[Music]>>Gina: Hi, I’m Gina Luna and this is HXTV,
championing Houston’s innovators and entrepreneurs. Our guests today are the founders of The Artemis
Fund: Diana Murakhovskaya, Leslie Goldman, and Stephanie Campbell. Welcome, we’re happy
to have you on HXTV.>>Stephanie: Thank you, Gina
>>Diana: Thank you for having us.>>Leslie: Thank you.
>>Gina: So, let’s talk about what is The Artemis Fund?
>>Diana: Yeah, so The Artemis Fund is the first women-led, women-focused fund in Houston.
We launched a fund and are raising $20 million to invest in startups where women make the
decisions in the C-suite level.>>Gina: Tell me what that means, women-led
business.>>Diana: Yeah, so for us it’s women-led,
not women only. We do look for diverse teams, but where women are in the decision-making
power in the C-suite with significant equity.>>Gina: Great. And is it hard for you to
find those?>>Diana: We get this question a lot and I
can promise you it is not a pipeline issue. We look at thousands of companies at a time
and they come from all over. All of them are extremely venture backable.
>>Gina: So, you’re in the fundraising process now. Tell me about your investor base, or
prospective investor base, and I’m sure you’re getting a tremendous receptivity given your
mission.>>Stephanie: The reception has just been
fantastic in Houston. Most of our investor base thus far is from our networks; high net
worth individuals in the Houston area as well as in New York and LA. We will be sourcing
both investments and companies from all over the country.
>>Gina: That is fantastic. So, how long have you been at this?
>>Leslie: We officially launched early in April. So, we are right now in our first round
trying to close a first round, looking at companies at the same time, and we are going
strong.>>Gina: Are there other women-focused funds
around the country, or around the world?>>Leslie: Yes, there are indeed. There are
some in New York, in California, there are some that are national, there is one in Austin,
so there are more and more sprouting up daily.>>Gina: And having a good track record of
success, I would expect?>>Leslie: Absolutely.
>>Gina: Good.>>Diana: And there’s also, just to add to
that, a lot of really great initiatives, like All Raise, that are nationally trying to put
women into decision making roles at VCs, because they only make up about 9% of decision makers
in VCs nationally.>>Leslie: And there’s an initiative called
The Billion Dollar Fund whereby the founders of that organization are getting pledges,
trying to get a billion dollars of pledges to focus on female founders. They’re up to
about $750 million so far. They’re including companies like Launch, Goldman’s Launch, but
then we pledged to at least deploy a portion of the fund this year. They do it year by
year, so they want to do it by 2020.>>Gina: And that’s investment capital?
>>Leslie: Investment dollars, exactly. It’s, so far, 45 funds have pledged some investment
dollars, and they’re not all exclusively women focused but they do have a gender lens.
>>Gina: So, when you think about your portfolio companies, and clearly, the first component
is women decision makers, but is there a sweet spot beyond that in terms of where the company
is in its life cycle or industry? Tell me more about what you’re looking for.
>>Diana: All of the companies are tech enabled and scalable, going after really big markets
and big ideas. Think billion dollar plus market sizes. They’re all post-ideation stage where
they have a product, they have customers, real traction, and are looking to scale and
grow and hire on other teammates. In terms of where we’re investing, we’re pretty vertical
agnostic, but our sweet spots are fintech, consumer, energy tech infrastructure, and
what I call life tech, which is sort of that silver tech down to baby tech, how you take
care of your life from your child to your aging parents.
>>Gina: Sliver tech to baby tech. I haven’t heard that, I like it.
>>Diana: You heard it here first.>>Leslie: That’s right. Exactly.
>>Gina: So, I’m sure when you announced the fund you have probably received a lot of interest
from women entrepreneurs who are so excited that you exist and that you’re doing this.
>>Leslie: Absolutely. They’re actually finding us from all parts of the country because I
think women entrepreneurs are drawn to the idea that we are focused on them, and sometimes
it’s hard to get a focus on them from, largely, the male VC community. We’re finding ourselves
being asked to be lead investors on deals that have limited—that are going to take
a limited amount of money. And so, it’s pretty exciting because we can pull along some other
VCs or sort of decide which other VCs we would like to pull into the deal.
>>Gina: And have you found, from the investor universe, so your potential limited partners,
that they understand and appreciate the need for a fund, particularly focused on women
and the value proposition of that?>>Diana: Yes, for sure. There’s sort of the
two camps: the side that really understands the value proposition and understands the
different types of businesses these women are creating and the fact that there is really
a lack of funding for them, and then there’s the side of investors who are more professional,
who just don’t have access to these types of companies because of their networks. A
lot of, as you kind of mentioned, a lot of it is really network focused, and so if you
only look inside of your network you tend to get the same types of deals. Historically,
data shows that actually looking outside that network is a much better investment play.
>>Gina: Well, over and over again you see part of the challenge for early stage companies
is that the capital raising is so anecdotal. I mean, it’s who you know or who happens to
see your deal vs. who might be the best fit. So you all have put up a big sign that helps
people find you in terms of potentially being the best fit and really understanding what
they’re trying to do. I think it’s exciting.>>Stephanie: And just to add to what Diana
said, we get the question very frequently, “are you just raising money from women?”
And that’s not the case. In fact, some of our earliest LPs have been men who really
believe in this mission and want to see their portfolios be diversified and see the value.
>>Gina: That’s terrific. That’s great to hear. I think we’re going to see more and
more funds like yours, and thus, more and more visibility on successful women entrepreneurs.
I mean, they’re clearly out there and have in some ways struggled to be adequately capitalized,
in many cases. I think the work you’re doing is fantastic. So, let’s fast forward five
years. HX will have worked itself out of a job, we’ll have a thriving ecosystem in Houston,
but where will The Artemis Fund be in five years?
>>Leslie: On fund two.>>Diana: We’ll likely be raising fund two
and investing in more women-led companies and working towards a future where The Artemis
Fund is out of its own job because we no longer need to designate a female-led or a male-led
fund.>>Gina: That’s right. And you’ll have spurned
some incredibly successful exits out of your first portfolio.
>>Leslie: The timing is always a question, but we definitely will have spurned some successful
going concerns that won’t be leading to exits, if not exited, yeah. That’s our goal.
>>Gina: I’m curious to know how you all got together and your decision to form the fund.
Give me the background.>>Leslie: We all came at it from different
angles. I had been investing for a long time, for a little over four and a half years, and
I had personally invested in over 40 companies, and I started focusing on women. As I joined
groups that were mostly men or only men and saw that there was a lack of funding and funders
that were funding for women, and funders that were women, and people focused on women. I
joined the Houston Angel Network and Stephanie asked me to be on the board, and that’s how
I met Stephanie and Diana. And they can tell you how they met each other.
>>Stephanie: As Leslie mentioned, I run the Houston Angel Network. I came to Houston to
get my MBA and just fell in love with Houston and entrepreneurship through the MBA program
at Rice. I participated in a Hackathon that Diana put on specifically for women with one
of my classmates. I met her, she also joined the Houston Angel Network, and we got to know
each other. I’ve been involved with many initiatives that are focused on empowering women, from
my time in Washington D.C. to running a women’s MBA program at Rice. When we got together
and started talking about real ways to improve women’s standing, wealth is one of the most
important things to me and so this really spoke to me.
>>Gina: And you’re going to continue to lead HAN.
>>Stephanie: That’s correct. I will continue as the Managing Director. At the Houston Angel
Network, we are very excited about other funds and investment groups in the community so
that more investment can go into early stage companies.
>>Gina: What is it that you think is particularly special or valuable about Houston, both in
terms of entrepreneurs, but also in as you’re raising your fund and looking for companies
to invest in.>>Leslie: Having just come from Silicon Valley
last week, I realized that Houston has so much more excitement about innovation and
entrepreneurship. In Silicon Valley, every third person you meet is a VC, and it’s almost
like, their eyes glaze over, the valuations are so out of reach, people just talk differently.
In Houston, there is passion and it feels real, and it feels more intimate. The connections
are much more real. It’s not just, oh, you’re another VC. It’s very much a small town feel
in a huge city.>>Gina: I agree. It’s a small world and so
many people wanting to help each other, I think.
>>Leslie: Exactly.>>Gina: So many people that sit here, that’s
what they talk about is the people and the whole notion that we all succeed together,
which I think is terrific. What about you, Diana?
>>Diana: Yeah, it’s super collaborative here. What’s great is that because it’s this new
ecosystem with all of these different initiatives happening, we have a really good chance to
build it from the ground up and make it a lot more equitable across different genders
and races and age groups vs. having to plug into an existing ecosystem. I think we have
this ability, and this kind of wind behind us to really drive a change here and start
it in a very different way.>>Gina: Well, and you’ve touched on something
that’s a real priority for HX in terms of how do we think about building the ecosystem
in Houston, and it is just that, to make sure that it benefits, broadly, the community,
and it’s a rising tide that lifts all boats. And to your point, we’re all working in that
direction. So, Stephanie, you said you fell in love with Houston. What is it about Houston
that you fell in love with?>>Stephanie: Definitely the people. I came
from a very mature ecosystem in D.C. where it’s all about sort of who you know, where
you’ve been. The first question you get asked is, what do you do? In Houston, I just felt
like it really didn’t matter where you came from or who you are. What you have to bring
to the table to help our ecosystem is really what people are asking you. And that just,
this is a place where you can thrive.>>Gina: You all clearly have a lot to bring
to our ecosystem and we’re thrilled you’re here and appreciative of all you’re doing
for Houston and for our entrepreneurs, and it’s very exciting. Thank you all for being
with us today.>>Leslie: Thank you for having us.
>>Stephanie and Diana: Thank you.>>Gina: And that wraps up my conversation
with the founders of The Artemis Fund. I’m Gina Luna, and this is HXTV. [Music]