Meet Kristina Simmons, founder and Managing Partner at Overwater Ventures

Steven Loeb · May 22, 2023 · Short URL:

Overwater Ventures recently announced it's $20M debut fund to invest in human and planet health

Venture capital used to be a cottage industry, with very few investing in tomorrow's products and services. Oh, how times have changed! While there are more startups than ever, there's also more money chasing them. In this series, we look at the new (or relatively new) VCs in the early stages: seed and Series A.

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.

Kristina Simmons is founder and Managing Partner at Overwater Ventures.

Simmons is an early-stage VC who focuses on partnering with founders solving big problems across human and planet health to turn breakthrough technologies into brands people love. Kristina was most previously Chief of Staff to Vinod Khosla and an Investor at Khosla Ventures where she focused on new investments in areas that can be positively impacted with technology, such as in health, bio, agriculture, food, sustainability, and next generation brands. She served on boards including Overture Life, Daye, Casca, Spyce, Alivecor, and others.

Previously, Simmons has advised and consulted for dozens of startups across consumer brands, health, mobile/software, food, and hardware. Prior, she was an early employee at venture-backed food startup and then before that, she was a Partner at Andreessen Horowitz helping portfolio companies accelerate go-to-market, product, and business development strategies. Before a16z, she was at lululemon athletica where she was responsible for digital, emerging products and concepts (innovation including new brand strategy, product development/mobile, and international expansion), and strategic partnerships. Kristina holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan.

VatorNews: What is your investment philosophy or methodology?

Kristina Simmons: We help founders commercialize their science and technology and build a brand that matters. We give founders the support they need to turn their vision into a scalable, high-growth brand that people love. We focus on the early stage because that is where we can impact companies the most in the building phase.

VN: What are your categories of interest?

KS: We focus on human and planet health. We look for strong founders, unique science or technology, massive market opportunities, especially where there are gaps, and scalable business models. Within human health, we focus a lot on women and family health, brain health, and human performance and wellness (especially in shifting healthcare from reactive to preventative). 

VN: What's the big macro trend you're betting on?

KS: From a more macro perspective, we’re betting there’s a lot of opportunity NOW. We believe the most innovation is happening in human and planet health because of the acceleration of AI and biotech, and so we are doubling down on those categories. We also focus on how culture and consumer behavior are changing, and betting on how trends are shifting such as fertility, longevity, and more sustainable food and products.

VN: What is the size of your current fund and how many investments do you typically make in a year?

KS: We recently announced the close of our $20 million inaugural fund. We plan to make anywhere between eight to 10 investments per year. 

VN: What stage/series do you invest in and how much is that in dollar amount for you?

KS: At Overwater, we invest in startups at the earliest stages that are building breakthrough technologies that better the health of people and the planet typically ranging from $500,000 to $2 million at pre-seed to seed+. 

VN: What kind of traction does a startup need for you to invest? Do you have any specific numbers?

KS: It depends on many factors. If there are strong co-founders and a vision, we will invest from day one. We have clear areas we want to invest in so we are willing to invest early, and typically this is pre-GTM.

VN: What other signals do you look for? Team, product, macro market?

KS: All of it. We do a lot of work to map out where we want to invest and what those companies could look like. From there, we look for companies building game-changing businesses within human and planet health. We look for companies who have some unique science or tech breakthrough whether that is AI, biotech, or robotics and who have a big vision. We don’t just invest in incremental change, but only in positively disruptive change. We look for strong teams and their willingness to be thoughtful about their own leadership development journey. We do a great deal of work in the diligence process to analyze the biggest risks to the company and the overall opportunity to build a big business.   We dig into their personal values, studying the promises they made in old pitch decks, conducting a post-mortem on a challenge they’ve faced, or even climbing a mountain during a pitch meeting.  

VN: What do you think about valuations these days? What's a typical Seed pre-money valuation and Series A?

KS: Valuations are generally coming down, and there are better prices than there were in 2020 and 2021. It’s hard to say generalities because each company is unique based on the strength of the team, IP they might already have, revenue, etc.

VN: There are many venture funds out there today, how do you differentiate yourself to limited partners?

KS: First of all, we aren’t just another generalist tech firm. We help founders solve breakthrough technology and help them to commercialize. That expertise in brand and GTM is differentiated. Secondly, our approach is unique where to build brands we start with the founder and provide holistic founder support. In the same way that athletes have coaches, why don’t founders? We sit down monthly with founders and aggregate the top challenges to build programs that really help. This shows up in founder diligence calls— we don’t just say we add value, but we do. We also are connectors and use our network to help fill the gaps for companies (many of our LPs are founders or operators across all areas). 

VN: Venture is a two-way street, where investors also have to pitch themselves. How do you differentiate your fund to entrepreneurs?

KS: Founders choose us to help them build a brand based on our unique approach. We are differentiated in what we help in and how compared to other firms. It shows in the diligence process where we dig into all areas of the company. The more we understand, the more we can help.  There's a different way of venture that's focused on higher EQ and on the development of the founder more holistically. We offer workout sessions, exec coaching connectings, etc. We are mission-driven and it’s reflected in what we do and how we do it. We are also deeply committed to finding a diverse slate of founders and helping them build iconic brands that create both impact and outsized returns. 

VN: What are some of the investments you’ve made that you're super excited about? Why did you want to invest in those companies?

KS: We are excited about all of our investments and select to work with those companies very carefully. Some examples include Conceive who was named one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies and has helped 64% of its users to become pregnant within six months and Overture Life, who is is revolutionizing egg freezing and IVF, and recently achieved the first baby born with its technology. 

Others include Overstory, a company that successfully reduced power outages and wildfires as it has analyzed over 500 million hectares of land; Prose Foods, who is building a protein discovery platform for healthier and more sustainable foods; Eigen, which is building molecular sensors to help us unlock multiple biomarkers in real-time; and Gameto, which is on a mission to reverse menopause. They’re starting with turning immature eggs into mature ones, making IVF and egg freezing more successful per round.

Those are just a few. You can see more on our website. 

VN: What are some lessons you learned?

KS: There are so many lessons! How much time do you have? :) What I’ve learned throughout my career is that if you don’t take risks, you don’t see rewards. And you must always be comfortably uncomfortable. The moment you are comfortable, you need to start climbing more. 

Though my experiences, I’ve learned that business is personal. I was able to translate that experience into focusing on the founders I work with and understanding their own interests and championing personal development. 

You need to constantly analyze where you are contributing and learning the most to maximize what you can do and put out into the world. 

Everyone operates and works differently, and you need to understand how they think, what gives energy versus what depletes it, and what people are motivated by. You can operate much more effectively when you know these things.

Those are just a few learnings… all of these experiences have made me into the entrepreneur I am today, and influence the way I support the founders I work with.  

VN: What excites you the most about your position as VC?

KS:  I love being both an entrepreneur and an investor. I don’t really consider myself a “venture capitalist” because that’s boring. I don’t just write checks, I help build. What most excites me is getting to help founders reach their own potentials and visions in areas that have real potential to make an impact in the categories of health and climate. With Overwater, I wanted to build something that didn’t yet exist for founders focused on human and planet health - an investment partner with the experience of being at top tier firms and the know-how and experience of building brands in global markets. Seeing that vision come to life is what motivates me. 

Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Meet the VC" series

More episodes