Alicia Robb wants to change the face of entrepreneurship – and fast. In 2015, she partnered with Portfolia, an investing platform for women, to co-found and co-manage the Rising Tide Fund. That was a million-dollar early-stage fund, and it taught Robb some important lessons. First was that a million-dollar fund, while great for a pilot, doesn't make a ton of economic sense. The fund could make very early stage investments, but when it was time for the companies to raise another round, the fund wasn't necessarily prepared. "You don't want to have to raise a second fund to follow on," says Robb. Second, she says, is that "if I'm spending my time personally, I want to focus on companies that are making a positive change."
The result is the Next Wave Impact Fund. While the fund is officially sector-agnostic, Robb says she's looking for companies that make a positive impact on people, the planet, or communities. At just under $5 million, it's staked by 99 individual investors, and is what's sometimes referred to as a learn-by-doing fund. That means its L.P.s, unlike in a traditional fund, see many of the entrepreneurs' pitches, get to ask questions of the entrepreneurs, and help with due diligence. Its first checks are from $100,000 to $200,000, and it can participate in follow-on rounds from $200,000 to $500,000. So far, Next Wave Impact has invested in StormSensor, Aquacycl, a wastewater treatment company; and Kuli Kuli, a food company that uses moringa, an ingredient from Africa.
Like many with recently-raised funds, Robb is already looking to the next thing. In September 2019, she plans to kick off fundraising for a new fund that will focus on racial and gender equity, as well as a sustainable planet. Tentatively called the Next Wave Equity and Sustainability Fund, she wants it to come in at around $15 million and offer less-standard forms of financing. That might be revenue financing, or so-called entrepreneur redemptions, which allow founders to buy back some of their equity as they hit particular milestones.