Flybridge Capital Partners is taking a small, yet potentially important, step toward making venture capital a more reasonable and inclusive place for women. On Wednesday, the firm announced the creation of the XFactor Fund, a pre-seed stage fund that will invest solely in women entrepreneurs.
The fund, and the amounts to be invested, are relatively small. The fund has $3 million, and it plans to invest $100,000 in 30 different companies. There will be no follow-on investing from the fund, although of course the hope is that when the XFactor companies are ready for another round they will be eager to consider Flybridge.
What's most interesting about the fund, however, is who's running it. Chip Hazard and Kate Castle, both partners at Flybridge, will participate. But Flybridge has also asked a group of women entrepreneurs to become general partners in the fund. These women will be bringing their own deal flow and recommendations for investment.
"We had been talking about starting a fund for so long that it's really a dream come true," says Ooshma Garg, founder and CEO of meal-kit company Gobble, and one of the women who will be running the fund.
Other founders who will be participating in the XFactor Fund include:
- Anna Palmer, co-founder and CEO, WonderMile
- Aubrie Pagano, co-founder and CEO, Bow & Drape
- Elizabeth Whitman, co-founder, Manicube
- Kathryn Minshew (pictured above), co-founder and CEO, The Muse
- Danielle Morrill, co-founder and CEO, Mattermark
- Erica Brescia, co-founder and COO, Bitnami
- Jessica Mah, founder and CEO, inDinero
While some of these founders have made angel investments in startups before, Brescia says the appeal of working alongside other female founders, in a more structured investment environment, was persuasive.
"The reason I decided to invest my time is the quality of the team and the fact that they're all operating female founders," she says. "Some VCs might be great people and expert investors, but they don't have a ton of operating experience."
Can venture capital change?
Nationally, only about 18 percent of venture capital goes to teams that include a woman co-founder, and only about 3 percent of venture capital goes to women CEOs. Women venture capitalists are equally rare: only about 6 percent of investing partners at venture capital firms are women.
Flybridge's existing investment portfolio is right in line with those numbers: Castle says of the 60 companies in Flybridge's portfolio, about 15 percent have at least one female co-founder.
Castle says the impetus for the XFactor fund came from conversations between herself, Hazard, and Palmer, all of whom were frustrated with the small amounts of venture capital going to women founders. Flybridge already had a small specialized fund that invested in companies coming out of the community around Harvard University, and the three wondered if something similar could focus on female entrepreneurs.
Flybridge is contributing 20 percent of the money in the fund, with the rest coming from limited partners and the entrepreneurs themselves. Castle says most of the limited partners in the fund are "high-net-worth individuals who are very focused on this issue." Castle says the fund has found its first four investments, and will be announcing them soon.