Vault Fund’s Sarah Anderson

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

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During her eight years investing in venture funds on behalf of fund-of-funds firm Cintrifuse, Sarah Anderson became increasingly interested in venture studios – entities that help found and create companies. Not only did she see the number of such studios growing, but she also became aware, as she tells Women’s PE Briefs, that the “performance of these studios was dwarfing that of early-stage venture funds.” And so, Sarah recently made the decision to leave her role as a managing director with Cincinnati-based Cintrifuse to launch Vault Fund, the first fund-of-funds focused on venture studios. The Boulder, Colo. firm will invest in entities that acts as founders for multiple startups from idea formation and company creation to scale.

During her time at Cintrifuse she steered the firm’s investments into Atomic, Science and Atlas Venture, three enterprises that she considers venture studios. She was drawn to them, in part, because a key part of Cintrifuse’s mission is to connect its corporate backers – which include Procter & Gamble, Kroger, Smucker’s and Western & Southern – with innovation. “Venture studios are not accelerators or incubators,” said Sarah. “They conceive the idea and infuse it with the right talent at the right time.” She said that while at Cintrifuse, she took a hard look at the performance of many studios and found it “incredibly appealing.” She said she began wondering “how can we do more here? The category warrants more to be done. That was the launching point for an independent vehicle focused on the strategy.”

Sarah believes the “timing is very good” for the Vault Fund strategy. There are, she estimates, some 350 such studios operating in an array of sectors, including life sciences, consumer, proptech and the cloud. Among the better-known ones are Madrona Labs, The Hive, High Alpha, Atlas, Third Rock, the Heather Hartnett-led Human Ventures and Flagship Pioneering, whose successes include COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna. More importantly, she sees the venture market at “at an all-time high” with rounds becoming more competitive and oversubscribed. These studios, Sarah points out, are “creating novel equity to sell in a seller’s market. The valuation risk is being reduced.” Sarah declined to discuss details of her first fund.

She said that starting Vault has “been both hard and fun.” Having raised funds in the past, Sarah said she knew was she was getting into. Yet she’s been encouraged by the “positive feedback” on the strategy. “It’s not been easy,” she said, “but anything worth doing is not easy. I’m excited and encouraged by the long-term future as the category matures. My aim is for Vault to be an additive contributor to the field.” The representation of women among venture studio partners and builders is unacceptable, according to Sarah. She is enthusiastic about increasing the representation of female partners and company builders within venture studios.

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