Office Hours: I'm a founding partner at Hannah Grey VC and co-founded the world's largest community of women investors. I’m Jessica Peltz-Zatulove.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Jessica Peltz-Zatulove, founding partner at Hannah Grey VC, an early stage venture capital fund investing in customer centric founders reimagining everyday experiences to improve work and life. I also co-founded Global Women in VC, which today is the world’s largest and most active community for women investors, now with 3,400+ members spanning 2,000+ firms in 60+ countries. I’m also a mentor at Techstars, Entrepreneurs Roundtable, and a founding member of the Guggenheim Museum’s Technology and Innovation Council. Prior to venture capital, I managed the media strategy of several Fortune500 brands.Ask me anything about building companies, growing communities, media/content strategy, go-to-market strategy, fundraising, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @jessicapeltz!Elphas – please ask @jessicapeltz your questions before Friday, July 9th. @jessicapeltz may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
@jessicapeltz Thank you SO much for the time and thoughtfulness answering all these questions. Just reading through these was incredibly valuable and insightful. I particularly loved your transparency on the fund, how women tend to be more defensive then offensive, and your thoughts on building community. It was such a refreshing experience and made me love your fund even more! (I'll be sending something over shortly.). THANK YOU!!!
Great responses. Thank you.
Hi Jessica,I hope you had a good day! Your comment about "reimagining everyday experiences to improve work and life," caught my attention, because it ties into the vision for what I've been working on for the past (almost) three years. One of the biggest challenges with my start-up business is that I'm (re)launching post-Covid lockdowns, and want to continue to improve the platform, while rolling out a robust GTM strategy. What's the best way to do this on a boot-strapped budget with limited resources?Thank you!Robin
Hi @jessicapeltz! Thank you for sharing here, what an inspiring story. I'm super aligned with your mission & supporting women-run ventures! We're just starting to fundraise for our next level of expansion, so I'd love to hear more/ connect about investors that are supporting women-run ventures! Cheers, Kelsey
How are you doing dear
@jessicapeltz What are the top 5 habits in your daily life that has helped you have a successful career?
Oh my gosh - this is a hard question.... particularly now that I have 2 young kiddos (our firm, Hannah Grey, is named after our oldest daughters) - is there such a thing as daily habits? :-) In general, I'd say the business habits that have helped me be successful are:1/ Follow Up: It sounds obvious... but it's not something you can take for granted. Follow through on what you say you're going to do, whether it's an introduction, send a calendar invite, additional information, whatever - always close the loop.2/ Send thank you notes: After meetings with investor/partner/customer/talent, etc. prospects, I always make a point to shoot a quick note to thank people for their time, consideration, or feedback. It's good practice to make people feel heard and appreciated.3/ Be resourceful: If you don't know the answer, be scrappy and figure it out yourself - google, blogs, podcasts, books, talking to mentors, etc. Don't be afraid to ask or feel intimidated that you don't know the answer; curiosity goes a long way to learning and improving.4/ Create opportunities for yourself: You can't wait for something to be handed to you, be creative and hustle to figure out what your personal path is for success. A little chutzpah never hurts :-)5/ Find balance and be kind to yourself: Definitely easier said than done depending on the day and I'm FAR from perfect... but try to get enough sleep, meditate for a few minutes a day, eat dinner with family, make time for your friends or a hobby, call your parents, etc. Allowing yourself space can reframe and reset your focus, clarity and creativity. <3
What are your go to performance metrics around community building (health, growth)? And, what’s your perspective around defining success of a community? Thanks and it’s an honor to have you here. 💪
Hi Patricia! Love this question because this awareness and member sentiment as a community admin is so important. Overall it depends on the type of community and where it lives (e.g. if it's an employee community, professional community, customer community, etc.)For our particular community, the performance metrics and ways we think about success are:1/ Active members e.g. in Slack you can see active vs. inactive) - is it growing?2/ Referral rates: e.g. are people consistently adding in new members, or referring their friends to join?3/ Participation: Are people asking to create new channels? Is there activity in the channels? (E.g. virtual events, etc.), are people publicly posting on a social channels about their association with the community? (E.g. LinkedIn, etc.)4/ Experience: What do your members say about being in your community? Where do they find value, and why do they below? What makes them identify with the community? All good things to gut check as you talk to members.Hope that helps!
Hi Jessica, thank you for answering Patricia's question. As a follow-up, what strategies have you found to be successful and effective when it comes to increasing engagement/growth in spaces that involve people from all over the world. e.g increasing engagement/growth on slack and social media.
Thank you, Jessica. It’s great to get your perspective. Be well. 🙂 - Patricia
@jessicapeltz I'm starting a community that will take the format of mobile app and keen to explore the concept of "build it with them, not for them".Most communities interpret that in the sense of members contributing by being active, taking leadership within or creating sub-branches. I'd love to know what are the most creative and impressive strategies you've seen that dial this concept up to 11? What could great look like?Thank you so much for offering your time and expertise with us elphas!
Hi Kristy! Great to see the forward thinking approach to community building.For Women in VC, I like to think we take this approach. We tell our members to think about our community as their canvas - and that they should feel empowered and inspired to connect and organize however they feel is appropriate to them. We'll also sometimes use language like Women in VC is just providing you with the tools and infrastructure you need to connect/collaborate. There's always room to improve, of course! But we often use that language intentionally to encourage members to take advantage of the resources and relationships that make sense for them.I'm certainly not an expert - but I'm fascinating by what we're seeing with the increasing amount of DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) in crypto, I think there's a lot of lessons to be learned from their collaborative approach to governance!
Thank you @jessicapeltz this is fantastic!
hi @jessicapeltz what's your take on the women-led or women-only communities landscape? Is too crowded? What are your best strategies to offer value and bring something new to the table? Congrats on Women in VC 🔥
Hi Gaby - thank you! We're super proud of our incredible community!The reality is- while there are several incredible women-led / women-only communities, we unfortunately still have a LONG way to go to parity, so it's clear we need to continue elevating support and resources for women and underrepresented minorities in the startup/VC community. In terms of the best strategies to bring something new to the table, I think the best start would be a broad discovery - where do people feel they lack support? What do they wish existed? What are skills or like-minded people that want to connect with? I do feel like there's probably an opportunity for more vertical / niche communities based on an educational interest or identity - e.g. maybe it's something specifically helping women learn about emerging sectors (e.g. crypto - which has very few women, and can be intimidating to learn about), maybe it's a community of technical female founders, etc.
@jessicapeltz What are some of the key metrics or ways to show product market fit/potential for an early stage start up that is not generating revenue yet. We lunched our platform in February and have pivoted a few times but haven’t been able to show a great deal of revenue because of the ongoing product and positioning tweaks. I need more time (money) to prove concept so I’m wondering what an investor pitch for a pre-rev start up looks like. How do you decide what is worth investing in? How much revenue is required to gain confidence? If no ROI on cold ads, is there still an ability to raise? 🙏 thanks!
Hi Kara - congrats on the launch, that's an exciting milestone!It totally depends on the investor, fund, and type of product. For example - our fund is are comfortable investing pre-revenue or pre-product, other funds aren't - there's no right or wrong answer, it's just about qualifying your audience based on where the business is at. (FWIW - in the case of Billie, my partner Kate invested before she ever saw the razor!). In general, a great way to spin your story is around early customer validation. I'd think about things like:- Do you have a waitlist for your products?- Have you gotten any positive press, or buzz on social media? - How large is your CRM, or do you have an active community of fans? What does the brand's following look like?- What has the thought process been to test and iterate to start accelerating revenue? (Is it around the purchase funnel? Website optimizations? Too much friction / clicks to get to the cart? Pricing is off? etc.?)- What's your NPS? (if you have one)- Are there *any* early customers, and if there are - how are you engaging them? Do they LOVE your product, and the flywheel just hasnt kicked in yet?- Is there customer urgency, or a real pain point to solve? Or is it just an incremental improvement?- Whats the experience innovation for the customer- What are the forcing functions (generational change, culture shifts, etc.) that will contribute to the growth of your category or product?- Why are YOU the right team to tackle and solve this problem. (e.g. domain expertise, operating experience, industry relationships, etc.)Net net, there's no magic answer around how much revenue is needed to gain confidence- every fund is different, so tell the best possible story with the data available to you, and find investors that fit the stage and are excited about your vision... the right match is out there! :-)
Hi @jessicapeltz - I'm curious from your VC perspective, what's a common mistake you see women founders make when pitching their startup that you don't see as often with the male founders? And in terms of go-to-market strategy, what is the one marketing strategy you believe customer-centric founders tend to *underemphasize" in their initial pitches? Thanks!
Hi! The most common mistake I see with female founders is putting the risks moreso ahead of the opportunity. There's been HBR studies about this how women tend to play more defense vs. offense in investor meetings, so it's just good to be mindful of that behavior (which is probably subconscious to both the VC and founder!)I think it's just something to be mindful of to stay in control of the conversation. Focus on the growth, customer validation, talent you were able to recruit, massive market size that you're going after, investor interest, etc. and then address questions/concerns about risk very directly with confidence and data - but unapologetically and work to reframe the conversation. It's early stage venture, there will always be risks no matter what the business is, they're investing in the opportunity :-)Re: the GTM, don't underemphasize your competitive advantage around your network. What relationships, partnerships, associations, etc. do you have thats unique to YOU based on your experience in a given market... it can be a super power that's often taken for granted!
This is great advice Jessica, and the part about over-emphasizing risk spot on. Thank you!
Hi @jessicapeltzI am thinking on building a community for founders to help each other in the process of fundraising. What would you believe are the 3 elements to build trust with the members of the community from day 1.
Hi! This is a great question, as I think it's important to lead with the values you want your community to emulate. For something as sensitive as fundraising - I believe it's important to recognize the underlying motivations and vulnerabilities of why people are joining the community. I'm part of several incredible emerging manager groups that help each other with fundraising, and the support system has been hugely beneficial - but to your point, it starts with trust and leading by example. :-). For this particular use case, I would say: 1/ Empathy and compassion: Fundraising is a rollercoaster and it's HARD!!! Don't be afraid to be vulnerable, celebrate your wins and be forthcoming with your setbacks, it feels great to talk about and builds a culture of cheering each other on.2/ Transparency: Particularly for fundraising, everyone has different experiences and it's a crazy puzzle to put together. Be open about your experiences or feedback with a given firm or investor, e.g. what they're looking for (stage/sector), why they passed, what the process was, etc. It can be more efficient for everyone to see if they could be a fit for someone else, and also help piece together what can be ambiguous information about that prospect.3/ Generosity: As it's appropriate, be open with introductions- particularly if it's a fund or investor you've already closed (the best referrals come from people you've already backed!), or if it's an investor/fund that passed on you. It can be a great way to build relationships with people and stay top of mind, while also paying it forward for another founder. <3
What does your firm look for when considering to go with a potential company/founder? Are you preseed or Seed? What types of vehicles do you use for investment?
Hi Allie! Hannah Grey is a first check (pre-seed) firm investing in customer centric founders reimagining everyday experiences to improve work and life. Below is a quick download on us!- Stage: Pre-seed/Seed- Typical round size: Usually we're participating in rounds between $500-3MM (first institutional round)- Valuations: We look to invest at valuations under $10MM- Check range: Our check sizes ranges from $350-600k - Do we lead?: Yes! We're happy to lead, co-lead, or follow, depending on the needs of the founders- Ownership: We target 6-8% ownership of the company- Sectors: We're intentionally thesis driven generalists, as we believe in following cultural trends and marco forcing functions to identify areas of opportunity. We primarily are investing in themes across future of work, fintech, commerce, consumer, wellness/digital health, education, SaaS and marketplaces. We love seeing founders with strong customer empathy and market fit, clear urgency to solve the problem, magnetic story telling skills and brand vision are also traits we look for.
Hi Jessica, Thrilled to have the chance to ask questions! I have two:1. How do you determine if a product-based business is customer-focused enough--are there particular metrics?2. How would you advise a product-based start-up begin trying to build a community?Thank you!
Hi! To answer your questions:1/ There are several qualitative and quantitative metrics you can look for, depending on the stage the product is in (pre-product vs. live in market). Few things we think about:- Do they have a high NPS score?- Is there a strong waitlist? (Have they built something people want?)- How do they think about handling customer service?- What's their process / frequency of talking to customers?- What are customers saying about them on social media? What are the reviews?- Does the founder have strong customer empathy? How do they authentically connect with the founder? Why do they care about servicing that audience? (Personal connection? Business opportunity? Etc.?)2/ It first starts with the WHY - you can't just build a community to have one, talk to customers and figure out what their emotional attachment and motivation to associate with your product/service. Does it become a lifestyle community? Does it become an experiential community? Is it an educational community? It's important to first figure out the WHY someone would want to join your community, and then what the UTILITY / VALUE you provide to keep them engaged. Also, you have to think about what data you already have about the customer community to start to organize them - I am a BIG fan of organizing everything in Airtable!Hope that helps :-)
How much influence do you have on a company's board that you invest in? Do you advise your founders to think strategically, and early about their boards? Often times we see earlier check writers making early bets but weighing in less on boards, which have a huge impact on the company.
Hi! Re: boards, our fund doesn't take board seats - we take observer seats. We invest at the pre-seed stage so typically a formal board isn't formed until more a larger seed or Series A round.In general - I believe it's important to think about the *practice of boards early, even if it's not *officially formalized with controls, it's a helpful habit to get into with your early investors around monthly checks to talk through the business updates, challenges, hiring decisions, comp packages, progress, etc. This can be done with observer seats early, as it provides the structure and governance to set you up for success once you do have a board.
Would love to meet , I am in the Bay Area, do you have time ? heidi
Hi Heidi, thanks so much for reaching out! We ask everyone to fill out a profile on our site ("share your business"), as we streamline all new opportunities for our fund that way. This helps us better qualify opportunities to ask thoughtful questions, while also being mindful of everyone's time to ensure there's an initial fit. Look forward to learning more about what you're building!
Hi Jessica, I just submitted a pitch deck on your provided link. Let me know if you are interested in a follow up. I realized funding season / window is closing. But maybe we can see each other in Jan or February of 2022. Warm regards, Heidi
Thank you so much for offering to answer our questions! My questions are related to products that embrace sustainability. What trends are you seeing in customer-centric companies that embrace sustainability (e.g. in food, clothing, etc.)? What are some go-to-market strategies for companies that build sustainable products?
Hi! The biggest trend we're seeing in sustainability is around transparency. E.g. what's the traceability of the products, is it a carbon neutral supply chain (e.g. what August is doing --> ), or around tracking/monitoring the data for the carbon footprint of a given product.The GTM strategy really depends on who the customer is, and what the product is - so unfortunately it's not a one size fits all.
Hi Jessica,Thanks for answering some questions. We're helping women figure out where to start with their personal finances, and we're searching for product-market fit. We were told that Angel investors are the best source of funding at this stage, and I'd love to hear your perspective on that. Best,Kristine
Hi Kristine!It all depends on how much you're raising and how much capital you need. Typically, I'd say if you're looking to raise less than ~$250k, it's going to be either bootstrapped or your family/friends network. If you're looking to raise up to ~$500-750k then it's angels. Anything beyond that would likely be a mix of pre-seed institutional funds, angels, or strategics (or depending on the type of business, possibly a crowdfunding platform).In general - think about what your core goals and milestones are for the next 12-18 months (e.g. - whats the sizzle you want on the front page of your deck for the NEXT round), then peel the layers back around how much capital it would take to get there (e.g. hires, marketing, etc), and bump that figure up by ~20-30% to give yourself a buffer. You might only need $300k, you might need $2MM- but it's worth the exercise as the size of the round will determine the type of investor profile you're looking for.Hope that helps!!
Incredibly useful rules of thumb, thanks-you.
@jessicapeltz thank you for offering to answer our questions - I'm the founder of Origen, a place where contemporary art collectors can connect online (, and we are raising a seed round for our SaaS AI platform, which is well-positioned to transform the dinosaur/legacy art industry. 1. As an investor, are there any particular items (KPIs, founding members/team) you would like to see when evaluating startups that are tackling dinosaur/legacy industries?2. Could you share with us an example of when a founder did something that surprised you, in a positive way? For example, a time when someone accepted constructive feedback (and how they did it) that left a positive impression. 3. What is a big miss/mistake that you often see when founders try to contact you?
Hi Yelena! Thanks for the great questions.1. There are several KPIs we look at depending on the business, market, and stage of the product/revenue. Specifically, if it's something tackling a dinosaur legacy industry- a few of the questions we would think about are:- How well does the founding team understand the existing solutions/category/customers? What domain expertise/connections do they have that will make them successful? - Is this an incremental improvement, or is it really solving a pain point for the customer - is there urgency to solve the problem? (E.g. is this a vitamin or a pain killer?)- How balanced is the founding team? is there someone with operating experience in the industry you're disrupting? is someone technical? does someone understand the customer/sales cycles?- WHY is that industry a dinosaur? what's prevented them from innovating? How are the incumbents trying to stay relevant? - Despite being old, is the industry growing? What are the societal shifts or forcing functions that will make a new take on this industry increasingly relevant?- How difficult will it be to generate brand awareness and break out? Do you have a unique GTM, network, or strategy to help you do that?2. I wouldn't say it's necessarily a surprise, but I always appreciate a founder that follows up and has an organized data room. Keep in mind every single interaction with an investor is a data point in their decision - particularly when youre going through the investment process, it's a peek into what the working relationship could look like in the years to come. We love when founders are buttoned up, organized, answer questions directly, know their numbers, and aren't afraid to share their challenges or shortfalls.3. Biggest miss would be not having background context on the fund, and still asking for a check or meeting. Case and point - I once got a cold email that said, "Dear sir, we're a Series B biotech company........." - seriously! If that founder had spent 3 seconds on our website (this was at my past CVC) they would've seen clearly on the homepage what we invested in - and that I was not a Sir (ha!). Treat outreach like a sales process to qualify the lead, who is investing in your category, in your stage, maybe they've invested in a company you admire or have relevant operating experience, etc. Knowing WHY you want to talk to that person is a great way to provide context on a cold outreach.Hope that helps!
Thank you so much for these thoughtful responses. Your response to question 1 made me realize that I haven't been explaining why the art market still operates in its ancient methods - just that it does. If there is any way I can help you in the future (my background is as a commercial litigator) please let me know - my e-mail address is [email protected]
Hi @jessicapeltz I'd love to chat with you about company growth strategies. I'm the Co-Founder of nodalab, a podcast startup. What are your thoughts on this industry? I'd love to learn from you.
Hi and thx for doing AMA! I wondered what advice you can proffer for a non-tech woman founder building a hard/deep tech concept (my 3rd tech startup as a non-tech founder) that is badly needed but needs funding prior to POC? I'm an experienced Entreprnr but not in the SV circles and don't have the Stanford/FAMGA engineers & developers contacts I need (being in Houston) to do this quickly and do it well. I tried local investors and they want typical VC metrics, etc. Tysm.