Office Hours: I invest in consumer tech brands as a General Partner at Maveron. I'm Anarghya Vardhana.Featured
Hi Everyone!I’m a General Partner at Maveron. I invest in direct-to-consumer tech brands. What we define as consumer is quite broad, and includes fin tech, health tech, e-commerce, social apps, marketplaces, and more. I joined Maveron in 2015 after working in product and operations at Google and a number of tech startups. In 2017 I was named one of the “30 under 30” to watch in venture capital by Forbes. I have a BS in Math & Computer Science, and Science, Technology and Society from Stanford.I am a passionate advocate for diversity in tech and consider it a lifelong mission to get more women involved in tech. I’m also a marathon runner and an Indian classical dancer.If you’d like to learn more about me, check out this interview.Ask me anything about transitioning from operator to investor, having a successful career in venture, managing a busy schedule, fundraising for your b2c companies, or anything else!
Thanks so much for joining us @anarghya!Hi everyone! Please ask Anarghya your questions before Thursday 2/24/2020. She may not have time to answer every question, so please emoji upvote the ones you're most interested in.Lastly – if you'd like to chat with Anarghya, please ask your questions in this thread. She may not be able to reply to 1-1 emails.
Hi Anarghya,Thanks for making yourself available to us. Also, congratulations on your soon-to-be bundle of joy!I’m building a New York City-based D2C women’s health company focused on making emotional and mental healthcare information and support services more accessible to diverse women earlier in their pregnancy and up to a year into postpartum after childbirth. I’ve followed your career for some time and not only am I inspired by you, but I really admire your passion for bringing more women of color into tech. I’ve noticed that since I’ve chosen to focus on diverse women and families, a largely underserved and high-need demographic within mental wellness, I’ve been told by local investors that it’s not a large enough market opportunity. • How do you suggest underrepresented founders communicate billion dollar opportunities that might appear as niche based on a race/ethnicity focus to investors, but have the potential to become largely profitable businesses once funded?
Hi Lauren! Thank you for your kind words and congrats, wow, pregnancy has been a journey and I am thanking my mom every day for what she did for me and my sister! I’m so glad you are building what you are building, it needs to exist, especially when we see how women of color and especially black women are undeserved by the existing healthcare infrastructure — and mental health feels overlooked for all. Thank you for your work! To answer your question, if you haven’t already, I’d do a detailed total addressable market breakdown. Given the lack of diversity in VCs, the folks you are pitching to might not see beyond their own communities. Showing rough estimates of the # of women of color who are pregnant and in postpartum, how much time that covers (probably 2 years+?), what % of them you think you can capture over time, and how much they pay, could get to a compelling number. And that’s just looking at the US market, international will be massive. And guess what, you can probably expand the time she is using your service if you go to the 1-2 years she might be trying to conceive, what if she is freezing her eggs or doing IVF? And of course, if you serve her well during her first pregnancy, hopefully she’ll come back if she has more kids. The longevity of the relationship can be quite meaningful here. The other thing to do would be to show early evidence that there is product market fit here. Early customer data. Interviews. Qualitative data, etc. Hope that helps!
Hi Anarghya, thanks for being here! Loved the interview you linked - congratulations on finding a successful and satisfying career early in life.Two questions for you...1. As an investor who is on the receiving end of many pitches, do you notice any key differences or trends between how women pitch and how men pitch? Anything you see women doing that men don't do? (and is that good or bad?)2. What themes in consumer tech do you find most exciting right now?
Hi! Thanks for the kind words, I feel very lucky, there have been a lot of turns in the road! Especially love ❤️ the first question — so here goes 1. YES. Good and bad in a VC setting. Caveating that these are broad generalizations and do not apply to everyone, but just a few patterns that I’ve noticed 👀 - Women founders tend to be more conservative in their projections 📈 this can be harmful in a VC pitch since VCs are looking to invest in huge markets with potential multi billion $ outcomes — it’s important to be realistic and rooted in truth but to also be able to sell a huge vision - Women founders tend to have a stronger and more detailed grasp of their business (I think as women, we have often been directly or indirectly told that we need to be 2x better than our male counterparts and that often shows ...) 🤷🏽♀️- Women founders tend to be less savvy about the whole fundraising process, I think that’s because their networks are not as filled with VCs and other successful founders as male networks (let’s change that!!) 💰 - Women founders are more likely to admit weaknesses in themselves or their teams, vs male founders will often pitch a perfect, bullet proof story (again, broad generalization, but I do see this a lot) 2. Consumer healthcare 🥼— 18% and growing of US GDP is in healthcare, yet consumers remain woefully underserved, *especially* in categories like women’s reproductive health, mental health, addiction, and aging. Consumer social — this actually relates to health for me as I see social + community as a huge part of human wellbeing and happiness. We are living in a world with increasing rates of loneliness, depression, and lack of community for people across the spectrum. I’m spending a lot of time thinking about what new forms of social connection look like. Whether that’s through apps like Co-Star (social app for astrology), offline connections through brands like Revel or The Wing, or verticalized social communities around special interests. Thanks!
Hello Anarghya! Lovely to e-meet you! I believe we missed each other at last year's Qualcomm Ventures Female Founders Competition. I co-founded a health-tech/deep-tech startup that has created the world's first non-contact health monitoring solution. Our first product launch was in infant space - https://www.raybaby.us/ - currently selling online - retail - target etcBut there is a bigger play which we want to focus on which is in B2B licensing. Would love your feedback on:- the metrics which investors look for in B2C companies-more specifically on why B2C for consumer electronics in not really considered "investable" allowing incumbents like Philips + GE to dominate healthcare-we are also fund-raising & would love thoughts on how to approach deep-tech VCs.Thank you so much for doing this! Aardra[email protected]
Hi there! Glad we’re connecting here. Here are my thoughts on your questions 1. It varies by fund and stage — but high level for what you are building, sales sales sales! Margin (you will lose some margin selling through Target etc but get the benefit of exposure and brand awareness, so it’s a double edged sword). And related to sales, customer acquisition cost. What channels work for acquisition. And this goes into your second question ... 2. The challenge here is if you’re making a one time sale or if there is an opportunity to sell more product to the customer. The best is if you can get them to sign up for an ongoing software subscription. The one time sale is scary, especially with usually associated high customer acquisition costs.3. Have you chatted with some of the hardware / tech folks like Eclipse and Luxe? Good luck!
Hello Anarghya! Thank you for taking the time out to reply. No, i haven't chatted with either Eclipse or Luxe. Would love an intro if that's not too much to ask. My email is [email protected]. Thanks a lot again! This has been super super helpful! It really helps to get honest feedback as founders are often struggling to understand what they are doing wrong :)
Hi Anargyha, Thanks so much for making yourself available for questions! I’m putting together my tech stack and wonder what you’ve seen founders do wrong here? Are there good resources to make sure we are putting the right technology set together for success? Or does it not really matter because it can change in the future? What problems have you seen founders get themselves into, or which ones do you stay away from investing in, related to how they’ve set up this area of their business?
Ooh, this is a tough question! I’m not 100% sure, especially since I don’t know what you are building 😞 but here are my 2 cents - I’d build in a way to minimize refactoring down the line - There are a lot of off the shelf tools today to make it easier to create your stack than ever before, whether that’s MEAN (MongoDB, Express. js, AngularJS, and Node. js) or something else - Will you go mobile now or down the line? Building in React or something similar to allow for easy cross over would be good - And I’d set up the right data practices now so that you can access and use your data from day 1, rather than trying to get it down the line and realizing that things weren’t set up to take advantage of dataHope this helps a bit!
Hi Anarghya! Thank you so much for offering your advice and insight. I'm launching an automated online investment advisor ("robo-advisor") that builds portfolios customized to fit each user’s unique sustainability values, whether that's lowering carbon emissions, promoting equal pay, limiting deforestation...the list goes on! My cofounder and I are currently raising a pre-seed/angel round and are wondering what investors at this stage care most about. We've self-funded the product development to get a prototype (which should be ready mid-March!) but need further funding to complete the backend integrations with a few third party vendors. We can't onboard any users until the final version is ready, given it's a financial services product that faces pretty tight regulations. We created a dummy website to allow people to add their email to a waitlist, but we don't have actual user traction or revenue to show investors at this point. Is there anything you'd recommend we do to try and boost investor interest? What would you most look for in a company at this stage? Thank you!!
Hi there! Happy to be here 😊 Glad you are building what you are building, consumers are increasingly looking for values-aligned services, especially in where / how they spend and build their money. In the pre-seed / angel 👼 stage, for the most part, the investors or individuals you are approaching should focus on the team, idea, and market, in that order. So a lot of it is just pitching yourself and your cofounder ... why are you uniquely suited to build this? Why should they believe in you and get on your bus? I’d spend a lot of time focusing on that. Afterwards, it’s about what you are building, the product / idea, and then sharing why you think the time is right and why there is a market for this. Btw, are you familiar with Stash? Check them out, they have some values-based options for users to select. You could point to Stash a comparable in the market, show how much money they’ve raised / what kind of valuation they have, and then explain how you are different and/or hopefully better! Hope this helps!
Hi Anarghya. Thank you for answering our questions, and for the advice in your interview.My question is: as an investor, when looking at a b2c software company, do you care more about users or revenue?I realize revenue is the ultimate goal. However, at the early stage, focusing on revenue can limit user growth, whereas having more free usage grows the user base and in the long term could be much more profitable. Which should a founder focus on in order to be investible?For context, I built PuppetMaster (www.puppetmaster.com), an app that lets anyone animate anything. It's got nearly a million downloads, and the support of educators, but only small revenues so far. (I have, of course, bigger monetization plans.)Thank you!
Hey there! I care more about users at the early stage BUT I care a lot about whether you had to pay for those users. Organic growth = the best! Having a plan for monetizing and showing early evidence that there is a willingness to pay is important, but I would say focus on growing your user base quickly, cost effectively, and make sure that engagement and retention numbers look strong.
Thx @anarghya I loved seeing how you bulldoze right through barriers! Inspiring...& thx for taking ?'s.I'm an experienced, serial Entrepreneur and non-tech Founder doing a deep tech reinvention of shopping. I'm thinking I need a monster CTO and some pre-seed capital (not a large amount). I've raised $$$ in a prev startup. Is there a particular fund or partner you would suggest that helps identify both tech talent and that pre-seed's? I have great Advisors, patents and just want the right strategic partner in the VC world that brings more than $, particularly tech strategy and talent. Tysm!
Thanks for your kind words, and hello! 👋🏾Some pre seed folks are Precursor, Afore, & Initialized. You could also go the incubator / accelerator route, a la YC or others. Sometimes colleges have programs for their alumni, if that’s an option for you, you could look into that. But sounds like you’ve been to the rodeo before! In which case you might not need the hand holding that accelerators provide, though it might be a good way to meet folks who could potentially join you on this journey. Hope this helps!