The venture capital industry (VC) is still largely dominated by men, but there are a growing number of talented female investors making their mark. These successful investors, such as Sonali de Rycker, Rana Yared and Ophelia Brown, are also role models for other women who want to become equally successful in the VC industry. One of them is Jaysri Thangam Ananthapadmanabhan, a senior investment manager at Fund F based in Vienna, Austria, where she develops strategies for fintech companies. Jaysri supports founders during the process making them investment-ready.
Jaysri describes herself as an engineer turned Liberal arts Fellow. Her passion and focus for the future is the climate problem and exploring all technologies such as AI, blockchain, finance, social and community design, and human skills that will make this world habitable for future generations.
Fund F is an Austrian organisation supporting women entrepreneurs through accelerator and leadership programmes, events and networking and is sector-agnostic fund. The Fund F specializes on industries that directly contribute to the progress of humanity, with a focus on the ClimateTech, FemTech & HealthTech, FinTech & InsurTech and HR Tech. Fund F was launched late in 2022, with a size of EUR 20Mn.
In the period of the next four years, from 2022 until 2026, Fund F will invest in 25-30 pre-seed and seed stage companies that have at least one female cofounder who, importantly, has equal representation on the cap table. Initial ticket sizes are between €100k-400k. The fund’s three cornerstone investors are the public investor Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH via its Venture Capital Initiative, the Austrian bank Raiffeisen Landesbank Steiermark and super angel Hansi Hansmann of the Hanswomen Group.
Can you tell us about your background and experience as an investor in startups? How did you get started in this field?
To start at the very beginning: I am from a very small town in India called Madurai. I lived there my entire life and did my bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering from one of the top universities in South India. My career started in the technical field, at Microsoft. In my first job, I was fascinated by the world of technology and its “SCALE”. In 2015, I had the opportunity to work with Fortune 500 clients on their IT cloud communications infrastructure.
During my time there, I realised that I needed to fill my knowledge and skill gaps, and went on to pursue a Post Graduate Diploma in Liberal Arts. This degree launched my career with start-ups and helped me move into more strategic positions. I joined as a founding member of a data-driven consumer finance company. From a team of 3, we grew to over 300+ employees and I launched several products and partnerships.
My career started in the technical field, at Microsoft.
I then became the Chief of Staff to the CEO at a seed-stage Payments start-up and scaled up to Series C. I was also a member of the team that launched the company. These experiences were critical to my decision to become an investor. I then moved to Oxford to pursue my MBA and focused exclusively on buy-side finance.
My experience as an investor started at a PE fund in London, where I worked on 4 deals that were series B+. Then I then moved to become an early stage investor.
What perspectives did you gain from your experiences early in your career that later proved useful as an investor?
These experiences have given me a few edges or perspectives:
– I intimately understand the founder’s journey looks like and how messy it can be in a fast growing company.
– I also know what late-stage investors are looking for and can help portfolio companies with the most important things they have to build for.
What types of startups or industries are you most interested in? Are there any sectors or technologies that you are particularly excited about?
Fund F is a generalist fund with a focus on investing in a diverse founding team. I am extremely curious about how enabling technologies like AI, blockchain, and quantum computing can solve the biggest problems of this decade – Climate, creating equal opportunities and access to resources.
Could you describe the ideal stage of a startup’s development that you prefer to invest in (e.g. early stage, growth stage, etc.)?
I generally invest in early-stage startups. Pre-seed and seed stage, to be precise. Fund F usually comes into play when there is an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and when at least one founders is female with an equal or material ownership stake.
How involved are you usually in the startups you invest in? Are you more active or do you prefer a more passive role?
We (Fund F) prefer to be active where the founder needs us. Our hope and goal is to invest in founders who have a clear vision of what they are doing, and as investors we only support them when we can.
This can be done in various forms before and after the investment. During the process, we can use our network to find the right investors for the round. After the round, we bring our strong expertise in branding, strategy, PR and access to experts to help with subsequent rounds if needed. There is also very high synergy with the Female Founders community with value adds such as reach, access to hiring channels, and visibility to a larger audience.
We bring our strong expertise in branding, strategy, PR and access to experts.
I personally also assist founders during the process by simply pointing them in the right direction, introducing them to other funds that could be considered, giving them feedback on how to improve their storytelling, etc. to make them investment ready.
What are some of the most important factors or criteria you consider when evaluating potential investment opportunities? What qualities or characteristics do you look for in a startup?
While this can change from case to case, here are some indicators that show a startup is ready for investment
1.A team with complementary skills – At a very early stage, when there are no numbers yet, we focus primarily on a team that can execute on a strong vision. We also ask founders for their unique insights or insights about the market, problem or customers.
2. Market – Most founders think market sizing is about presenting a great TAM. A quick look at their work will show if the founders really know their market and target customers. While a large and growing market is important, it is equally important to focus.
Our hope and goal is to invest in founders who have a clear vision.
4. Milestones – While most pre-seed companies are not yet generating revenue, founders should demonstrate that they are capable of achieving key milestones. This gives investors confidence that the founders can achieve their goals.
5. Overall development – We also observe how the founders improve and develop during the investment process. This is an important indicator for us when making decisions.
Are there any geographic preferences or restrictions for the startups you invest in? Do you focus on specific regions or do you have a global investment perspective?
We invest in companies across the EU and the UK. As a European fund, we want to see founders develop something for the European market first and have a global approach to their solution.
We invest in companies across the EU and the UK.
Can you give an example of a startup or investment that matches your interests and style? What made that particular investment successful or appealing to you?
We invested in Fermify, an Austrian company with a very technical and strong Female founder, and CEO. The company had a very strong mission towards sustainability and ensuring food security for the future. They have a super simple and fully automated production platform to address the issue of large-scale milk protein production, which is the main ingredient in vegan cheese.
Our investment in Fermify is an example of how a diverse team with a global vision and cutting-edge technology can drive progress in closing the gender wealth, income, and funding gaps, as well as in sustainability.
How do you typically support the startups you invest in apart from providing financial backing? Do you provide mentoring, networking opportunities, or access to additional resources?
Magic happens when entrepreneurs and investors seek and deploy “Smart Capital“. Our support to startups comes from providing them access to a large network of experts and potential customers, and opportunities to showcase their products and services at events, credits and access to cloud services.
Moreover, other Female founders, programs such as Lead F for leadership upskilling, and Grow F, which is an acceleration program, are also available for founders, and Lead Today Shape Tomorrow, LTST – which is a flagship conference of Female Founders are open for them.
To give a specific example of how each of us can help, I already know from my experience with late-stage deals (Series A, B+) what women founders need to do to achieve a successful next capital raise.
What expectations or demands do you have of the startups you invest in, both in terms of financial return and non-financial aspects such as growth targets or milestones?
The short answer is that it depends. All VCs invest in the hope that their investments will pay off (be fund returners). That being said, we believe the founders know what’s best for their company. We only are there to assist them reach their milestones in the best way possible and help them make fewer mistakes along the way.
We are there to assist startups reach their milestones in the best way possible.
Apart from that, we are very focussed on companies also keep up with ESG guidelines and UN SDG goals. This relates to diversity in the organization, transparent governance and also how are they contribute to reducing global climate issues.
How do you prefer to build relationships with the startups you invest in? What kind of communication or reporting structure do you typically have with them?
We are a very young fund and have 4 portfolio companies. At Fund F, we have a monthly check-in with the portfolio companies that happens online. And the founders are open to reach out to us at anytime they need us either on WhatsApp or over the phone.
There is also a Monthly reporting that the companies send us by email in the structure agreed upon.
How do you envision your role as an investor evolving in the future? Are there any specific areas or industries you plan to focus on?
I envision my role evolving from a generalist with a broad market overview to developing subject expertise in 2 sectors. In my career so far, I have been involved with fintech. In the future, I will increasingly turn to the climate problem and explore all enabling technologies such as AI, blockchain, finance, social and community design, and human skills that will make this world habitable for future generations.
Are there any specific goals or milestones you have set for yourself as an investor? What do you want to accomplish in the next few years?
Personally, my short-term goal is to create a level playing field for diverse, underrepresented entrepreneurs. By allocating capital to diverse teams, we can provide data to the sophisticated and institutional investors that there is a huge advantage here that has been overlooked for decades, which will enable more capital allocation.
My short-term goal is to create a level playing field for diverse, underrepresented entrepreneurs.
To equip myself up for success, over the next two years I will strive to be a good “money manager,” which means raising capital, allocating capital, and creating value for all stakeholders.
My long-term goal is to set up my own fund where I can bring my strengths and cultural background and create a bridge between Europe and India by fostering innovation and entrepreneurs. I think there is still a gap in terms of access to capital, resources and basic training to play the startup-building game right.
How do you stay up to date and informed about the latest trends and opportunities in the startup ecosystem? Are there any specific resources or networks you rely on?
That’s a tough question. I think I try to find a balance between keeping up with the news, which is sometimes depressing, and reading editorials and newsletters from reputable sources like Financial Times. To complement the trends in the news journals, I also read industry reports and research articles published by Mckinsey, Gartner, PWC, etc. I also read the annual reports of industry leaders just to understand the potential of the sector and the new comers.
Couple of tips: Do not subscribe to too many newsletters, but follow your curiosity to find interesting articles/reports to read so it does not get boring.
🎙️Jaysri is also a co-author of podcast The Audacity Project. You can follow the podcast on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
🔖Also you can read Jaysri’s blog on Medium.
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