s Cherry Freeman back Tania Boler’s Elvie
BGF’s Daina Spedding, BlackRock Private Equity Partners’ Persefoni Noulika and Hiro Capital’s Cherry Freeman back a London-based company co-founded by Tania Boler to develop products that improve women’s lives. Elvie raised $80 million in a Series C funding round led by BGF with participation from BlackRock, Hiro Capital and Westerly Winds, along with existing investors Octopus Ventures and IPGL.
Elvie brings together a team of world-class engineers, designers and business minds to develop extraordinary products that improve women’s lives – revolutionizing categories that had been overlooked for many years, including breast pumps and pelvic floor health. The funds will be used to invest in innovation and the development of new products and services for women, continued expansion into new and existing markets and strengthening Elvie’s operations and infrastructure ready for the next phase of growth. Tania founded the company in 2013 with Jawbone founder Alex Asseily.
In a statement, Daina said, “BGF is delighted to lead this funding round into Elvie, which we regard as the best-in-class innovator in the femtech sector with strong underlying market dynamics and truly global reach.” She added that BGF “admire(s) Elvie’s vision, strong track record and R&D capability which have brought a tangible positive impact on women’s lives.”
Also in a statement, Persefoni said, “Elvie has established itself as a brand innovator within the women’s health and wellness space and has already commercialized two breakthrough patented and FDA-approved devices. We are pleased to support Tania and Elvie’s management team and help continue the company’s strong growth momentum.”
Gigi Pritzker’s DNS Capital leads IMIDomics’ $16.5M Series A round
Gigi Pritzker’s DNS Capital invests in a company targeting immune-mediated inflammatory diseases that was co-founded by Dr. Sara Marsal. DNS led IMIDomics, Inc.’s $16.5 million Series A round, which also included Bristol Myers Squibb, The Pritzker Organization and Tao Capital.
Based in San Francisco, IMIDomics was founded in 2015 following a decade of incubation within Vall d’Hebron Hospital in Barcelona, Spain. The company has developed a platform that combines and analyzes clinical, epidemiologic and biomolecular data to uncover new insights about IMIDs including lupus, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis. IMIDomics hosts the world’s leading dedicated IMID patient biobank, enabling a more granular understanding of these complex, interrelated and difficult-to-treat conditions. These insights allow the company to discover new and more effective treatment possibilities for IMIDs.
Sara, who is chief medical officer, founded the company with Dr. Richard Myers. She is head of the Rheumatology Research Group and Department at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital.