Distributed Ventures funds startups in the fintech, healthtech, and insurtech industriesRead more...
Ho is a former Senior Product Marketing Manager at Google and Youtube
There has been a big debate over the last few years over whether the Series A crunch is real or not.
What everyone can agree on, though, is that there are definitely more seed and early stage funds now than ever before, and more people willing to give money to young companies looking to make it big.
But just who are these funds and venture capitalists that run them? What kinds of investments do they like making, and how do they see themselves in the VC landscape?
We're highlighting key members of the community to find out.
Prior, to Susa Ventues she was a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Google and Youtube. Prior to Google, she was the head of marketing for Applied Semantics, a company sold to Google in 2003. She also co-founded a Seattle-based health started called Navigating Cancer and serves on the boards of First Descents, Iridescent and Whole Child LA. Ho holds an MBA from Cornell and a BA from Harvard.
VatorNews: What do you like to invest in? What are your categories of interest?
Eva Ho: We like to invest in companies that are solving important and large scale problems with smart use of data. What that means is it could either be companies that are building interesting datasets (by machine or humans) or tools, analtyics and applications that take advantage of data in a meaningful way.
Many industries are being transformed by actively using data as a core part of their business model to
drive more revenues as well as achieve cost efficiencies. As such, we remain pretty vertical agnostic,
having made investments in everything from fintech to health and education. While many organizations
recognize that data can be a real competitive advantage, the actual successful use cases and proof
points are still nascent. The problems yet to be solved remain an enormous greenfield for startups.
On the application layer, especially in mobile, there are also endless ways data can make devices more
intuitive, contextual and personalized. As we get access to more data on people, places, products etc,
apps and services will become exponentially more powerful, resulting in increasingly more delightful
user experiences. So we continue to invest in enterprise saas and mobile across many industries, with a
special interest in highly regulated and monopolistic markets.
VN: What would you say are the top investments you have been a part of? What stood out about those
investments in particular?
EH: We are still a very young fund (around for 2 years), so it’s too early to say what our top investments will be. But we have several companies that are doing exceptionally well and have gone on to raise larger rounds. Those include Robinhood, Lendup, Flexport, Casetext, and Andela.
- Andela is a global talent accelerator that trains the brightest young people in Africa and gives them the education and mentorship needed to thrive as full-time, remote developers for companies around the world. When you combine a bold, big, double-bottom line vision with a magnetic serial founder like Jeremy Johnson, who previously co-founded 2U, it was a no-brainer.
- Casetext makes a huge repository of law free and accessible, along with great legal publishing tools for its growing community. Tough problem to crack in a highly monopolistic market, but if anyone has a shot at it, it would be Jake Heller, who was the editor of Stanford Law Review and codes!
- Flexport simplifies and automates the importing process for American companies, starting with customs automation. We liked this startup immediately b/c Ryan is just one of those all-star founders that combine smarts with hustle. They are automating and bringing transparency to a traditionally manual and opaque industry and workflow.
- Lendup is disrupting the payday loans space by providing a safe borrowing alternative for consumers whom banks and credit unions typically decline, with the goal of ultimately helping people alleviate debt and learn good financial behavior. We were sold by founders Sasha and Jacob’s mission to use of data to identify lower risk individuals that credit union and banks have failed to identify. Having grown up in a poor family with a crappy FICO score, I saw how their solution could be a financial lifeline for so many.
- Robinhood has built a mobile-first zero-commission stock brokerage platform. Vlad and Baiju really understood what the next generation of traders wanted, i.e. buy and sell stocks on your phones for free. While we were always optimistic about their prospects, we were still shocked when they got to a 1-million person waitlist in under a year.
The common theme across all these is a very strategic use of data to build highly defensible products that
grow in value as the datasets get larger through machine and human contributions.
VN: What do you look for in company's that you put money in? What are the most important qualities?
EH: As a seed fund, the main things we look for are exceptional founders who have a real vision for what the future can look like and going after fast growing markets. Additionally, we look for founders that have raw talent and non-coachable skills like judgment, intuition, determination, and courage.
VN: Tell me a bit about your background. Where did you go to school? What led you to the venture capital world?
EH: I went to school at Harvard with a degree in Biology, then an MBA from Cornell. I grew up in
Mozambique, and came to the US as a refugee, which has really shaped how I see the world and the things I care about solving. I spent the last 15 years starting and operating in tech companies, large and small. I’ve been very lucky to have been a witness and participant in some big technological waves, from early days of Internet advertising with Applied Semantics (AdSense), to big data with Factual. I started angel investing in 2012, but it didn’t come easy to me.
Growing up poor, the notion of writing super large checks to a paper napkin idea felt absurd. But over time, I recognized that raising a seed fund would actually allow me to scale myself -- and help people smarter than me solve problems I cared about.
VN: What do you like best about being a VC? What makes you excited?
EH: Being a VC is a really privileged job, if you want to even call it that. You get to be at the frontline of the greatest innovations and surround yourself with people who are defining the future. But it’s not so much a glamour job. It takes a lot of tenacity and grit to go through cycles with founders, and often watch
dreams fail. But it’s most exciting for me to watch a founder get their first real happy users, and knowing
their wacky, improbable idea has value to someone else.
VN: What is the size of your current fund?
EH: We are a $25 million fund.
VN: What is the investment range? How much do you put into each startup?
EH: We typically invested $350,000 to $500,000 in initial capital.
VN: Is there a typical percent that you want of a round? For instance, do you need to get 20% or 30% of a
EH: It really depends deal by deal. We definitely try to get a meaningful percentage where that is possible.
VN: Where is the firm currently in the investing cycle of its current fund?
EH: We are 75% through the current fund.
VN: What percentage of your fund is set aside for follow-on capital?
EH: We set aside around 50% of the fund.
VN: What series do you typically invest in? Are they typically Seed or Post Seed or Series A?
EH: We are almost solely focused on seed, and follow-on for Series A for our top performers.
VN: In a typical year how many startups do you invest in?
EH: Between 10 and 12 companies a year.
VN: Is there anything else you think I should know about you or the firm?
EH: We are unusual in that as a small $25 million seed fund, we have four full-time partners who were all
previously operators. We crafted the fund this way because we really believe in the agency model of
providing multi-layers of cross-functional support for our startups. We also focus in the Bay Area, New York and Los Angeles, with deep networks and communities in each. We are really excited about the portfolio we have developed in a short period of time, and look forward to supporting entrepreneurs for years to come.
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Joined Vator onSerial entrepreneur turned investor. Data junkie. @fikavc, @Susaventures, @Factual, @Google, @Youtube, Applied Semantics, Navigating Cancer. Sit on board of California Community Foundation. Harvard BA, Cornell MBA. Avid traveler, photographer.