Office Hours: I’m Monique Woodard, the Founding Partner and Managing Director of Cake VC – a $17M fund focused on demographic change. AMA!Featured

Hello Elphas!

I’m Monique Woodard and I’m the Founding Partner and Head Baker at Cake Ventures where I invest in founders building companies that touch areas of demographic change, including aging and longevity; the increased spending power of women; and the shift to majority-minority.

I am a venture capitalist who has invested in global startup ecosystems in the U.S. and internationally since 2016. Before founding Cake Ventures, I was a Venture Partner at 500 Startups where I invested in early-stage companies in the U.S. and Africa.

Following my time at 500 Startups, I became a Venture Scout at Lightspeed Venture Partners and a trusted advisor to foundations and venture capital firms like SoftBank where I advised on the Vision Fund’s Emerge program. Before moving to the investor side of the table, I spent many years in the startup industry as a founder and operator.

During my downtime, I enjoy vintage shopping, going to art galleries and exhibitions, and wine tasting in Napa/Sonoma.

Ask me about venture capital investing, entrepreneurship and fundraising, career pathways into venture capital, changing demographics and the future of tech, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @MoniqueWoodard!Elphas – please ask @MoniqueWoodard your questions before Friday, February 24th. @MoniqueWoodard may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Thank you @MoniqueWoodard for chatting with us. We raised our seed round in the fall and we are busy building with about 16 months of runway. I am hearing a lot of conflicting advice about timing for raising our series A. Given the current economic climate, if we have the KPIs to go out soon, would you advise that? Or should we wait until the headwinds abate? Thanks, H
Congrats on successfully raising a seed round. If you have strong metrics against industry benchmarks, then I would go out while you are in both a good cash position and look most attractive to investors. The investment climate isn’t going to get dramatically better any time soon, but what will happen is that all of the companies who put off fundraising with extensions will soon have to come back to market to raise a Series A. If you can put yourself ahead of the pack and you have the metrics to do it, then I would get out of the gate sooner rather than later. Hope that perspective helps!
Thanks much for your insight. Xh
Hello @MoniqueWoodard! I love what you're doing with Cake, and also spend my free time wine-tasting in Wine Country! What do you look for when considering a pre-seed company that's not yet in the market but has an MVP? How can a founder in an industry that requires pre-traction funding best fundraise?
Hi @Gwynethb! I consider investing in companies at many different early stages - some that have launched, some that are still in stealth, and some that are just at the ideation phase. When investing in pre-revenue/pre-product companies, I spend the most time trying to understand the team and why they will be the people to successfully take this product to market and turn it into a scalable business. Metrics and KPIs at pre-seed are not as important as deeply understanding the product and customer, having a strong story to tell about why the world needs the product, a vision on how to build a massive business, and why this particular group of people are the ones who can take it there. It is also important to be able to clearly share your longer-term vision on how to get from no product to MVP to scale.
Hi @MoniqueWoodard, I would like to know how you will define success for the companies you invest in. Thanks!
It really depends on both stage and market, but here are a few things that signal early success:- Ability to get a working product into the hands of customers, get feedback, and quickly iterate. - Positive month over month growth in users, engagement, and/or revenue- For consumer companies, early customer signals that you are creating a true cult brand- For enterprise companies, a product that your early customers would be upset if it went away AND they are willing to pay for it/get into a contractIf we’re talking about longer-term company success, I’m looking for startups that can be category-defining companies, have a big enough market that they can get to $100M in yearly revenue, and will ultimately return the fund via acquisition or IPO.
Thanks for your insights @MoniqueWoodard!
Hi @MoniqueWoodard! What are some of the most valuable operations skills that we can develop in corporate that transfer well to venture?
Hi Ayori! So many of your operational skills will transfer to venture! I think one of the most important is ‘problem-solving’. In any role, you are identifying a problem and how to navigate around it is incredibly important, not only as an investor but also in providing guidance for founders in the portfolio. Another important skill is being able to visualize what the future holds - what a company could be 3-5 years from now or what the market might look like years from now.
Hi @MoniqueWoodard! What’s one tip you would give early-stage founders who are raising their first round and they lack a VC network?
Thanks for the question @kellyobrien. Everyone lacks a network until they create one – it’s never too late. Start connecting with investors where they are: at tech events, in Slack communities, on Twitter, etc. Introductions from other founders can also be a great way to get in front of VCs. I would also look at accelerators that are high-quality and specific to your industry. These can be great ways to get in front of a lot of investors –you just have to make sure it’s an accelerator that is worth giving up some equity for.
Thanks for the question @kellyobrien. Everyone lacks a network until they create one – it’s never too late. Start connecting with investors where they are: at tech events, in Slack communities, on Twitter, etc. Introductions from other founders can also be a great way to get in front of VCs. I would also look at accelerators that are high-quality and specific to your industry. These can be great ways to get in front of a lot of investors –you just have to make sure it’s an accelerator that is worth giving up some equity for.
Any good slack channel examples you'd recomend?
@MoniqueWoodard this is great- thanks for helping out!
Hi @MoniqueWoodard , So glad to see you here! I currently work in Corporate Innovation and am thinking about taking my marketing skills to a well funded VC firm. What should I consider before making a move?
Hi Sheila! So good to see you here.Moving to a VC firm is kind of like a marriage - people often only work for one firm in their career so you want to make sure you are thoughtful about the firm you join. Typically people spend a decade or more with a firm. In a marketing role you will be working very closely with the partners - make sure your styles/ethos align. Also make sure you join a firm where you can deeply get behind the portfolio and investment thesis because in a marketing role you will be enlisted with “selling” it and you need to be able to be authentic.
Hi @MoniqueWoodard! So curious how you met your LP's aside from warm intros. I'd love to have more women LP's at PsyMed Ventures and as someone younger and new to the space it is quite opaque to figure out who can be a good match. Thank you very much for your time!
@caitlinner - I used my network and was relentless in asking for intros from my core group of contacts. Those close contacts turn into more second and third-level contacts. And when people do commit, ask them who else you should be talking with. You may be surprised how much people want to help you out once they learn about what you are doing. I pitched Cake non-stop and overtime momentum built. I know you’re in the middle of a raise now, but I would encourage everyone to build your network before you need it. I started Cake with a really strong network and that carried me through to successfully closing the fund. Fundraises fail on two things: you run out of intros or you run out of money. One thing I did do that helped me attract women LPs was being explicit about carving out space in the fund for female investors. This gave me a great foundation when I reached out to LPs that I wanted to get involved. It showed I was thoughtful, and intentional. People gravitate towards wanting to be involved in a fund like that.
Hi Monique! Thanks so much for opening up an AMA. It seems like you had a ton of experience investing before you started your own fund. Do you have any advice for folks who want to open a fund who don’t have a background in venture capital? Are there steps you recommend taking beforehand?
Hey @tvisi! It is hard to break into VC and especially start your own fund without prior experience. Having experience as an investor as a firm helps you ‘get the reps in’ so that you can recognize the things to look for when investing in a company. I’ve been in venture for ~6 years and I’m still learning every day, but seeing the volume of companies that I did at 500 Startups really helped me hone my investor lens.So, I would try to get 2-3 years of experience at a venture firm before you break out on your own. I also would not have had the network to start Cake without my time at 500 Startups and as a Scout Investor at Lightspeed. If you do feel like you have a strong enough network to raise a fund just get started and be realistic about the time it may take to pull the investors/LPs together. My first fund at Cake took me 18 months to close and 2 years to raise.
Thank you for the thoughtful response, Monique.
Hi @MoniqueWoodard I'm so excited to join this conversation! I've been following your work for a while.Congrats on founding Cake VC!
Thanks @MoniqueWoodard for offering to share your insights with Elphas! I love that your bio says that you've been a "scrappy" builder. Libbie Health is on a mission to support positive mental health outcomes from postpartum through menopause for women of color. What issues/trends do you see will drive the future of FemTech?
@coachcolette - Wonderful to hear about Libbie Health and your mission!I believe it is incredibly important to be building companies and products for the aging demographic - it is the first layer of Cake’s investment thesis. For too long women’s issues have been underserved, especially when it comes to menopause, infertility issues, frequent female cancers, and more. I’m very interested in companies that blend scientific or medical innovation with technological innovation. I think early femtech focused on fixing the user experience of women’s health (which was much needed) and now, we will see more companies that are focused on the clinical delivery of healthcare. There are lots of opportunities to be had in building products for the aging female population. By 2034, Americans over 65 will outnumber those under 18. They are an economically powerful demographic group that expects to use technology and innovation to address the challenges of late life.
Thanks @MoniqueWoodard for sharing your insights! Would welcome the opportunity to connect offline to share more about Libbie.