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There aren’t a lot of venture funds that are led by a single general partner who happens to be a woman. Sonja Hoel Perkins is one. The longtime Menlo Ventures managing director founded her own venture firm two years ago.
Another is Cindy Padnos, who spent four years with Outlook Ventures as a director before founding her own firm, Illuminate Ventures, nine years ago.
Now Silicon Valley has a new entrant on the micro VC scene. Susan Choe, a longtime investor who previously cofounded four-year-old Visionnaire Ventures, has raised at least $34 million for the debut fund of her firm, Katalyst.Ventures, according to a new SEC filing.
The filing states that Katalyst has secured the capital commitments from just four investors. Katalyst’s website suggests the firm’s focus is primarily on nascent artificial intelligence startups and teams.
Reached in Singapore, Choe declined to comment on her fundraising efforts, citing SEC regulations. (In other words, we should probably expect Katalyst to lock down even more capital.)
Asked about its impetus, however, she said that as an operator with a global operations background, she decided that discovering software-led tech teams with global impact across a wide variety of sectors would be a “good way to leverage 20 years of learnings across many I’ve held.”
Choe had previously founded a gaming company called Outspark that was sold to Axl Springer for undisclosed terms. Choe is also still a managing director with Visionnaire, though we understand the firm’s current portfolio is being managed out.
Visionnaire itself began targeting a $250 million second fund in 2016, according to an SEC filing, and it never announced a close on that fund. Visionnaire’s chairman, Japanese billionaire Taizo Son, brother to SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son, recently moved from Tokyo to Singpore where he now heads up Mistletoe, a venture capital firm that’s part accelerator and part incubator.
Taizo Son’s multinational family office is among Katalyst’s anchor investors. Another anchor investor is an unnamed sovereign wealth fund.
Katalyst is mostly focused on Silicon Valley and U.S. startups more broadly, and it looks to own between 10 and 15 percent of a portfolio company, Choe tells us.
The firm makes both seed and Series A stage investments. Seed-stage checks range from $100,000 to $1 million, depending on the size of the company. Series A checks will range from $2 million and $5 million and Choe plans to introduce some of its breakout companies to Katalyst’s deep-pocketed LPs as they need follow-on funding.
Choe has already begun investing on behalf of Katalyst, she tells us. As for what she looks for in a nascent startup, Choe says that a clear core mission, a logical product evolution path, and a relevant business model are some of the features that are most important to her. She points to DocMatter, a global doctor community that she supported as an angel investor and that Katalyst is now backing as a Series A investor, as just one example.
It sounds like a couple of other deals are on the verge of closing.
Choe also made numerous investments on behalf of Visionnaire, which had closed its debut fund with $80 million. One of those checks went to the drone company Zipline, which delivers critical medical supplies in far-flung places. Zipline has raised around $40 million altogether, and Choe sits on the company’s board, along with Alfred Lin of Sequoia Capital, among others.
Another past deal is Krux, a company that tracked data signatures across multiple devices and that sold to Salesforce for $340 million in cash in 2016.
We hope to learn more about the new outfit in coming months. In the meantime, a new fund led by an operator and investor who is also a woman will undoubtedly be welcome news to many in Silicon Valley.
New firms generally have far greater female partner representation than at traditional venture firms. In the last three years, according to recent Crunchbase data, 21 percent of newly launched venture and micro-venture firms had at least one female at the helm.
(Updated: This original post has been updated to reflect information provided by Choe.)