Ask An Angel: Why Katie Jacobs Stanton Decided To Take The ‘Big Swing’ And Launch Her Own Fund
As part of our Network Investing Program, we invest in the funds of top early-stage investors to identify and back exceptional founders. We launched the program in July 2017, and have since backed 48 angel fund managers who have a combined portfolio of 850+ companies.
In this Q&A with Katie Jacobs Stanton, one of the investors in the program, she dishes on what led her to investing, why she was inspired to launch her own fund, Moxxie Ventures, and how Moxxie plans to differentiate itself in the crowded world of seed and multi-stage funds.
What got you into investing? How long have you been doing it?
I’ve always loved investing in the public markets, but I became an angel investor almost by accident. In 2008, I made my first angel investment in Shape Security, a cybersecurity company led by a friend at Google, Sumit Agarwal. The same year, I made my first fund investment in Lowercase Capital led by another friend at Google, Chris Sacca. In both cases, I admired the determination, experience and vision that both Sumit and Chris had and wanted to support them. I put in small checks and watched both of them build really successful businesses over the years.
I was so busy working full-time and raising three kids, I didn’t have time or capital to angel invest until years later. In 2015, I was at a birthday party for my friend, Jess Verrilli (now a GP at GV). Along with four other friends who worked at Twitter, we had a conversation about angel investing and how important it was for more women, including operators like us, to be part of the venture ecosystem. We decided to band together to create an investment collective called #ANGELS to invest in phenomenal companies and get more women on the cap tables of successful startups.
The timing of creating #ANGELS seems prescient now, particularly as we’ve recently seen many employees at top tech companies band together in their own informal investment collectives. Tell us more about the group.
#ANGELS is an investment collective that’s been active for the past five years and has a portfolio of over 120 companies, including Coinbase, Carta and Gusto. We make our investment decisions individually, but we share a larger mission of getting more women on the cap tables of successful startups. I’ll continue to partner with #ANGELS on this important mission and I’m proud that they are LPs in Moxxie.
You have worked in senior roles at high profile tech companies like Twitter, Google, Color and Yahoo. Do you plan to invest in alums?
Definitely. So much of investing is making a bet on the founder(s). I was lucky enough to work with so many extraordinary engineers, product managers, and designers at some of the best companies in Silicon Valley. I saw their extraordinary talents firsthand and would love to support their entrepreneurial journeys. That said, great ideas can come from anywhere and I want to make sure I’m building and supporting founder networks outside of Silicon Valley.
Ok so let’s talk about your new fund, Moxxie Ventures. What’s the fund’s thesis?
At a high level, I’m looking to support founders making life and work better. That falls into a few “classic” categories of consumer, enterprise, fintech and healthcare IT. But sectors evolve, blur and change so I want to keep an open mind.
It’s interesting you mention the part about making work better, because The Future of Work has become an area of focus for VCs in 2019. How do you think about that theme?
This is an entire blog post! IMHO, there are several invest-able categories here, underpinned by a few macro trends, including:
- More distributed workforces
- More digital, less physical jobs
- More people in the gig economy (today, we’re seeing 40%)
- Rising income inequality
- Lower life expectancy
- Broken health care
- Terrifying climate change
All of these trends need radically better ways for us to empower workers and workplaces and in a way that improves our lives and sustains our planet.
Well said! Separately, we have to talk about Cameo, the hit video app that you invested in. What was it that attracted you to that company?
My #ANGEL co-founder, Jana Messerschmit, shared Cameo with us a few years ago. When I saw it, I had an OMG moment. This is what we should have built at Twitter! I loved everything about it — the idea, the founder, and the simplicity of the product. Not only was it naturally viral, but the app also catered to the long-tail of content creators, like college football stars, not just A-List celebrities. That part made me think that it could be scale globally and penetrate various communities. I invested in the Series A.
Importantly, I also realized I could be helpful. We grew a similar global influencer network at Twitter and I wanted to share those learnings and network with the team. I love the product and send Cameos to my kids and friends all the time. I even sent one to a potential LP … it worked! :)
There has been a proliferation of emerging fund managers in Silicon Valley in recent times. How do you stand out amongst the crowd and what’s the best way to position yourself to institutional seed and multi-stage funds?
This is a founders market and that’s a good thing! I’m hopeful that I can provide a unique value to founders including:
- Differentiated operating experience. I’ve built products, scaled businesses globally, led PR and Marketing teams, and built teams and culture).
- Diverse network. I have a strong network in Silicon Valley, DC, LA, NY and key global markets.
- Agility. It’s just me! I can move fast!
- Partnership. I love to collaborate with founders and also other firms.
You’ve taken money from a few institutional LPs like Bain Capital Ventures. What’s the story there?
I’ve known Sarah Smith (a BCV partner) as an exceptional operator turned investor for the past five years. I reached out to her early in my fundraising process to get her guidance. She shared how BCV actually had a program where they invest in, and collaborate with, seed funds managed by emerging GPs. BCV came in as an early LP and has been a close strategic partner since Moxxie’s inception!
Not only did BCV provide capital for my fund, but as a solo GP, it has been so helpful to debate and discuss deals, trends and categories with subject matter experts on their team.