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Monique Woodard Unveils Cake Ventures, New $17 Million Fund Centered On ‘Demographic Change’


The Black founder turned investor will write seed and pre-seed checks, backed by traders together with Financial institution of America and billionaire Melinda French Gates.

In March 2021, Monique Woodard closed a part of the primary fund for her new enterprise capital agency, Cake Ventures, and started working. Many companies level to technological modifications because the north star for his or her portfolios; a smaller however rising quantity deal with underrepresented founders who can get ignored by a few of Silicon Valley’s conventional verify writers.

Woodard, a veteran of startups and VC for 20 years, was extra thinking about new companies driving demographic change in a handful of very particular areas three complementary “layers” of a cake: our getting old and longevity-minded inhabitants; the elevated incomes energy of ladies in society; and the shift to “majority-minority,” as Woodard put it, a “new majority” of early tech adopters coming from Asian, Black and Latino backgrounds.

Startups that match such a thesis, in response to Woodard, would cater to buyer bases that mirrored such layers. Take Rares, a social investing web site enabling fractional possession of collectives like sneakers, which embraces Black, Latin and Asian cultural influences; or Most Days, an app for setting wholesome routines in areas like sleep and despair, that’s principally utilized by ladies.

“It’s the lens by way of which I view firms,” Woodard instructed Forbes— and a thesis, she claimed, that didn’t fairly match an present agency. “Even firms that don’t ‘seem like’ demographic change firms on the floor have a layer of this underneath the hood.”

Now, after holding Cake Ventures’ remaining shut in November, the San Francisco-based Woodard is asserting her first fund. A $17 million automobile, the fund will deal with pre-seed and seed investments, concentrating on a ballpark $500,000 verify. Woodard serves as founding companion and managing director of the agency however plans to rent a enterprise companion and junior funding workers later this 12 months.

Cake will look to make about 25 investments general from its fund; Woodard has made 12 to date. The portfolio already contains firms like Rares and Most Days, but additionally coaching startup Vivid, family payments tracker Gerald, incapacity and neuro-divergence help enterprise Joshin, amongst others. Regardless of such standing not being a prerequisite for funding, about 40% of its investments up to now are led by ladies founders, Woodard mentioned, and 40% by founders who determine as Black—a pure consequence, Woodard added, of “altering who sits on the investor facet of the desk.”

Backing the brand new fund are restricted companions together with Financial institution of America, Cendana Ventures, Foundry Group, Gates’ Pivotal Ventures, Plexo Capital and Screendoor. (Woodard mentioned that greater than 25% of LP {dollars} dedicated got here from feminine traders.) At Pivotal, the funding arm of billionaire philanthropist Melinda French Gates, investments director Erin Harkless Moore mentioned Woodard impressed whereas serving as an advisor and mentor to a TechStars accelerator centered on longevity that Pivotal co-sponsored.

“So many extra funds on the market now are specializing in ‘variety,’ or numerous founders, or numerous demographics,” Harkless Moore mentioned. “The place Monique is differentiated is that she’s going a layer deeper with the depth of her analysis and the kind of services and products and tech that these shoppers want.” Woodard wrote a report on getting old known as “Grey New World” in 2020, Harkless Moore famous, that demonstrated her fascinated by the ramifications of an getting old populace. That led to an funding in Assured, which is wanting to make use of expertise to revamp end-of-life care.

Regardless of such help, Woodard mentioned that elevating Cake Ventures’ first fund was a difficult course of, regardless of a profession that has included constructing and promoting an advert community, launching a cell buying startup, and stints as a Enterprise Accomplice at 500 Startups, a Enterprise Scout at Lightspeed Enterprise Companions and an ongoing advising function with SoftBank Imaginative and prescient Fund’s Emerge startup accelerator.

Woodard deliberate to lift $20 million initially; she finally selected to shut the fund and transfer ahead with much less. “I’ve mentioned earlier than that elevating a fund is doing enterprise capital on laborious mode. And elevating a fund as a girl is like crawling by way of glass, and elevating a fund as a Black girl is like crawling by way of glass with no garments on, after which they pour hearth ants throughout you,” she mentioned. “So it was all the time going to be laborious.”

For startups additionally discovering the present funding surroundings difficult, Woodard mentioned she hadn’t seen a significant slowdown in entrepreneurs launching new companies at her early-stage vantage level. The valuations at which traders worth such startups have continued to drop, nevertheless, she mentioned.

And whereas many eyes in enterprise are at present turned towards synthetic intelligence and generative AI apps (as maybe they did for crypto and Web3 earlier than it), Woodard mentioned she’s taking part in a distinct recreation. “Loads of these applied sciences are essential and nice—defining applied sciences,” she mentioned. “However I believe what individuals are forgetting, frankly, are the folks.” The person base, she added, for such merchandise is shifting. Ignore that, and you possibly can find yourself constructing for an empty room.

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