Office Hours: I'm the founding partner at Acrew Capital, board member at Chime, and have invested in companies including Gusto and Future Family.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Lauren Kolodny, co-founder and Managing Partner at Acrew Capital where I invest in fintech and future of work. I led the Series A round in Chime. Other investments of mine include Divvy, EvidentID, Finix, Gusto, Kettle, La Haus, Papaya Payments, Pie Insurance, among others.I was previously a partner at Aspect Ventures and in product marketing at Google, where I led a number of launches for GSuite, including Google Drive.I have an MBA from Stanford GSB, MSc from Stanford University, and BA from Brown University. Ask me anything about venture capital, founding funds, being a board member, building companies, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @laurenkolodny!Elphas – please ask @laurenkolodny your questions before Friday, June 25th. @laurenkolodny may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Thank you for hosting office hours, Lauren. 1. What are you most excited about in the fintech space? 2. What are the most important skills for aspiring VCs to develop? Are financial modeling skills important for early-stage investing?3. Best advice for securing a job in VC?
Hi Taylor, thanks for your questions. 1. If you look at all of the activity and success cases in fintech over the last decade+, most of what we’ve seen has been companies taking existing financial products and bringing them online. They’ve democratized access to financial services and made them digital first. With the success of this first major wave of fintech, legacy financial services are being forced to come to the table and reinvent themselves or risk becoming irrelevant. That shift means that this next wave of fintech companies is actually rebuilding financial services from the ground up. We’re seeing new financial infrastructure start to chip away at legacy software that hasn’t been meaningfully touched since the 1970s. We’re seeing companies that are no longer constrained by the limitations of legacy software start to reinvent underlying financial products themselves. And we’re seeing fintech become embedded more deeply in consumer and business applications, making both software and financial products more tightly integrated and relevant. In summary, what I’m most excited about is the fundamental rebuilding of the financial services industry.By the way, this isn’t just happening domestically -- it’s happening globally. One of the trends I’m most passionate about is: in various emerging markets, fintech is actually completely leapfrogging legacy financial services for the consumers and small businesses that are coming into the financial system for the first time. Our industry is just scratching the surface of bringing the underbanked and unbanked into the financial system, but the changes are happening rapidly and are pretty inspiring.2. One of the most important skills for early stage investing is being able to boil down the key questions with any given opportunity and figuring out how to answer them. Financial modeling is a part of that for some companies -- particularly when they have some data or when you’re thinking through potential outcomes. That’s not always the most critical input. Sometimes it’s about your ability to assess people and their alignment with an opportunity, or evaluate a product roadmap, or the depth of technology, or what inputs to use to determine whether a consumer trend is gaining momentum. There’s no question that financial modeling and analysis are helpful skills in early stage venture. And yes, everyone who does the job should have some proficiency there -- but what’s going to get you the job is having a super power or two in evaluating and supporting companies. Whatever those are for you -- lean in on them.3. In short, start doing the job before you have the job. Some examples of how you might do this:You often only get one shot at building a relationship -- don’t just set up informational interviews with people in the industry where you’re asking them a bunch of questions. You won’t make a lasting impression that way. The best way to make an impression is to be helpful and show VCs how you think. Write up a thesis deck around an area you think is interesting, explain the rationale, and identify stage-appropriate companies that you think are compelling that the investor may not already have seen themselves. This gives you something to actually talk about and dig in on together. Once they’re engaged and see your potential, it’s much easier to build on that relationship. If you’re in position to do so, start angel investing -- or try to join a scout program. This is a great way to build a track record before you’re even in the industry and prove your ability to access and pick great investments. Advise startups. Having several CEOs of respected companies sing your praises about your ability to be helpful goes a long way. Finally, put your thought leadership out there and build a brand. This one isn’t for everyone but self branding is helpful in this industry and can propel you into it as a thought leader before you’re even doing the job.
1. When filling independent board seats for companies, what skills and experience do you search for? 2. What do you think makes an effective board member for a tech company?
+1 to this!Adding on to the board questions: Is there a recommended or common equity ownership threshold that an investor should meet to become a board member?
The most important threshold for a founder is whether they want the individual on the board , regardless of ownership. Typically speaking, investors who lead rounds are the ones who join the board. But not every round lead takes board seats, particularly as you get into the later rounds of the company. At the early stage, it’s fairly typical for a lead that is getting 10-15% of a company to take a board seat.
Hi Briana, This question is really tough to answer uniformly. The first thing I do when embarking on an independent board member search is work with the company to identify where we need the most strategic help over the next few years. And then, in doing an audit of our board (and executive team), ask what skillsets or experience are critical to the first point that is also missing or insufficiently represented on the board today. Broadly speaking, one profile I like for independent board members of early/midstage companies is a founder or early executive at a company that has gotten to meaningful scale somewhat recently. They seem to have very current perspectives and relatability to founders.I also think a lot about helping companies to add diversity to their boards. All of the data show that diverse boards produce significantly higher return on equity for shareholders. At Acrew, we recently launched a new initiative called the Diversify Capital Fund which helps late stage companies add diverse board members to their boards.
Thank you for being available for questions @laurenkolodny! My questions:1. What do you consider "future of work"?2. Do you invest at earlier stages?3. As a board member, how do you support the founders to be successful?I have a startup that I would consider "future of work" but I wanted to clarify (Virtual Lighting Design Platform: Search. Design. Share).
Hi Julie, 1. Good question. It’s definitely a broad term. At the moment, the future of work companies I’m excited about are building horizontal productivity solutions for hybrid work environments or creating platforms to bring new industries online. 2. Yes, we invest at the pre-seed through Series B out of our early stage fund. 3. There’s not a one size fits all answer here. At Acrew, we like to tailor our work to the needs of our companies. But in general, I like to invest in the ongoing development of the people I work with either by being a sounding board and/or by helping them find the support they need to become the best leaders they can be. Often this means helping them to find coaches, advisors, or other founders who have been through similar journeys such that they can be a sounding board to them. I also like to help them with all subsequent rounds of fundraising. Even the best founders in the world only fundraise a handful of times in their lives -- I like to believe that I can make them much more successful and efficient at fundraising since investing is what I do everyday. I’m interested in helping founders wrap their fundraises quickly and effectively so they can go back to building their business.
Lauren- I would love to have the opportunity to get on a call with you to learn more about your ideal investments. I am a vagipreneur, a person in the business of female sexual and reproductive health. I am quite familiar with Future Family as I had the chance to work with Claire in the past. Would you be free for a talk Friday of this week or Monday of next? My direct e-mail is [email protected].
Thanks for your interest, Rachel. If you’re a founder, please send an overview of your company to [email protected] and she can route it to the right person on our team.
A quick heads up that Lauren will be answering questions on Monday and Tuesday of the following week, not on Friday!
Hi Lauren, Thank you for your time answering questions here. Your