Hi there 👋 Welcome to the Let's Start Up newsletter, curated by me, Janine Sickmeyer, a tech founder turned investor. Follow me as I share startup tips, industry news, people you should know, and investors putting their money where their mouth is.
What's In This Issue 🗞
A brief look into what you'll be reading about
New ventures funds recently launched
Two women investors you need to know
Startup news you can’t miss
What's on my mind… 💭
I’ve been thinking….
As the world begins to open up again with hope for a post-pandemic life, I have been thinking a lot about how I want to spend my time and who I want to spend it with.
Last month, I had a scare. I suffered a concussion after fainting in my bathroom due to vasovagal syncope. Basically, something triggered my heart rate and blood pressure to drop suddenly, and I dropped to the ground and fell backward hitting my head. Luckily my husband was home, heard a loud bang like a bowling ball hitting the stone floor, and came running and I awoke within seconds. For the next few days, I was in a concussed state, mixing up words, unable to process information as quickly as I had before, referencing people and places that I hadn’t thought of in 10+ years. I couldn’t look at my computer, the television, or even think about sequences and numbers. My nights consisted of terrifying vivid dreams of losing family members in horrific accidents. Every few hours I would imagine falling again and the look on my husbands face when I woke up. Talking to my doctor, he said PTSD from a scare like this is totally normal and the dreams will fade and soon I’ll be back to myself. I got bloodwork done, they ran a *lot* of tests, and I had a CT scan and everything came back normal (🙏). But there was still something I couldn’t shake after I started to feel better. It was this:
The idea of literally staring at a box all day just didn’t seem meaningful enough anymore. I’ve had these thoughts for years - wondering if I’m making the most out of my time here, and making an impact on the world in some little way. But after the fall, it became apparent that when I looked past my computer screen, out my window and saw the bright green grass, tall sturdy pine trees, and heard birds freely flying, I felt trapped.
I’m sure everyone who has been stuck inside during the pandemic has had a similar feeling. This is why it’s so important that when we come out of this, we honor ourselves and protect our time. It’s the most precious thing we have. Now go on and find a way to be free today. 🦋
Recently Hit the Stands 📰
Things in the news you should check out (from the past few weeks)
One of my founder friends, and a fellow twin parent, is winning! James Oliver Jr. is a father of two twins and founder of WeMontage.com, a website that makes peel and stick collage photo wallpaper. But that's not all, James also wrote a book on being a parentpreneur and CEO of the ParentPreneur Foundation, which supports Black entrepreneurs who are also parents.
After watching the show Silicon Valley during college, Paige Finn Doherty was inspired to become an investor and go into venture capital. Young women, specifically Gen Z women, are joining venture capital. They're making waves on social media, and during the process changing the way the VC industry is perceived. It's not just “a bunch of old dudes sitting in a mahogany library with cigars," anymore.
In the first quarter of the year, venture capital funding reached an all-time high. We mostly saw a large increase in late-stage funding, but there was also a surge in early-stage funding. In fact, Q1 of 2021 was high for global early-stage funding. Growth-stage investor Insight Partners led six Series A Fundings, making up a large chunk. It's a competitive game, but a lot of investment in early-stage companies indicates the overall strength of venture capital markets.
Harlem Capital recently announced the members of its inaugural Angel Program cohort. These 7 professionals come from across all industries, including companies like Pinterest, Robinhood, and Glassdoor. Harlem Capital received over 300 applications and the applicant pool was made up of 60% women and 80% minority professionals. This 6-week program allows diverse industry operators to receive the knowledge, network, and diverse deal flow to start functioning as angel investors.
Jai Malik launched Countdown Capital four months ago, which focuses on pre-seed and seed stage deep tech founders. Since the firm raised $15m, it is classified as a nano fund. Over the last few months, Jai Malik learned a few lessons on managing a nano fund. He reflected on them in this article and added in some tips for current or future nano fund managers like investing while you're raising capital and quantity over quality.
A Little Birdie Told Me 🐦
Tweet of the week
Hot Take of the Week 🔥
Somebody had to say it
Walk the Walk 💰
Investors putting their money where their mouth is
Arian Simone and Keshia Knight Pulliam founded Fearless Fund to invest in pre-seed, seed, and Series A startups that are led by women of color. Credit card company Mastercard invested in Fearless Fund to help them continue their mission and expand their portfolio.
Silicon Valley is friendly to Black entrepreneurs, but they don't invest in Black entrepreneurs and let them dream big. Craig J. Lewis started in Silicon Valley as a chief strategy officer at Kairos, where he raised some money and joined a few accelerators. However, it was harder for them to raise real money. But now, he successfully raised $13 million for his company, Gig Wage despite the adversity.
2020 wasn't a good year for women and nonbinary individuals in tech and venture. We have some work to do. The report found that all-male founding teams received 86% of VC funding, while investments in women-founded companies decreased by 2.5%. Additionally, Black + Latinx founders only received 64% of all venture capital dollars.
Turns out, you don't have to be in the top 25% as a VC to get good returns. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that half of VC fund managers do better than public markets and are worthy of institutional investment (Dan Malven).
Founders You Should Follow 👀
Leah Fessler, NextView Ventures
Leah Fessler is a Senior Investment Associate at NextView Ventures and an Angel Investor in Ethel's Club, Somewhere Good, and A Kids Book About. Leah has a background in journalism and her pug Chester has a pretty cute Instagram. I met Leah last year and we immediately connected. She roots for overlooked founders vocally on Twitter and uses her voice to make change. I have long admired her and am happy to be friends.
Jamie Meltzer, Republic and Newtown Ventures
Angel Investor and advisor, Jamie Meltzer supports early-stage consumer companies and democratizing access to capital. Previously, she launched, grew, and sold a CPG brand called Watermelon Road. As an investor, She advocates for overlooked founders at the cap table and believes in investing in emerging managers and women + other historically ignored groups. Jamie and I have become friends during the pandemic and I can’t wait to meet her IRL in September!
What Founders Need to Know 🤔
Advice and resources you didn't know you needed.
The first meeting with an investor can be stressful, but with enough planning, you can nail it. Kara Nortman, the Managing Partner at Upfront VC, created a thread of things she wants to hear and see during the first meeting with a founder.
Brittany K. Barnett turned to Twitter to ask two investors, Mac McConnell and Amani Phipps, for the best resources for new Angels. Mac and Amani shared some pretty great ones in the replies, including a masterclass series and several podcasts + books to read.
Elizabeth Yin is always dropping Twitter threads with so much helpful information for founders. One of her more recent ones is on making collaborative spreadsheets to keep track of investors. It might seem mundane or dull, but it will propel your fundraising efforts.
Buy this book. Courier Media and gestalten partnered to release a book just for founders so that they can work better, live smarter, and be happier. It has 30+ business profiles, a DIY section, and my tips on bootstrapping!
Yohei Nakajima, a General Partner at Untapped Capital, has been keeping tabs on startups over the last year. He came across some compelling trends like the growth of no-code, productivity apps, and remote work. Read this thread to keep a pulse on trends in startups.
Lauren Kay, the co-founder of failed startup the Dating Ring, felt ashamed of her shortcomings and was reluctant to reach out for help. In this article, Lauren lists out 6 pieces of advice she wishes she could tell former self.
Startup Bookshelf 📚
What I’m reading this month
Between Two Kingdoms, written by Suleika Jaouad, is a completely engrossing and inspiring story about resilience, survivorship, and finding yourself along the way. After she graduated college, Suleika moved to Paris to pursue her dream of being a war correspondent and was diagnosed with Leukemia shortly after. Her memoir takes you through the troubling days of chemo to life after, incorporating friendship, love, and loss. It’s a must read!
Emmanuel Acho, former NFL player, and Fox Sports analyst, recently released Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man after his viral video series of the same name. This book serves as an "essential guide" for addressing systemic racism in the United States. Emmanuel Acho answers the questions that white Americans are afraid to ask and explains concepts like white privilege, cultural appropriation, and more.
Recently Launched VC Funds 🚀
Weekend Fund was started by Ryan Hoover and Vedika Jain started Community Raise to break down the barriers to venture funds.
Turner Novak announced his new fund Banana Cap, an internet-first, sector and geography agnostic tech investment firm with $25k-$300k check sizes.
Robbie Robinson is Former President Barack Obama's financial adviser and leads investment firm Pendulum Holdings, a new venture capital firm. This firm is funding people of color and is keeping a low profile while raising $250 million
Volt Capital is a new venture firm that debuted with a $10 million fund. Soona Amhaz expects to see a resurgence of equity deals in crypto.
Launching with $175 Million, Footwork is a new VC firm from Nikhil Basu Trivedi and Mike Smith. Their mission is to invest between $1.5 million and $8 million initial checks into Series A deals focusing on consumer companies and “consumerized” enterprise software.
Black Tech Nation Ventures is Pittsburgh-based working to diversify wealth creation. The firm is a partnership between Black Tech Nation and Birchmere Ventures to invest in early-stage companies. Their first round of investments will range from $200,000 to $1 million.
Founded by Aniko Szigetvari and Ik Kanu, Atlantica Ventures is an Africa-focused firm raising a US$50 million fund. They are investing in tech and tech-enabled businesses from seed stage and on.
Before You Go 🚪
What you might have missed.
Instead of taking photos, use Saga, an app that saves your family memories on voice audio.
3rd year illustration students at SVA drew post-pandemic New Yorker cover. See what they created.
Stanford published a study saying that women are suffering more from Zoom fatigue.
There is a growing segregation in millennial wealth.
Thanks for reading! I’ll catch you next time. And don’t forget to share Let’s Start Up with your community!