I had the pleasure of interviewing Elisa Miller-Out, an experienced tech entrepreneur, investor, board director and community builder. Elisa is Managing Partner at Chloe Capital, a seed stage venture capital firm investing in women-led innovation companies. Elisa has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, Forbes and other publications, and she speaks about technology and entrepreneurship at events across the country. Elisa graduated Summa Cum Laude from Barnard College of Columbia University.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
I began my career as a serial tech entrepreneur about 20 years ago. After experiencing first hand the gender and diversity gap in the tech startup world, I wanted to spend the next part of my career advancing solutions. After an acquisition deal that gave me a successful exit from one of my software companies, I was ready for that next step. Together with my partners, Kathryn Cartini and Erica O’Brian, we founded Chloe Capital, a seed stage VC firm focused on women led innovation companies.
Can you share a story of your most successful Angel or VC investment? What was its lesson?
Our first investment, Mi Padrino has reached over 300,000 users in one year and we’re excited about their growth trajectory. We helped them raise over 2 million dollars at the seed stage by connecting them to Astia Angels and the XO Group, the publicly traded company that owns the Knot, the Bump and the Nest. Astia and the XO Group are now co-investors alongside us and strategic partners for the company. The lesson is that we couldn’t have done it alone. Our community of mentors is what sets us apart as a fund and enables us to leverage valuable networks that help our companies grow and scale.
Can you share a story of an Angel or VC funding failure of yours? What was its lesson?
While I’m a strong believer in the fail fast theory of entrepreneurship, Chloe is still a very new VC firm, so none of our portfolio companies have failed yet. We do look forward to learning from those failures and continuing to refine our thesis with time. (Of course, we’re picking winners, so we expect to see a higher success rate than most.) As an entrepreneur I’ve experienced multiple failures and each one made me stronger. In fact, the lessons I’ve learned from my early mistakes in recruiting and hiring talent have been instrumental in helping us develop our recruiting, screening and due diligence process for Chloe.
Is there a company that you turned down, but now regret? Can you share the story? What lesson did you learn?
I have FOMO all the time. I wish we could invest in most of the companies we meet. We screened over 1500 companies for our national tour, but only invested in 6. There’s a robust pipeline of talented female founders out there who just need a little capital and some connections to create explosive growth. We just need to unlock more institutional capital so that we can take advantage of more of these incredible investment opportunities.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We’re making an impact every day, by looking past the unconscious and conscious bias that keeps 98% of venture capital from making its way to female founders. By investing in these overlooked and underestimated founders, we’re doing well by doing good.
What are your “5 things I need to see before making a VC investment” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Traction — We love founders who lead with the numbers and who are already showing strong signs of product-market fit through early revenue and user growth. It’s By U is a great example of this with their rapidly growing recurring monthly revenue and their strong margins.
Hustle — Non-stop drive is a key ingredient to startup success. Geospiza, for example went on to win the SXSW Pitch competition just weeks after being selected for investment during a Chloe pitch event.
Honesty — Transparency and strong ethics are core values that will serve leaders well in the long term.
Heart — We look for founders with strong domain expertise and a deep passion for their work that allows them to weather the inevitable rough patches. In the case of Nineteenth Amendment, their deep industry knowledge helped them forge an early partnership with Project Runway, the hit Bravo TV show.
Mentorship — Our favorite founders are the ones who give back. The “Chloes” (our portfolio founders) are already showing that willingness to pay it forward by mentoring each other and opening up their networks to help other female founders. As co-founder of Women Tech Founders alongside Terri Brax, Riana Lynn from Journey Foods has built communities that help other founders succeed. Our vision is that when these founders exit, they will become investors and fund the next generation of women entrepreneurs.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Because of the community we’re building on our national tour, we’re already being recognized as more than just a VC firm. Chloe Capital is a movement — a movement to #InvestInWomen.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Michelle Obama, Oprah or Shonda Rhimes would all be top of my list!
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.