The Artemis Fund is one of a handful of female-led venture funds focused exclusively on female-led companies in the U.S. The fund invests in high growth, tech-enabled, Seed and Series A stage companies founded and led by women.
Founder Interview with Leslie Goldman:
What are the most important decisions you made along the way in your career that you think most greatly contributed to your current success with Artemis Fund?
Since I am one of three Founders of The Artemis Fund, I want to preface my remarks by saying that we are three General Partners and Co-Founders of the Fund. My partners are Diana Murakhovskaya and Stephanie Campbell. With our diverse backgrounds and unique experiences both in and outside of the start-up world, we come together to create a special sauce. These experiences combined with our individual areas of expertise lend tremendous perspective, diversity of thought and create strength as a VC team.
As for me, I made a key decision to devote countless hours over the course of many years to educate myself about angel investing, diligence, founders, and process. In so doing, I developed an understanding of the ingredients required to be a successful founder. As my education progressed, I started investing slowly, learning about founders and what makes a company successful. I also learned where my passions lay: supporting female founders that were doing something impactful.
As I began investing more and more, I was asked to join the boards and advisory boards of companies and the committees of other Venture Capital Funds. The experience working with startups and Funds rounded out my education, and truly helped me to develop a keen eye for identifying potential.
Diana and Stephanie have similar experience and expertise, developed through multiple years of working with entrepreneurs. Prior to Artemis, they too had vetted thousands of companies, served as advisors, led diligence efforts on hundreds of companies, and grew the startup ecosystems of Houston and beyond by sponsoring, coordinating and judging competitions, demo days and workshops.
Artemis is based in Houston, Texas which is not considered a hub for venture capital. How do you think this positively or negatively impacts your business functions and investing?
Being in Texas gives us a tremendous advantage in many ways. On the fundraising side, we have resources to tap into, a growing local entrepreneurial ecosystem with a growing appetite of investors to invest. In Texas, we have an abundance of HNW investors, family offices, endowments and institutions who want to (a) move an allocation of their portfolio into the VC/early stage asset class since they understand it is high risk but high return, (b) have access to a broad portfolio of startups, (c) make a concerted effort to invest in women and diversity (since they know that the statistics indicate a higher likelihood of success for a diverse team once funded), (d) make an ROI from impact investing, and (e) invest in a locally run enterprise.
On the Sourcing Side, we are able to attract deals from all over the country and do not represent a “threat” to east and west coast VCs. Therefore, deal flow comes from all parts of the country. Pre-Covid, we were able to physically travel east, west and mid-country, welcomed by all. And, from a practical standpoint, travel from Houston is easy. Mid-Country, Chicago, East, West, are all accessible without hassle.
With the rising numbers of incubators, accelerators, angel networks, other VCs, Rice Alliance support, Houston Exponential Support, and the development of real estate assets devoted to the development of innovation and entrepreneurship in Houston alone (not to mention Austin which is booming as well), we are in the right place at the right time.
What is it about Artemis Fund’s mission and vision that gets you out of bed in the morning as a co-founder?
Our mission and vision derive from our shared passion to enable and support women who are making the change we want to see in the world while providing financial returns that can be recirculated into the system for more beneficial change. Our companies are directly helping small businesses and communities of people who are the foundation of our country. They are providing financial inclusion for those on the fringes. They are actively trying to reduce the environmental footprint created by population increase, consumerism, and general lack of awareness.
We fundamentally believe that we are financing innovation that will make the world better, not just for women, but for everyone. And the fact that women receive so few dollars from VC and Angel Investors further fuels our passion to raise money to provide them the investment they so sorely need. We know that they will use it wisely, grow it substantially, and create a worthy and impactful enterprise.
Were there any major risks that stand out to you which Artemis Fund took, especially at its onset? Are there any challenges you’re facing now?
At the onset we knew that starting a VC is full of risk. First of all, it’s a startup. And all startups have risks. Second, we focus on startups. And all startups have risks. Third, we are female fund managers and most investors think of us as an anomaly. Traditionally investors, who are still primarily male, invest in what is comfortable and familiar. Fourth, we are women investing in women. Now, that’s a concept that is way out of the comfort zone of many people. Fifth, we are first time fund managers making it difficult and even impossible to get investment from institutions. Sixth, we do not have a 20 year history of investing as a team.
But, undeterred by risk, we used grit and determination and confidence in our success to raise more money in the first 8 months of our formation than most first time funds. WE called on that same grit, determination and confidence to raise more money during COVID, despite being told it would be impossible (and was indeed for many). Our challenge now is to find another 9 amazing female founded companies and then begin a larger Fund II raise at year end.
How do you maintain relationships and rapport with your portfolio companies and serve their unique needs?
We made the decision to lead, rather than follow, in our rounds. By leading, we are able to take a board or board observer seat and work closely with our founders in the early stages. We are there for them: providing strategy, fundraising, financial, legal, networking support. We work to fill out the rest of the Fund Raise, help them to determine KPIs, help them with their proformas, cap tables, etc.. and help them think through legal issues. We open our network to them and introduce them to customers, investors, suppliers and partners.