Meet the VC moms who helped Maven become a unicorn

  • Maven CEO Kate Ryder said finding investors was once a “bloodbath” process. 40 VCs passed at start-up.
  • Ryder then decided she would only talk to female investors to seek financing.
  • She found a group of female investors, including Sequoia’s Jess Lee and Lux ​​Capital’s Deena Shakir.

In the winter of 2016, Maven Clinic founder and CEO Kate Ryder approached a group of male VCs to start her startup, a first of its kind virtual clinic dedicated to women and family health.

Ryder recalled one of the investors in the room called to ask his wife if she would use the platform before eventually rejecting her. That investor ended up being just one of the 40 venture capitalists who turned down the opportunity to invest.

“The carnage came in Series A,” Ryder said.

The company continued to raise some money for its Series A. But after the experience of raising the round, Ryder only promised to talk to female investors who understood the health field in an effort to avoid another uphill fundraising battle.

This strategy led Ryder to work with Sequoia’s Jess Lee and Oak HC / FT’s Nancy Brown for the company’s Series B.

Although male investors have since funded Maven, female investors are still prominent on the company’s list of backers. Lux Capital’s Deena Shakir was recently co-head of the startup $ 110 million Series D round, it helps become a $ 1 billion company. The startup has also created Oprah Winfrey as an investor.

Maven’s female investors and Ryder – all working mothers – are able to relate to each other and provide deeper insight into the startup’s mission.

“There’s a sisterhood around what really happens to you when you start families,” Ryder said. “Parents get how tired other parents are and how tough parents are.”

Retail a term sheet while texting about toys

Deena Shakir

Deena Shakir, partner at Lux Capital

Deena Shakir


Lux Capital’s Deena Shakir met the Maven team for almost a year before leading the latest round of financing.

“She really put in the time and I was pregnant at the time,” Ryder said.

During the year-long courtship, Shakir proved the value she could add as an investor by sharing ideas with graduates, clients and commercial partnerships. She also shared tips about parenting, and because of the motherhood connection, Ryder remembered Shakir. After giving birth, Shakir was one of the first people she sent an email to start the fundraising process.

“While we were negotiating the deal, we were also texting about the Yoto toys for our kids,” said Ryder, a mother of three, referring to the kids’ audio and music player.

In the Serie D round, Ryder relaxed his rule of talking only to female investors. Eric Jones, a partner at Dragoneer Investment Group, who also just became a father, led the round with Shakir and joins Maven’s board.

From customer to leading investor

Jess Lee

Sequoia’s Jess Lee

Jess Lee / Polyvore


Sequoia’s Lee, a mother of two, tells Insider that she used Maven to help with her pregnancies and an abortion before she even became an investor.

“My stomach just added that extra layer of much-needed support that I don’t think I even knew I needed,” Lee said, explaining that she turned to the app as she could not reach her doctor for to get answers.

“Jess has always been a product-focused VC, but knowing that she herself used Maven was huge for me,” Ryder said. To win the deal, Lee changed a flight from Indianapolis and took to New York City to convince Ryder to let her lead the fiercely competitive round in the final hour.

“I met her in a coffee shop and I was like, ‘Kate, we need to work together,'” Lee tells Insider. While sipping latte, Lee Ryder showed off a pitch tire she had put together in the women’s health category after 18 months of research.

Sequoia ended up leading Maven’s Series B round in 2018 and signed a $ 27 million check with Oak HC / FT’s Nancy Brown.

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