Day One Ventures launches fund which wraps VC and PR into one

There is a clutch of new VC funds launched in the US every year, and but when you look at the stats around new funds started by women they are pretty dismal.

A cursory glance at the figures from last year reveals that out of 153 funds founded in the US last year, only four were founded by women, and only two have gone on to raise money. Furthermore, women account for only seven percent of the partners at the top 100 venture firms.

So it’s to be celebrated when a new fund is established by a woman and comes out of the gate with a fully-backed fund.

Day One Ventures, is a new venture capital firm designed from the ground up to do two things at once. To both invest in technology startups and lead their marketing and communications. In other words, wrapping up the funding and the PR at the same time. Given most VCs act like quasi-PRs at some point, usually by introducing their new companies to journalists, the idea of professionalizing the whole process does actually make a lot of sense.

Although Drokova declined to comment on the firm’s target fund size, sources say it will reach in the region of $40 million.

The firm will led by Russian émigré Masha Drokova, who, since arriving in the US a few years ago, has been variously a PR and angel investor, but who has famously dumped her former life in Russia as a politician and TV reporter.

Drokova became famous after a documentary was made about her leadership of the youth arm of Putin’s political party. Admittedly she was only 18 at the time. So becoming a Silicon Valley VC is quite the departure. Shall we start the bidding for the film rights now?

But Drokova is dead serious about this next phase of her new life. Day One Ventures, she says, will focus on early-stage startups, investing $100K to $1M in each.

The fund is also named after Jeff Bezos’ famed letter to shareholders which described Amazon’s commitment to approaching every day as if it were the first.

Day One has already made 14 investments, including:

• Lvl5, a Y Combinator company founded by former Tesla and iRobot engineers which creates HD maps for self-driving cars
• DigitalGenius, provider of machine learning technology for customer service, which counts KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, BMW, and Unilever as customers
• Piper, an edtech company that manufactures a DIY computer kit for kids, which has been endorsed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak

Drokova says that Day One will invest in companies that “will fundamentally change industries and solve some of today’s biggest challenges – social, business, or otherwise.” The firm focuses on eight key areas: AI, AR/VR, quantum, fintech (including blockchain), edtech, healthcare, marketplaces, and self-driving cars. Other investors in Day One’s portfolio companies have included Greylock Partners, Salesforce Ventures, and Bloomberg Beta.

The PR/Comms side of the new fund is also crucial. They will look for “compelling stories where PR can truly impact the company by empowering the team, amplifying their vision, and accelerating growth as a result.”

Drokova told me that it’s crazy more VC firms don’t marry their funds with professional PR help: “I’ve been doing PR for 14 years for companies like Houzz, HotelTonight, Gett, Toptal. That’s why Day One Ventures came up with that particular focus. We help our portfolio companies by investing and leading their PR and there’s no other VC firm doing the same,” she claims.

But why now? “There’s a big generation of VC firms in the Valley that were founded by the dotcom-boomers. But now some of them have raised funds that are too large and hired people from investment banking who choose poorly as they lack experience in tech entrepreneurship. We believe we can do better and be more selective,” she says. Fighting talk. She previously worked for VC Runa Capital where she sourced Classpass during the company’s seed round.

As an angel investor, Drokova has established a small track record, investing in 11 companies inside the last two years. She recently exited from facial recognition company Ntechlab.

But will Day One have deep links with Russian startups launching in the US, I ask? “No links with Russian startups. Day One Ventures is an American/International fund,” she says.

Sorry, Mr. Putin.