Check out the Press Release that went out on the wire today!
Introducing the Neythri Futures Fund
We are excited to announce the close of the Neythri Futures Fund I today – a historic venture capital fund that positions South Asian women as key investors and stakeholders and invests in female founders and diverse founding teams. This first-of-a-kind $10M Fund I consists of 247 Limited Partners, and plans to make 20-25 investments in stage-agnostic companies building innovative tech-enabled solutions for a global market. We look for US companies with strong, diverse management teams* and with a strong lead investor in place.
The venture community continues to lack true representation in many forms. Diversity is important for this ecosystem to grow and thrive in the future – no, it’s not just a check-box item! In fact, there are many statistics to support the strong correlation between representation and results. When this representation is intentional the entire ecosystem benefits.
We have seen diversity come into focus in Silicon Valley and beyond, and venture firms have started to take action. However, the numbers are still abysmal and much progress remains to be made. It is heartening to note that South Asian men have made significant strides over the years on both sides of the venture table. However, South Asian women have more work to do. There are few South Asian female VC partners and founders, and the pipeline for the demographic is also thin. Only 4.9% of VC partners in the United States are women. Of that, < 7.5% are South Asian. So only 1 in every 400 VC Partners in the US is a South Asian Woman. As they say, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”
An important milestone in the journey
I believe we are products of both our environment and experiences. The Fund represents the power of South Asian women coming together, working together, and ultimately - building that pipeline to create a robust founder and funder community. This aspiration springs from my own professional experiences and challenges.
I am a non-traditional venture capitalist. I spent 25+ years working in corporate and nonprofit sectors - started as a researcher studying photovoltaic thin film technologies, built software and hardware products as an engineer, then took them to market as a product manager; built and scaled large organizations as a nonprofit leader, managed P&L as an operator and bootstrapped a tech startup as an entrepreneur.
As a first-time female entrepreneur and woman of color I experienced the frustrations of raising my series A funding round when a funder who looked like me was nowhere in sight. I bore the brunt of the traditional ecosystem’s biases during that time. But ultimately, I channeled that into thinking of ways I could convert that frustration into an opportunity. I started a side-hustle to learn and understand the core of the venture ecosystem by jumping in as an investor myself – but one thing was clear: I wasn’t going to join a traditional venture firm for the sake of this learning. I knew I was after a way to positively impact female founders’ journeys. I ultimately saw the opportunity at the intersection of my professional and personal network – a powerful one that represented an untapped opportunity.
Several other funds have theses centered on representation; I am grateful to have been involved with some of these firms and they have shaped my understanding of the specific challenges I became interested in addressing directly through the Neythri Futures Fund. In addition to the untapped market of successful South Asian women, I saw the challenges of (1) attracting a first-time investor wanting to build confidence; (2) addressing different risk tolerances; and (3) including a large number of investors to be as inclusive as possible.
Our fund aims squarely at these challenges. With an allowed maximum of 249 LPs**, we are as accessible as it gets. With a stage agnostic approach, our investors can see more near-term returns and earlier exits than a typical seed stage focused fund. Finally, many funds start with a handful of large family or institutional investors and then fill in with individuals – that’s fairly standard practice. We went in the opposite direction, proud to have over 98% of the fund consisting of individual investors.
In the early part of my professional journey in tech, I undervalued community and connection. I grew my appreciation for both with my work in the non-profit sector. I saw firsthand how when a group of smart, well-intentioned people came together with a shared purpose, they could drive disruption and impact. The Neythri Futures Fund personifies that intention. With this fund I get to bring all of my collective experiences to bear. This fund is a capstone endeavor of sorts – one that allows me to have an impact I never would have imagined possible earlier in my journey.
The moment that starts a movement: a new investment ecosystem is born
Initially, the thought of pitching to 249 LPs was intimidating. But the reality was that our fund was over-subscribed within 6 months, far less than the typical 18 months or so it takes for a fund to reach capacity! At the start, I felt humbled by the implicit trust our Founding LPs put in the fund. As fundraising garnered momentum and we crossed our initial goal of $3M, then $5M and then eventually closed an over-subscribed $10M fund, it feels wonderfully validating to witness this testament to the power of community. The formation and evolution of the fund so far is also a great endorsement of our thesis and solidified our “Product / Market / Fit” exercise.
A new ecosystem was born in this process and the community is growing. We have already made 9 investments in game-changing companies and new South Asian (and non-South Asian) female founders are discovering us every week. The amazing part is that regardless of their fit with the fund, these founders want to get to know us, looking for community and a sense of connectedness. And in the process, they become our ambassadors, passing our information along to other entrepreneurs who we can loop into the ecosystem as well. The cycle repeats and the community continues to grow organically.
It's finally here!
October 13, 2021 - a momentous date as we announce the official close of the Neythri Futures Fund. Being a lone crusader can be just that – lonely. With an army of supporters and contributors, we have used good old-fashioned elbow grease to get here – a start-up of a special sort. The Neythri Futures Fund’s own future depends on the very community it seeks to create and grow. I am grateful to be at this point and thrilled at the possibilities! Words cannot express how grateful I am for the support of a “founding legion” that played a pivotal role in getting us here. I'd like to shout out to a few:
Reema Shah, Rohini Chakravarthy, Kirthiga Reddy, Charu Sharma and Karishma Patel who were the early believers and supporters.
Roli Saxena, my partner on the Investment Committee who takes the time from her full-time executive responsibilities to work alongside me to make the fund’s investment decisions.
Rupal Hollenbeck and Ayesha Mathews for helping craft the NFF brand.
Navin Chaddha, M.R. Rangaswamy, Sriram Viswanathan and Neeraj Gupta, the rockstar male allies who have and continue to go over and beyond to lend support and evangelize the fund.
Kamini Ramani, Aditi Roy, Rupal Hollenbeck and Monica Kumar who took it upon themselves to help tell the fund’s story to the world.
Divya Gupta, Sree Menon, Teena Bhatia and Vinay Ramesh for shepherding operations at various times.
Pragati Grover for her tireless ambassadorship.
Our Investment Advisory Council, Founding LPs and Fund Advisory Council and the rest of our 247 LPs for believing in the fund’s mission and joining me on this crusade to move the needle in venture.
Chitra Nayak and Sruthi Ramaswami - my co-founders at Neythri.org for helping build and nurture the Neythri community.
And most importantly, my family – my true north stars who admiringly put up with my “absence” in the last 6+ months and indulged me through this intense period…
……today is a salute to all of you!
* The Neythri Futures Fund will invest in teams with at least one woman in a decision making role – either on the founding team/executive team/Board