Linda Greub and Corinne Nevinny see a portfolio company of Avestria Ventures acquired while Henrijette Richter, Laia Crespo, Kristin Bannon, Cristina Nuñez and Paola Felipak make investments
From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing July 12, 2021
Linda Greub and Corinne Nevinny’s Avestria Ventures sees a portfolio company acquired
Avestria Ventures, which was founded by Linda Greub and Corinne Nevinny, sees a second company from its recently closed debut fund acquired – a company co-founded and led by Jenna Ryan. Terms of Uqora’s purchase by Pharmavite were not disclosed, but in an email to Avestria’s contacts, the firm said the acquisition represents an IRR of 218 percent and a multiple on invested capital of 12.2 times. Crunchbase does not list how much venture funding Uqora raised or who its investors were.
San Diego-based Uqora develops urinary tract health products that it has sold directly to consumers through its website. It offers supplements and products to identify and treat the symptoms of UTIs. Jenna founded the company in 2017 with Spencer Gordan after becoming stuck in a cycle of UTIs with no effective, long-term option for relief. Pharmavite, which is owned by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, produces Nature Made vitamins and supplements. It will utilize its international distribution network to make Uqora’s products more readily available.
In a statement, Jenna said the acquisition is “an exciting moment for me, Spencer and the Uqora team – this acquisition means we now have access to resources from a leader in the health and wellness space who can help us further our research efforts and accelerate our ability to develop new products. Our goal has always been to make our products available to every person who needs them. With Pharmavite, we know we can bring that vision to life.”
Linda and Corinne backed Uqora prior to forming Avestria and brought it along with three other companies into its inaugural fund. That fund closed in April at $10 million, almost at the same time as another of the firm’s investments, Alydia Health, was acquired by Merck spin-off Organon for $215 million upfront plus a $25 million contingent milestone payment. Avestria also recently backed AOA Dx, Inc., which was co-founded by Oriana Papin-Zoghbi and Anna Jeter and is developing the first non-invasive ovarian cancer liquid biopsy diagnostic test.
Avestria, which was created in 2019, has also backed such other companies as Raydiant, which provides improved guidance as to whether an emergency caesarean delivery is needed, and Genome Medical, Inc., a genomics medical practice company co-founded and led by Lisa Alderson.
Sofinnova Partners’ Henrijette Richter and Sanofi Ventures’ Laia Crespo help launch Muna Therapeutics
Sofinnova Partners’ Henrijette Richter and Sanofi Ventures’ Laia Crespo help launch a company focused on treating neurodegenerative diseases whose CEO is Rita Balice-Gordon. Sofinnova, Novo Holdings, DROIA Ventures and LSP Dementia Fund led Muna Therapeutics’ $73 million Series A round, which in addition to Sanofi included Polaris Partners, Polaris Innovation Fund, V-Bio Ventures and VIB.
Based in Copenhagen and Leuven, Belgium, Muna is developing small molecules to repair neuronal dysfunction and resolve neuroinflammation. Muna was founded in 2020 and emerged from work done at Aarhus University in Denmark. Muna developed a strategic partnership with Axxam SpA in Milan and then joined forces with K5 Therapeutics, which came out of VIB-KU Leuven in Belgium. The combined company features a small molecule drug discovery engine that leverages high-resolution target structural approaches, AI-driven computational chemistry and cell-based screening. Rita, a seasoned pharma executive, has been an entrepreneur in residence at Novo Seeds.
In conjunction with the financing, Henrijette and Laia joined Muna’s board. Henrijette, who is a managing partner with Sofinnova, is on the boards of such other companies as iOmx, NodThera, Nitrome Biosciences, whose founder and CEO is Irene Griswold-Prenner, and Twentyeight-Seven Therapeutics, whose founding president and CEO is Kazumi Shiosaki.
Laia earlier this year saw portfolio company LAVA Therapeutics go public. Her portfolio also includes NodThera. Lai is Sanofi Ventures’ head of EU investments. She joined the firm in 2018 from Ysios Capital.
Kristin Bannon guides SoftBank into Clearco’s $215M round
SoftBank Investment Advisers’ Kristin Bannon guides the firm’s Vision Fund 2 into Clearco, the e-commerce investor co-founded by Michele Romanow and whose board includes Oak HC/FT’s Annie Lamont. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led Clearco’s $215 million round, which also included Intuit, Bow Capital and Park West.
Clearco has created a suite of performance financing products and services tailor-made for founders in all stages of their journey. Earlier this year, Oak HC/FT led Clearco’s $100 million round, which also included Founders Circle and executives from a host of e-commerce companies. Formerly known as Clearbanc, Clearco has now raised more than $385 million of equity. The New York, London and Toronto entity has invested $2.4 billion in more than 5,500 businesses. Clearco utilizes proprietary algorithms that are gender- race- and region-agnostic. As a result, it says it has funded eight times as many female founders as typical VCs. Michele, who is president, founded Clearco with Andrew D’Souza who is CEO.
In a statement, Kristin said, “Clearco is a market leader who has created an entire industry that is fiercely dedicated to democratizing access to capital and a full suite of services that serve the founder journey.” Kristin, an investment director, joined SoftBank in 2010 from Morgan Stanley’s Technology Investment Banking group.
Blossom Capital’s Ophelia Brown leads Localyze’s $12M Series A round
Blossom Capital’s Ophelia Brown backs a company founded by Hanna Marie Asmussen, Lisa Dahlke and Franziska Löw that supports staff relocations and hiring across borders. Blossom led Localyze’s $12 million Series A round, which also included prior investor Frontline Ventures and a series of angel investors, according to TechCrunch.
Based in Hamburg, Localyze has helped more than 2,000 people from more than 100 countries relocate internationally. Hanna, who is CEO, Lisa, who is chief operating officer, and Frazni, who is chief technology officer, founded the company in 2018.
In a statement, Ophelia said that Localyze “removes all of (the) barriers” for European companies to “access the very best talent.” She added that “instead of being bogged down by the costly and lengthy relocation processes, enterprises can concentrate on the job at hand and their employees can feel confident and secure that their relocation – often one of the biggest decisions they’ll have to make in their career – is dealt with efficiently and without a hitch.”
Ophelia, who founded Blossom, earlier this year backed Dija, a grocery delivery company. She has also backed Duffel, which is developing innovative solutions to some of the complex challenges in the travel market; Fat Llama, an online lending site co-founded by Rosie Dallas; and Pigment, whose co-founder and co-CEO is Eléonore Crespo and which is creating a business forecasting platform aimed at replacing spreadsheets and software with charts, simulations and continuous modeling.
Blossom in 2020 closed its second fund at $185 million. The London firm focuses on European Series A stage consumer and enterprise start-ups.
True Beauty Ventures’ Cristina Nuñez and Fable Investments’ Paola Felipak invest in maude
True Beauty Ventures’ Cristina Nuñez and Fable Investments’ Paola Felipak invest in a modern intimacy brand founded by Éva Goicochea – a company that True’s Claire Cherry helped seed last year. True Beauty led maude’s $5.8 million Series A round, which also included Fable, Endeavor and returning investor True, a UK private equity firm.
Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., maude has taken an approach to sexual health that centers on share-care – self and partner-focused essentials that promote everyday intimacy routines across sex, bath and body. Launched in 2018, the company has recently released an all-body massager and a new scent collection. Its products are carried in Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and on Saks.com. Eva previously was involved in health care legislation and brand strategy.
In a statement, Cristina called maude “a category leader with a clear mission to democratize and destigmatize an antiquated view of sex while reframing intimacy as self-care” and said that Éva is a “visionary, fearless founder who has innovatively bridged the gap between sex, health, and personal care through a thoughtful product offering that has redefined the meaning of modern intimacy for the consumer.”
In conjunction with the financing, both Cristina and Paola joined maude’s board. Cristina formed TBV in 2020 with Rich Gersten. The firm is a growth fund focused exclusively on beauty, wellness and personal care and is part of True Beauty Capital, a beauty-focused strategic investment platform. True Beauty is in a partnership with North Castle Partners. True Beauty Ventures’ investments include AQUIS, a hair care company co-founded by Britta Cox.
Fable Investments is the corporate venture arm of Natura & Co., the parent company of Aesop and the Body Shop. It recently invested in Perfumer H, a fragrance brand founded by Lyn Harris.
Fountain Healthcare Partners’ Ena Prosser re-invests in NeRRe Therapeutics
Fountain Healthcare Partners’ Ena Prosser re-invests in a company led by Mary Kerr that is focused on treating chronic cough caused by reflex hypersensitivity disorders. Fountain participated in NeRRe Therapeutics’ 20 million pounds Series B2 financing round that also included Columbus Venture Partners and existing investors Advent Life Sciences, Forbion Capital Partners, OrbiMed and the UK Government’s The Future Fund. NeRRe raised a 23-million-pound Series B round in 2017, with Ena joining the board.
Based in Stevenage, UK, NeRRe is developing orvepitant, a wholly-owned neurokinin-1 antagonist as a treatment for the disabling chronic cough. It will also seek to use orvepitant in chronic cough caused by IPF, a rare type of interstitial lung disease. NeRRe was founded in 2012 as a spin-out from GSK, which transferred its NK antagonist portfolio to the company.
Prior to joining NeRRe in 2015, Mary was a senior vice president and global franchise lead at GSK. In 2020, another company that Mary co-founded and led, and which Ena was a backer of, KaNDy Therapeutics, Ltd., was sold to Bayer for as much as $875 million, including $425 million upfront.
Floodgate’s Ann Miura-Ko re-invests in Danielle Li’s Popshop Live
Floodgate’s Ann Miura-Ko re-invests in Popshop Live, a mobile live streaming marketplace founded by Danielle Li – who goes by Dan Dan – in a round that also includes angel investors Sophia Amoruso, Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner. Popshop Live raised $20 million in Series A funding from Benchmark, TQ Ventures, Mantis VC, Access Industries, SV Angel, prior investors Abstract Ventures and Long Journey Ventures and such other individuals as Baron Davis, Kevin Mayer and Michael Ovitz, according to TechCrunch. A year ago, the company raised $3 million from a group which, in addition to Floodgate, included angel investor Cyan Banister, Halogen Ventures, which was founded by Jesse Draper; and Backend Capital, which was founded by Lucy Guo.
Popshop utilizes streaming video to both connect with their shoppers and sell their products in a new way. The company, in fact, was described by TechCrunch, as a “reimagining of the Home Shopping Network or QVC, for the year 2020.” The app enables retailers – big and small – to create and host their own shows. Popshop also integrates with Shopify thus enabling those selling on the site to manage sales during their show.
Jacqueline Ovens guides Export Development Canada into P&P Optica’s Series B round
Jacqueline Ovens, a director at Export Development Canada, guides the organization back into a company founded and led by Olga Pawluczyk that is focused on helping food processors make safer, higher quality food while reducing waste. EDC took part in P&P Optica’s Series B round, which also included Ag Capital Canada, Synovus Family Office and another existing investor, Fulcrum Global Capital. The size of the round was not disclosed.
Waterloo, Ontario-based P&P Optica will use the capital to accelerate implementation of its detection system in food processing plants across Canada and the United States. PPO will also use the funding to expand development of its software and insights for the food processing industry – including tools that enable processors to collect, view and analyze detailed information about food composition and quality in real-time. In a statement, Jacqueline said that PPO’s technology “has been proven to deliver important advancements in reducing food waste, while significantly increasing food safety and quality.”
EQT Ventures’ Sandra Malmberg plants capital in Merit Valdsalu’s Single.Earth
EQT Ventures’ Sandra Malmberg plants capital in an Estonian company co-founded and led by Merit Valdsalu that enables landowners to sell their holdings as carbon and biodiversity credits. EQT Ventures led Single.Earth’s $7.9 million seed round that also included several angels and existing investor Icebreaker.
Using satellite imagery, big data analysis and machine-learning to build global carbon models, Single.Earth tokenizes the planet’s resources including forests and swamps, partnering with nature directly to unlock ecological value without destruction. The tokens generate profits through carbon compensations, emitting a new MERIT token for every 100 kg of carbon dioxide sequestered in a specific forest or biodiverse area. The tokens can be used to trade as an investment instrument, compensate for CO2 footprint, or contribute to climate goals. Companies, organizations and eventually individuals can purchase these tokens and own fractional amounts of those lands and natural resources, rewarded with carbon and biodiversity offsets. Single.Earth will use the capital to launch its marketplace for nature-backed MERIT tokens and for hiring talent. Merit founded the company in 2019 with Andrus Aaslaid, who is chief technology officer.
In a statement, Sandra said, “oil was the new gold, data the new oil; now, nature is now the most precious and valuable resource of all. A company having a hectare of forest saved as a key metric to scale is a company we are thrilled to back. Disrupting the economy and financial markets with a new tradable and liquid asset class that has a positive impact on the environment is an irresistible investment.”
Earlier this year, Sandra backed Vev, which was co-founded by Tine Karlsen and helps content creators build and launch interactive websites. A venture lead with EQT, Sandra has also backed such companies as Curb and Willa. EQT Ventures is a multi-stage venture capital firm.
M Ventures’ Therese Liechtenstein invests in Charlotte Casebourne and Margaret Duffy’s Theolytics
M Ventures’ Therese Liechtenstein invests in Theolytics, which is harnessing viruses to combat cancer and whose co-founders include Charlotte Casebourne and Margaret Duffy. The amount invested by M Ventures – the strategic venture arm of Merck – was not disclosed, only that it was an extension of Theolytics’ Series A round. The Oxford, England company late last year secured $6.8 million from Epidarex Capital, Taiho Ventures, LLC and Oxford Sciences Innovation.
The capital was to be used to progress Theolytics’ pipeline of candidates towards human clinical trials. Charlotte, who is CEO, and Margaret, who is chief scientific officer, founded the company in 2017 with Kerry Fisher, who is president of research. Theolytics was spun-out of the University of Oxford and is focused on developing category changing cancer therapies in the form of oncolytic viruses.
In a statement, Therese said, “oncolytic virus therapies have the potential to help multiple large patient groups in oncology however their translation to date has been hampered by significant challenges. Theolytics is the first company to apply a truly systematic oncolytic virus discovery platform to overcome these challenges and build the next-generation oncolytic virus therapies.”
In conjunction with the financing, Therese joined Theolytics’ board. Earlier this year, Therese led M Ventures into Anavo Therapeutics, a Dutch company led by Birgit Zech that is seeking to unlock the full therapeutic potential of human phosphatase biology. Therese joined Anavo’s board. Her portfolio also includes FoRx Therapeutics AG and Plexium, Inc. She is a principal with M Ventures.
Breakout Ventures’ Julia Moore re-invests in Kendra Kuhl and Etosha Cave’s Twelve
Breakout Ventures’ Julia Moore re-invests in a carbon transformation start-up whose co-founders include Kendra Kuhl and Etosha Cave. Breakout took part in Twelve’s $57 million Series A round, which also included Capricorn Technology Impact Fund, Carbon Direct Capital Management, DCVC, Munich Re Ventures, Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund and Evok Innovations.
Previously known as Opus 12, Berkeley, Calif.-based Twelve has developed proprietary catalyst technology that transforms carbon dioxide into critical chemicals, materials and fuels that are conventionally made from fossil fuels. Using Twelve’s technology, industry and brands can meet emissions targets faster while creating essential products—from the foam in running shoes, to the polymers in automobile dashboards, to aviation fuel, to laundry detergent—at the same or higher quality as conventional products made from petrochemicals. Twelve has partnerships with Mercedes-Benz, Procter & Gamble and NASA to convert CO2 emissions into essential products. Kendra, who is chief technology officer, and Etosha, who is chief science officer, founded Twelve with Nicholas Flanders, who is CEO.
Chrysalix Venture Capital’s Alicia Lenis digs into Amanda Truscott’s Rithmik Solutions’ $1.2M round
Chrysalix Venture Capital’s Alicia Lenis digs into a Montreal company co-founded and led by Amanda Truscott that provides advanced and reliable analytics for mobile mining equipment maintenance. Chrysalix led Rithmik Solutions’ $1.2 million round that also included Fonds Ecofuel.
Rithmik will use the capital to accelerate the commercialization of its product, Rithmik Asset Health Analyzer, which has been in development for the past three years and is currently undergoing real-time onsite trials in Alberta, Quebec and Zambia. The product provides insights into past, current and future equipment issues, trustworthy alarms and better end-of-life planning for longer-lasting assets, all while integrating with existing systems and reporting tools. Amanda founded the company with Kevin Urbanski and Kris Isfeld.
In a statement, Amanda said, “our results to date have included detection hours to months in advance of major failures in multiple types and brands of mobile mining equipment across vastly different geographies. Our system has also proven able to uncover chronic inefficiencies along with gaps and inconsistencies in the data itself.”
Alicia, also in a statement, said, “we were impressed by the Rithmik team’s deep technical experience in the space of mobile mining equipment data, across equipment types and OEM brands, and that experience has strongly resonated with their early customers. And when we looked at their approach, which is a scalable AI-first solution that accounts for the extreme variability in mines, we see significant potential that they can crack this tough problem for mining companies.”
In conjunction with the financing, Alicia joined Rithmik’s board. She is also an observer on the boards of MineSense and Novamera, Inc. Before joining Chrysalix in 2018, Alicia worked as a management consultant for Bain & Company. Chrysalix is a technology-focused venture capital firm that builds, mentors, and connects high growth companies.
Curate Capital’s Carrie Colbert backs Alix Greenberg’s ArtSugar
Curate Capital’s Carrie Colbert backs an e-commerce retailer founded by Alix Greenberg pioneering art curation for the Instagram generation. ArtSugar raised $500,000 in a seed round from Curate, a venture capital firm empowering female founders to accelerate their paths to success.
Based in New York, ArtSugar bridges the gap between mass-produced wall art and decor at big-box retailers and high-end fine art, boasting an exclusive selection of affordable art prints, sculptures and home goods by artists popular on Instagram along with in-house designs. The platform is focused on selling exclusive, affordable art by globally sourced underrepresented artists with large Instagram followings. Alix began her professional career at Christie’s Education and held positions with artist Peter Tunney and at Skarstedt Gallery before founding ArtSugar in 2017.
After investing in female-founded businesses for five years with her own capital, Carrie launched Curate Capital. Curate boasts a majority of female LP investors in a female-founded and led venture capital fund investing in businesses by women to meet the unique needs and wants of the female consumer.
CapitalT’s Janneke Niessen invests in Namrata Sandhu and Anita Daminov’s Vaayu
CapitalT’s Janneke Niessen invests in a German carbon tracking software company for retailers co-founded by Namrata Sandhu and Anita Daminov. Vaayu secured $1.57 million in a pre-seed funding round led by CapitalT and supported by angel investors including Atomico’s Angel Program, Planet Positive LP, Saarbrücker 21, Expedite Ventures and NP-Hard Ventures.
Vaayu integrates with various point-of-sale systems to pull data on logistics, operations and packaging so retailers can monitor, measure and reduce their carbon emissions in real-time to cut their carbon footprint in parallel to their business operations. The funding will be used to hire new staff, optimize the platform and support its public launch and will enable Vaayu to work towards its aim of helping retailers to reduce one gigaton of carbon emissions by 2030.
Namrata, who is CEO, and Anita, who is chief product officer, founded the company in 2020 with Luca Schmid, who is chief technology officer. Namrata is the former head of sustainability at Zalando.
In a statement, Janneke said, “we are very excited to join Vaayu on their mission to reduce carbon emission for retailers worldwide. The Vaayu product is very scalable, and its quick and easy implementation allows for fast adoption.” Namrata added in a statement “We are delighted to be backed by female-led CapitalT who understood us and our vision right from the start. We look forward to developing Vaayu further in the coming months so we can reach as many retailers as possible and help put the brakes on the impending climate crisis.”