We’re excited to finally share what we’ve been up to at Coalition, all with the goal of helping founders build diverse, impactful cap tables.
The Coalition journey began early in 2020, when the four of us started investing together with pooled scout capital from Thrive Capital alongside our core jobs as founders and operators: Toyin Ajayi as co-founder of Cityblock Health, Lindsay Ullman as co-founder of Umbrella, Jaclyn Nelson as co-founder of Tribe AI, and Ashley Mayer as VP of Communications at Glossier. Now, two years later, we’ve scaled our support for startups with a $12.5M fund, along with a new model for bringing top women operators into deals and onto cap tables.
First, the fund! After investing in more than 20 startups together, and several more as individual angels, we decided to make things official and raised Coalition Fund I from an incredible group of LPs, including the founders and CEOs of Zola, Box, Glossier, Chief and Solv; senior executives at Stripe, Chime, Airtable, Maven, Gusto, Zendesk, Ro, and Webflow; investors at General Catalyst, Thrive Capital, Inspired Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Lux Capital, BoxGroup, Homebrew, Cowboy Ventures, a16z, and Lowercarbon Capital; and strategic family offices. We invest $200K+ in early stage startups, with a sweet spot at Seed.
As a group, we’ve been in the trenches from incubation all the way through to multiple unicorn rounds of funding, acquisition and IPO, and three of us have done prior stints in venture. We love nothing more than being the first call or text when a founder needs help with any facet of company building, no matter how tactical—after all, as active founders and operators, we’re in the same boat. We couldn’t be more excited about the initial group of startups we’re working with, including Softr, Canal, Ondo Finance, MicroAcquire, Vitable Health, Aunt Flow, Season, CareAcademy, Mos, Zaya Care, Census, Equip, Little Otter, and several more either in stealth or not yet announced.
We’re also excited to introduce the Coalition Network. Early on in our investing together, we became rather obsessed with the opportunity to connect founders with the best possible angel investors, with a focus on women and women of color. We would talk with founders about where they had gaps on their teams and in their own experience, and then find the most relevant and impressive people in our extended networks and pitch them on investing alongside us. We had a few big wins, but largely struggled to keep pace with fundraising velocity, especially if the operators we approached weren’t already actively investing. So we spent the second half of 2020 surveying founders and operators to better understand their points of friction, and how we might build something that could scale.
In 2021, we partnered with General Catalyst and Thrive Capital (now anchor LPs in our fund) to pilot a new way to connect top operators with their portfolio companies. Instead of the traditional advisory model, which is between an individual and the startup they’re advising, together we’ve designed something more scalable to address the constraints of capital, time and access for operators, while keeping things ridiculously easy for founders. For select investments, GC and Thrive share a portion of their firm's potential upside in exchange for advisory support from operators in the Coalition Network. Our team does all the work to learn about these businesses and where they’d most benefit from expertise, and then we surface vetted operators accordingly. Founders choose who they’d like to work with and we help kick off those engagements—all without ever slowing down the fundraising process.
It’s a win-win-win arrangement: founders work with brilliant operators with highly relevant expertise at no additional dilution; investors provide their portfolio companies with tangible support and cultivate deeper relationships with top talent; and operators get access to curated opportunities to build their track records and broaden their impact and, potentially, their wealth. And collectively, we’re onboarding the next wave of investors and advisors while helping founders build more diverse, impactful cap tables.
We’ve now done this more than 50 times (and counting!) in partnership with GC and Thrive, with world class operators like Annie Pearl (Chief Product Officer at Calendly), Cynthia Burks (former Chief People & Culture Officer at Genentech), Lindsay Kaplan (Co-founder of Chief), Melynda Barnes, MD (Chief Medical Officer at Ro) Noora Raj Brown (EVP of Brand at Goop), Sarah Heck (Head of Entrepreneurship at Stripe), and Shani Taylor (Head of Commercial Customer Success at Airtable) working with startups in their portfolios. Founders tell us that Coalition operators are among the most valuable people on their cap tables. We love the process of finding senior leaders across sectors, stages and functions, increasingly via referrals from operators already in the network. And in the process, we’ve been inspired to make the Coalition Network something bigger: a place for women operators in the tech ecosystem to take a portfolio approach to their careers and build their worlds, wealth and impact beyond their day jobs. This year, we plan to bring 100 senior operators onto cap tables via the Coalition Network and build additional products to connect founders and operators in new ways. The network is a source of deal flow for the fund and, of course, a way for us to introduce the founders we back to potential angel investors, advisors and executives—something we’ve successfully done a number of times with our early portfolio.
At Coalition, we’re creating a place where founders access highly relevant operational expertise, and operators get exposure to curated cap table opportunities—partnering with top VC firms to do this at ecosystem scale.
We’re lucky to be building the products we’d want for ourselves: as founders who know the value of operational expertise, and as operators who understand that exposure to the challenges and opportunities of other businesses makes you better at your core job—and also want to normalize this career philosophy for women in our industry. Given the uncertain economic outlook for the tech ecosystem over these next few years, we believe people who are actively building companies and navigating similar terrain are going to be even more valuable as advisors and investors. There’s never been a better time to bring top operators and founders together in the name of more impactful cap tables and a more diverse early startup ecosystem, and we’re eager to make our dent with the Coalition Network and Fund I.
- The Coalition team
Founding operators in the Coalition Network include: Lizzie Agnew, Khadija Ali, Kene Anoliefo, Melynda Barnes, MD, Emily Boschwitz, Noora Raj Brown, Cynthia Burks, Liat Bycel, Stephanie Chevalier, Cristina Cordova, Erica Dorfman, Azza Elsheikh, Zoelle Egner, Lisa K. Fitzpatrick, Sarah (Betzwieser) Fraser, Jen Grant, Helena Price Hambrecht, Sarah Heck, Maggie Hott, Kate Earle Jensen, Lisa Jiang, Anneke Jong, Lindsay Kaplan, Maryann Kongovi, Weisen Li, Lauren McDevitt, Mallory Dwinal Palisch, Brittany Papenhause, Annie Pearl, Ariana Poursartip, Evelyn Rusli, L'Teisha Ryan, Amy Sezak, Menaka Shroff, Maya Simon, Allison Sparkuhl, Maya Spivak, Emma Stanton, Anne Sweet, Alice Taylor, Olivia Tam, Kate Taylor, Shani Taylor, Shanna Tellerman, Poppy Thorpe, Melisa Tucker, Isha Vij, Ali Weiss, Rachel Winokur, and more.
We’re growing thoughtfully and onboarding operators to the network when we connect them with a relevant cap table. As we ramp up volume and build more products, we’re excited to open the network to more people. To be considered for opportunities, tell us more about yourself here!