When Lori Cashman and Suzanne Norris started reading about the gender funding gap in startups back in 2015, "It felt like a call to action," says Cashman. "We could provide capital, access to our network, and help find the next stage of investors. We realized it was up to us to make this happen."
Both women have a background in finance – Cashman in private equity and Norris in investment banking – and Norris has significant experience in operations as well, having launched and grown Kate Spade's ecommerce business. In 2016, the two started raising a small fund, mostly from friends and family. They made 14 investments, and saw enough traction and success to support the formation of a second fund. They're now raising that fund, with a target of $20 million. Many of the women who have invested in the fund, they say, have been successful in private equity. "They get it," says Cashman. "They know that the stage where we're investing is mission-critical for these companies."
That stage is seed, with the ability to make follow-on investments in a company's Series A or B. As of June 2019, the pair have made six investments out of the second fund, with check sizes that average $250,000 to $500,000. Victress invests broadly in tech-enabled consumer companies and services, as well as digital marketplaces and tech-enabled services. Their portfolio companies include Daily Harvest, a maker of healthy frozen foods; Blume, a personal- and menstrual-care company for girls; and travel brand SummerSalt.
Victress' ambitions are as big as those of its founders: In 18 months, the pair wants to be back in the market, raising a $50 or $100 million fund by late 2020.