23 Jan Aspect Ventures Raises $181 Million Second Fund From Investors Including Melinda Gates
Four years after striking out from big-brand venture capital firms to set up their own shop, Theresia Gouw and Jennifer Fonstad are back for more with a second fund and several high-profile new supporters.
(Read on Forbes)
Aspect Ventures announced on Tuesday it has raised a $181 million second fund for investing in early-stage startups, this time with the backing of Melinda Gates and Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins. Aspect will look to build on investments such as ForeScout, a security company that went public in October, as well as early bets on companies such as networking startup Cato Networks, design marketplace Crew, security intelligence shop Exabeam and careers site The Muse.
The firm had announced the promotion of Lauren Kolodny, a 2016 Forbes 30 under 30 alumna, in December. Though Aspect’s team has swelled to nine members, Gouw says that the firm will continue to focus on Series A and seed investments with its new fund at a similar size to its previous checks. “We wanted to be able to do two things, lead a Series A, but also be small enough that we can be collaborative,” says Gouw.
With focuses on cyber security, digital health and the future of work so far, Aspect has established itself as a firm that plays nice with others. About half its deals from its first fund were introduced to the firm through co-investor peers, Gouw says. Some of Aspect’s deals it has joined as an external investor providing a fair price to existing investors looking to add to their bets; in others such as many of its seed deals, the firm has typically participated alongside a seed funding specialist as a warm-up to a Series A. “The bumper crop of seed investors creates more opportunity for us,” Gouw says.
Gouw and Fonstad raised their first fund on a track record that included long stays at Silicon Valley mainstays Accel Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, at which the two combined for five IPOs, several dozen acquisitions and multiple billions of dollars in returns for investors. Aspect’s second fund was raised, Gouw says, on the strength of the ForeScout exit and the higher valuations its other portfolio companies have reached, including Cato Networks, Crew, Exabeam and The Muse, as well as healthcare startup Vida and wellness video company Grokker.
Though it now includes five men on its investment team, Aspect Ventures is a rarity in tech as a venture capital firm founded by two women. Among its startups, 40% include a female cofounder, above the industry average, while half include an immigrant or first-generation citizen and about 30% a cofounder from a racial minority. Those numbers almost perfectly match against the Aspect investment team, which is 40% female, immigrant or first generation and minority background.
“We’ve seen that teams that are more diverse in tech have outperformed,” says Gouw. “If everyone looks the same and goes to the same two or three schools, they’ll have a lot of overlap. You look at Aspect, and there’s probably a lot less overlap.”