Cleo Capital sets $10M target to fund female entrepreneurs

Sarah Kunst has filed to raise $10 million for her debut venture capital fund, Cleo Capital. According to Axios, the firm will give cash to female entrepreneurs who will act as scouts. 

Scouts look for viable early-stage startups for firms to invest in and then receive a cut of the profits on the investments. Kunst, pictured above, is a scout for Sequoia; it’s unclear if that will change now that she’s running her own firm. She’s also the founder of ProDay, a fitness tech startup that had raised at least $500,000 from angel investors, including Arielle Zuckerberg, but folded earlier this year.

We’ve reached out to Kunst for comment.

Cleo isn’t the only female-focused fund with which Kunst is involved. She joined Bumble as a senior adviser in February, and earlier this month, the popular dating app announced the launch of a VC fund targeting early-stage startups with women at the helm. Kunst is co-leading fund strategy alongside Bumble’s COO, Sarah Jones Simmer.

It’s no surprise Kunst is working to deploy capital to the next generation of female-founded companies. She’s been actively championing female and minority founders at least for the last several years and was one of the most vocal in the industry during tech’s #MeToo moment.

She spoke to The New York Times last year about her experience with 500 Startups founder Dave McClure, who sent her inappropriate messages on Facebook in 2014. McClure followed up with a public apology in the form of a Medium post titled “I’m a creep. I’m sorry,” and shortly after resigned from the accelerator. 

Kunst spoke at TechCrunch Disrupt last year a few months after The New York Times piece was published. On a panel focused on diversity in tech, she called out tech founders for a lack of diverse hiring practices: “I do this crazy thing that is hiring people that aren’t just white dudes. It works really great — you guys should try it,” she said.

In 2017, only 11.3 percent of partners at VC firms were women, according to PitchBook data. Female founders, meanwhile, raised just 2.2 percent of all venture funding.

On the bright side, it looks like more women are fundraising on the other side of the table. Women-run VC firms have gathered nearly $2.5 billion so far this year, putting them on pace to surpass last year’s decade high of $3.2 billion. That includes Cowboy Ventures’ $95 million fundraise and Aspect Ventures’ $181 million sophomore vehicle. Cowboy is led by Aileen Lee, a former partner at Kleiner Perkins, while Aspect is co-led by former Draper Fisher Jurvetson managing director Jennifer Fonstad and former Accel partner Theresia Gouw.