Investor – Founding General Partner at Coyote Ventures
Jessica Karr | Investor - Founding General Partner at Coyote Ventures

"So, part of the layer of it to me is making something that advances the conversation and makes it less taboo and generates healthy conversations."

- Jessica Karr

Jessica Karr on Integrating different team skill sets.

Talk Takeaways

In this male dominated industry, today’s guest in the podcast shows us the women who are definitely rocking the VC World. Jeffery is more than excited to have the GP partner at Toyota Ventures, Jessica Karr.

She will walk us through her educational history in the medical field, to her career in Impossible Foods up to her success as an Angel Investor and a champion for women. Aside from all insights about business and investing, today’s episode is unique as it also sheds light on important issues for women’s health and how she has harnessed her knowledge in the Venture Capital Industry in helping female founders advocate for these issues.

Topics Discussed:

  • Jessica’s Educational and Professional Background
  • Jessica in Impossible Foods
  • Jessica as an Athlete
  • Jessica as an Entrepreneur
  • Lessons about Production from Texturized Vegetable Proteins
  • Lessons about Scaling and Funding from her experience in Impossible Foods
  • Jessica talks about the Food Tech Industry
  • Jessica talks about Women’s Health and how she advocates for them in the VC World

About

Embracer of complexity, systems thinking, and all shades of gray. Loves diving deep into taboo topics, and bringing together people who would be unlikely to meet. Open water swimmer, yoga instructor, rescue dog mom, tequila mixologist, avid reader.

I was born and raised in West Texas, began working at age 14 as a receptionist in my dad’s dentist office. I also shadowed OBGYN doctors where my mom was a nurse. I was pre-med at Texas State University. I graduated with a BS in Biochemistry, MS in Philosophy, minor in Spanish through study abroad. I joined the Biochemistry PhD program at UC San Diego as a researcher in Dr. Pieter Dorrestein’s lab, where we studied interspecies communication of the microbiome and developed novel mass spectrometry techniques. I left the PhD program after completing an MS.

I then joined Impossible Foods when it was less than a year old, as the 12th employee. I worked in R&D and product development to help develop and launch the Impossible Burger. I learned a lot about developing novel products with potential for massive positive impact, while working with top biochemists and enjoyed cultivating a company culture. I worked with Impossible Foods for 6+ years, from idea stage up through public launch.

I went on to complete an MBA at Presidio Graduate School that focuses on sustainability and impact. I consulted with over a dozen early stage startups in the Bay Area and internationally on product strategy, R&D integration, and financial modeling. I deepened my understanding of the innovation process, team formation, and startup financing.

I began to pursue my lifelong dream of investing. All of my former angel investments have become unicorns (Impossible Foods, Opentrons, and Public), where my thesis was consumer products that are tech-enabled and have positive impact in antiquated industries. I helped build the investment strategy and operations for Adrian Grenier’s impact-focused VC fund, DuContra Ventures. It was here that I diligenced deals in women’s health and sexual wellness, and became completely obsessed. I understood the marginalization of women’s health and wellness, including sexual wellness, to have a direct impact on gender equality. I knew then that this is the most important thing I could be working on.

I founded Coyote Ventures with Dr. Brittany Barreto in 2021. Our thesis is to invest in early stage companies innovating in women’s health and wellness. We fund the launch of impactful products and technologies that improve all areas of women’s lives, and strive to advance conversations around taboo topics.

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to Supporters Fund Ask An Investor. I’m your host, Jeffery Potvin and let’s please welcome Jessica Karr, the GP partner at Toyota Ventures as our investor today. Welcome Jessica. It’s a real pleasure to have you joining us today.
Karr: Thank you. Excited to be here.
Jeffery: Oh. We’re super excited to have you today for many reasons. The biggest one is because you’re doing some really exciting things with your fund. And then to pull back the layers, we’re super interested to learn about your experience in the startup world all the way up. And you’ve got some pretty cool things that not a lot of people have had the opportunity to build inside of and I’m sure you get these questions all the time. But we’re excited to dive in and learn a lot more about you and what you guys are doing today. So, the best way we like to start is if you can share a little bit of insight about your past, where you are today and then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Karr: amazing. So, how I got here today. I’m originally from West Texas. My dad is a dentist and I started working in my dad’s dentist office as a receptionist, filing charts and doing admin things. And I loved helping patients. So, I started college as pre-med. My mom’s also an Ob-Gyne nurse. So, that definitely comes full circle later. And I started college pre-med. I went to Texas State. It’s outside of Austin, Texas. It’s a really nice little college town with a river running through it and that was the main thing everybody did for fun is just go float the river. And it was really nice. And throughout my undergrad, I started out as Bio Major, but I really enjoyed Chemistry. I’ve been very fortunate. I had some good professors and changed my major to Biochemistry, then I also actually majored in Philosophy and I definitely had an interest in a lot of philosophical questions. And one course that really influenced me was Environmental Ethics. So, learning about how you can live sustainably and how that also ties in with the food choices that you make, and if you don’t know anything about Amarillo, Texas, you might know that there’s just a lot of cows around. So, I think just like learning more about climate change and how factory farming plays a role, I ended up not deciding to go to Med School. it wasn’t really my path. I had done some undergraduate research and just figured out that I was good at research, maybe enjoyed aspects of it though who enjoys being in a lab all the time like that’s not always the most fun. But I decided to go to graduate school for Biochemistry and I went to UC San Diego. I was in a PhD program and I ended up leaving with a masters. After two years again, I just decided it wasn’t totally my course to spend 80 hours a week in a lab where maybe I’ll publish some papers and not know exactly where the end result is at the end. So, I wanted to do something more tangible and also tie in some of my passion for sustainability. So, it was very fortunate that I got contacted by Impossible Foods when it was less than a year old. So, I moved up to San Francisco, started working on Impossible Foods. There were only 12. I was number 12. So, really fun times, a lot of building, a lot of everybody just like jumping in to get things done, definitely a lot of good stories behind that. So, I was working in the research and development side. There were a lot of Biochemists. It’s founded by a Biochemist from Stanford and basically, he realized that to make people want to eat less meat, you basically can just give them a substitute that doesn’t sacrifice the experience of eating meat. So, our whole goal was to understand first what meat is. And I was especially on the flavor side. So, there are lots of interesting flavor, chemistry challenges there. And we are using analytical chemistry to actually look at the compounds that make up flavor. So, we were basically understanding meat and then also at the same time how to recreate it. And partly what gives Impossible Foods its distinction as a protein that is similar to the protein and the muscle. So, it took about five years from Impossible Food’s inception up through the launch. So, I was there for four of those years helping develop and scale and launch. And once that happened, I realized that I wanted to move into a business role and have the ability to make business decisions. So, I left Impossible Foods. I stayed actually part-time as a consultant but my main focus was, I was doing an MBA. And that took two years and I started consulting with other early-stage startups. I just really love the early days where it’s forming a team figuring out what the product is, product market fit and it’s just I think a really exciting time. So, I consulted for about two years with startups globally. a lot of them were in the plant-based meat sector but then a couple other tech related or food tech related projects. And I wanted to take that skill set into making investment decisions. So, I started working with a fund focused on impact. So, they had a few different sustainable development goals that they wanted to focus on and one of them I did use some of my food tech knowledge. And then there is another sustainable development goal for gender equality. So, I started seeing women’s health and sexual wellness deals with that and I just realized like this is really the only thing that I want to focus on. Now I think of food technology, it’s like Impossible Food just at the bar so high and there’s a lot of copycats. And I just started feeling bored of the space. But then when it comes to women’s health, it’s like there’s just a huge market size. huge needs amazing innovations. And also, just like a very collaborative feel for the most part, so I fell in love with it and knew that I wanted to start a fund. So, I guess we’ll get more into the fun side in a minute. But a fun fact that a lot of people don’t know is that I swim in San Francisco Bay and I’ve done Alcatraz Swim twice now.
Jeffery: Well, it’s an amazing story. The background was awesome. Thank you very much for sharing that. And then bam right into the Alcatraz Swim. you’ve done that twice. That’s incredible. How far is it?
Karr: It depends on where you are. So, one of them is two miles if you get a little further west towards Golden Gate Bridge. And then there’s also a Swim Club at Aquatic Park that I’m part of. So, the nice swim is like going to Alcatraz to the Swim Club and then going straight to the sauna. They talk about it in the movie and all of the articles. you read how impossible it was to swim this and the water is terrible. It’s super cold.
Jeffery: You’ve done it twice. I’m thinking that they were trying to make it like this was a really bad place to go. And they didn’t want anybody to escape. So, they had to carry this rumor. But it sounds like, and I’ve seen something my brother’s been there. I’ve seen some footage. It is crazy. So, I’m assuming there’s certain times when you can swim where it’s better, a little safer and a little bit warmer.
Karr: The water temperature fluctuates through the year so it could get warmer in the summer and then I think you need to understand the tides. So, I think that the inmates who escaped must have known that. So, it’s very doable. I think it’s more just like where do you get out where people are not going to see you. So, I don’t I don’t know what happened to those inmates but I like to think they made it. I’m going to guess they did too since it sounds like a pretty exciting fun swim.
Jeffery: So, that’s pretty awesome. Well, I want to go back to your earlier days. And what is pretty cool is that you’ve had this real entrepreneurial experience all the way through your career. So, starting off working in your father’s office in an entrepreneurial aspect, you’re learning the ropes, you’re learning the business. And then you’re going into school and you’re diving into this as you call it research. But I find that research in any role is a good thing because you’re learning what’s going on in your building, inside of your environment. And then as you finished up your degree, you went into Impossible Foods. I’m dying to know about Impossible Foods because one, I’m a huge fan I guess of Patrick because of what he did and his background. But also, he put together quite the strong team right away in the beginning. So, when you were part of this, I guess team of 12, and I’m sure grew quite quickly over the years when you were in this role and you were going in and you guys were exploring how this product was going to be made. And there’s so many elements to get into it from taste, smell, texture, feeling, did everybody wear multiple hats or did they really separate this out so that you guys could focus in and really come up with the best product and goal? And you collaborate as you go or was it really broken into separate senses?
Karr: Like in the beginning, I would say everybody was wearing multiple hats at least just within research and development. Like from the beginning we did break it up and say okay, we know we need to make plant protein the basis of it. But at the time, another challenge was like now there’s a lot of, they’re called texturized vegetable protein. It’s basically the base of most of these plant-based meat products. But it wasn’t like plant-based meat wasn’t a thing 10 years ago. TVP was actually created to feed animals protein. So, it’s ironic. And now they’re being repurposed for that. But there really were not very many options. all of the soy ones just taste horrible because they’re designed for animals and wheat wasn’t that much better. And those were like the two protein choices. So, it was like okay, we know we need to, we started out thinking we had to make our own TVP. So, there’s like an extruder involved. So, it’s like one person owns the extruder process. At first, I was owning the fat process and I called myself a fat lady. So, that was interesting because it was just like emulsifying fats with proteins and figuring out how to make that like the fat part of meat. But then there were like lots of milestones that we needed to all jump in together. filing the first patent, we went to Texas a couple of times to scale up like some of the protein purification at this farm. So, that was very interesting and just a lot of milestones that everybody jumped in. And then every time, there was like a new series of funding. There would be like a huge wave of new people and then it had to become more organized. And I guess being siloed is how I felt sometimes. like yes, I mean like to achieve my flavor milestones. But I definitely loved more of the cross-functional work where the flavor was pretty cross-functional because it was doing some of the fundamental research of understanding meat flavor and how to recreate it. But it had to translate into the product so I was working really closely. like we had a product team, a texture team and like protein. So, like we all plugged in pretty well together. The knowledge that you’re gaining through this process, it’s double-sided. you’re one, you’re learning through the race process, the scaling process which all ties together. And then you’re really dying, diving into learning about how food production, especially new types of food production are really working. And I think for the audience and for a lot of startups, I think sometimes they might go in this maybe a little green thinking that this is an easy process. And you mentioned it took five years. And as you raise more money, more teams, more silos, everything is really being structured and built out to really win at each one of these stages because all of them combined make one great product. But individually, they all have to be successful.
Jeffery: how did you grow within that scale up? how did you find that everybody was working to build this product forward? Was it very organized from the top or was it just feed and fam and you just figured it out as you went? Because you were moving at such a fast pace. Because I think at any given time, the company eventually got to before they went public, there were a thousand people or something like that.
Karr: Well, it’s actually impossible. It’s still private. They just raised. they’re like another series of funding last year so we’re all still hoping it goes public soon. But definitely both. There’s like a top-down organization of like we know the KPIs and who we’re reporting to, but then from the bottom up, it’s like people working day-to-day. we would see where the gaps were and we’d fill it ourselves. So, I think that was part of the growth. just like noticing something that needs to be fixed that no one else noticed. And this is like a weird story but one of our first chef partners, Tracy, was so awesome. We all knew that even if we went into the fridge and opened a bag of it, there would be a very strong sulfur smell. we’re like, oh this is a problem. And then I think this was a learning of not fixing something we knew was a problem. because Tracy was in a cab in New York, opened a bag of it and said she wanted to throw up in the cabin. we were like, oh, like some of us should have done that because we knew. But sometimes, it’s something that other people don’t know. So, it’s not part of your day-to-day, like oh we need to fix the smell problem. But it’s definitely learning to notice something that other people might not know about and figuring out how to make a plan to address that and call attention to it.
Jeffery: Does that come from the team perspective and working with groups together? or is it bringing in outside perspectives? because like you said, she was in a cab before she noticed it. And it was something that you guys had thought about but maybe weren’t rushed to do it. So, how do you really put an emphasis on all of these pieces? It’s like building a spaceship. I’m sure that there’s the same issue where someone was like, well that could be freezing. But since we’re not in that climate, we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. So, there’s always something that can be triggering another piece that you need to look into. And food is, well it’s pretty dear to me because we love investing in food companies. we’re CPG all the way. But it’s not the easiest place to invest in because it takes a lot of capital, takes a lot of grit to work through these channels and get in front of the right departments along the way. So, is there some advice that you can provide to founders when they are working through this? How do you minimize problems and how do you scale and build this company up quickly? And I know that’s a broad question but well I think right here, your question about like inside versus outside advice, and like I think a lot like we didn’t really start working with the chefs until we are pretty further along in the product development.
Karr: So, I think something to implement earlier when you can be closer with the customer. And I think like we thought we were, because like we have tasters who would give feedback on the product. But then we didn’t have that piece of like chefs being the customer because that’s where we launched. And like lots of learnings like Tracy was like, oh, I would actually prefer to serve this raw. And we’re like it’s not designed for that, like we have to cook it to 165 every time and there’s no exceptions. like this is what it’s designed for. And I think just like learning more about what was important to Tracy, aka chefs that that could have been like way earlier on in the design process. So, I think definitely having outside perspectives is really important as well because we were like almost all Biochemists. So, we didn’t have that creative food part until basically we started working with Tracy and some others. We’ve got the consumer perspective a little bit later which sounds like a team of engineers working on a product and forgetting that there’s an outside audience that has to consume it and their feedback would be pretty valuable to be able to get into that as quickly as you possibly can. A classic problem in women’s health too is that sometimes a team of engineers might be all men and they might design something. And then a woman will come along and be like this is totally not going to stop any pain points and no one’s going to buy this thing and that’s definitely a historical thing that happened in women’s health innovation too that’s pretty common.
Jeffery: I remember this was probably 15 years ago I was working for a company and we were sitting in a room and it was a platform and they were going through making all these decisions and I literally remember saying how are we making these decisions, there’s not even a female in the room. how do you guys have any idea what the response is going to be?
Karr: Oh, that’s a good point. we should invite some people into the room and sometimes it’s this build factor or my idea. I got to go this direction and you forget the consumer. you forget who you’re working in the environment with and I guess sometimes that can pigeonhole your business or it can obviously put it in the wrong direction.
Jeffery: and it sounds like you guys were working through all of these. But as you get larger and you’re scaling quicker, bringing in more dollars, sometimes all this can get lost because now it’s rush to market. you’ve got different deadlines that now come in from when you were 12th person to your 200th person. There’s a bit of a change that occurs in that process and I think from a startup perspective, they may not always visualize, am I ever going to get to 200 people that could be a long time from now? but how do I make sure that when I have my smaller team I get my product to market and it meets the needs of the consumer? and one thing you brought up that was interesting was that almost like a perfectionist, it has to be cooked at 160. And to me, you would think, well there’s going to be some I guess nuances in this. Do you really have to cook it at 160? what happens if I like pate style it and just throw it on bread? It sounds like it’s planned. Can it be that bad for me? So how did you guys overcome all of these other things which were my beliefs on how a product might work or how I’m going to eat a product versus how you’re actually pushing that it’s supposed to be done?
Karr: I think we did have to do some redesign at that point. like first of all, get rid of that sulfur smell. We figured that out pretty quickly. There are some amino acids that have sulfur in them and we dial that back a little bit and that definitely helped. And then we had to redesign the product to be a little more flexible. like there’s proteins and gums and different components that actually do need to be cooked to a certain amount. So, it’s more just like redesigning it to make it more flexible. So, that’s how we solved for that. But it would have been easier to do earlier on. And this all goes back to product market fit.
Jeffery: and because you guys were so new in the space and the competition was building up quite quickly, does this actually become, in a way, you’re cutting corners? and then, when those corners hit you, you had to move quickly to correct, because again, it was who was going to get to market first.
Karr: There was another big competitor that was going public. I guess roughly around the same time. And there were two businesses head to head in the market on who was going to come out with the first product. So, I’m assuming that one beyond me had already launched. So, basically our attitude was just to be like, it honestly is better because Impossible has the same protein and it’s just beyond me. it doesn’t have as many of those pro-like ingredients that make it as good or like meat. So, like in our minds, it’s okay, like they already launched. like we got our hands on their first when they actually randomly launched in Denver. But we had a guy there who went to Whole Foods and bought it and sent it to us, and we tasted it and the first product was so bad. So, we really weren’t that worried because we were like okay, like yes, they beat us. But that was quite a while before we launched them to the public. But there really weren’t too many others beyond me that we’re actually going to gain more customer share. Obviously, there’s been plant-based meats around for a while, but they’re very marketed towards vegans and vegetarians. So, they’re not the same. where like a meat-eater which is like the majority of the US population, we’re like targeting them. So, yes, beyond me was like the main competitor, but we’re like okay, once we do launch, we need to have a strategy to be really differentiated. i like the product, it was more just the marketing challenge of emphasizing flavor and launching with David Chang at Momofuku which is a really popular restaurant. He’s a really cool innovative chef. I think that created a lot of buzz and then having a real constraint on production, but it was like the scarcity mindset of like, oh, there’s only a little bit. like it just created a lot of buzz, and I think all those types of marketing tactics really emphasize the startup. It really helps you move in a market, especially a large market figuring out how you can get into the space that you’re going to niche and expand from through the race process that they were going through.
Jeffery: And where you are today sitting in the seat that you are, are there any learnings that you took from Patrick and team on how they’re raising, how they were communicating internally with the team about every raise and the new direction, the new strategy? Is there anything you can share about that experience? because again fast scaling business, I’m sure they did things that were amazing and other things that were questionable. Is there something that you took away from it? a couple of points that you could share as you are growing your startup? communicate more. or do more town halls, or are there things that you suggest that really can help the team get behind the movement in that scalable fashion?
Karr: I mean we’d had a lot of town halls. We had a weekly Wednesday meeting that was really helpful. actually like we’d have that time in the office. We’d have a catered vegan lunch and start off with announcements. So, they were always pretty transparent, just like not in terms of the raise or anything like that which I wish I would have liked to have been in more on for learning that. But more that they would be raising or any new milestones, any new hires. I think that was a really good practice to just have like the team weekly meeting. And since then, we were so academic with Pat coming from Stanford. And that being our culture, we would actually have a rotating presentation. So, like sometimes, I would present my findings on meat flavor and it would get really academic sometimes which was the culture. It was really fun. I think definitely, maybe a criticism was that we were so academic. like we were founded by a scientist. Like the first several years, we only had a couple of business marketing people. marketing came way later so that was like maybe part of the critique is like once the business side came on, we were very siloed. And it just felt like RD versus business. And that still is in the culture, a little bit today, from what I can see is just how you can create, like it’s great, our company values and culture. But then, it’s also how you build on that to be inclusive of people who are not coming from that. And might I also say like, hey, maybe we shouldn’t like to spend an hour every week nerding out about the chemistry or the texture. I think a lot of people don’t attend these lectures because it’s so academic. And I don’t understand it anyway. And it just perpetrated like, oh, we’re not all like a cohesive team. They even sit in different rooms all together. So, I think maybe, if I was rebuilding it myself, I would be mindful of like, okay, how do you integrate these different teams, different skill sets more cohesively.
Jeffery: I like that because what you’re sharing is that the divide between academics and the function of the business and building, they needed some middle glue. And it sounds like the real middle glue is the marketing, the communications changing the flavor of the way the business is representing itself, not just externally but internally so that you can really bring those groups together.
Karr: It’s not this divide between you’re super smart and I’m just functional and people feel like wait a second, I’m smart too, why can’t I participate in the same sharing of information and it’s not getting there. And I think that’s a good learning that as we start to build out our companies, we tend to silo quickly because we want everybody to be the best at their one thing. But there has to be something that really helps everybody learn together and that was awesome. what made throwing us besides everything else, but like people were like not realizing what was happening as much because they were so siloed and she would literally put people in such different parts and they wouldn’t really like to know that something wasn’t totally working for a while. So, lots of bad things can come out of that especially if your culture is to not collaborate. So, definitely Impossible wasn’t those side loaders. They weren’t secretive, but it was more just like everybody’s so busy and overwhelmed with what they’re doing that it’s like okay, like how do you still take the time to understand another perspective when you have real tight deadlines and piles of work. And it sounds like it’s still today, it’s a big problem that businesses need to try and resolve as they’re growing and scaling their companies. So that it doesn’t become this massive siloed, being on the extreme side of siloing to protect faulty everything. But in this case, I think it’s a focus on you’ve got a great product, great company.
Jeffery: how do you keep people under the same strategy, under the same umbrella moving forward? and growing together versus separating based off of logistics of academics versus product building. But I think, there’s some great learnings on just making product market fit and utilizing the glue of that marketing side to communicate a lot more aggressively and making it internal so that people can feel part of the same engine that’s been building this over the years. So, now you’ve taken all this amazing knowledge and I think this is like the top of the nine knowledge that you can gain being inside of a startup because you really went from 12 people to a massive scale up in a matter of years. So, taking that knowledge and now fast forward to where you guys are now and where you’ve shifted and pivoted to on the feminine side of products, what got you to shift into that? and I’m assuming that a lot of your Biochemistry background which is obviously amazing had to have a play into this because of what that is all about. But what shifted you into saying that I was in the food category. I’m going to try something a little bit different and go into this space. What was that big turning factor and what are maybe a couple of things that really stand out in this space that you really enjoy?
Karr: I think so because I was in food tech for a while. And I always considered myself more of like someone who’s a scientist, an entrepreneur working on something that’s like consumer facing and also has a positive impact. So, to me, that is what Impossible fits in. I didn’t consider it as much like that I’m going to stay in food forever. I do love physical products. I love something that I can experience, like eating or smelling or in terms of women’s health. It’s like different ways to experience things. So, that’s how I considered my career path. I’m not as much just food. So, when I started seeing women’s health I just realized that it really fit that. But also the problem that I wanted to work on was gender equality because I do feel that some of the sustainability companies and projects might just look at the environment alone without considering problems related to social justice and things like that. So, that was my viewpoint, it’s like marginalizing groups of people is still a huge problem that can’t be ignored when we’re only thinking about the environment only. So, that was my philosophical approach. And like I said, I was working at the fund where I started seeing women’s health deals. And I think also just having almost everybody, and women’s health has had some personal experience. whether it’s like having one of the conditions that only affects women, but obviously we all have pain points around menstruation or birth control. So, it’s all very personal to us. And then I also took a lens of like sexual wellness. I learned that everybody knows that that woman there’s a wage gap where we’re not earning as much as men. But I learned that there’s an orgasm gap where actually like for every like male orgasm, there’s way less. That’s a bigger gap than the actual wage gap. So, I just looked into why this is, and I learned that the clitoris is actually an organ. it’s not just like a little tiny thing. it’s actually mostly internal. And I was well into my 30s when I learned that. And I was just like wow, this is just a societal problem. You can’t blame one person or anything. it’s just something that needs to be brought more attention to and just recognized. I had the experience to make a change in that area because a lot of early-stage women’s health founders are still having trouble raising. They need to go out and educate the investors about what the problem is, what the market is like, convince them that there’s actually a big market size, that there’s actually a pain point and that’s just historically been a big problem in investing in women’s health. So, I was like, I want to be that VC that they come to and we’re like, oh, we know this exact problem, we know this exact market and we’ve been looking for a solution in here. And they’re like thank god, we don’t have to like to sit here and spend our first like two or three meetings explaining this part.
Jeffery: I love that. And I think there’s just so much to unpack around this because typically when female founders are pitching products of female hygiene. there’s this fear like when they’re pitching it, the audience may not always get it if there’s an uncomfortable side to it. The questions that come out are usually backwards because they really don’t understand it. So, I love the fact that you’ve harnessed this space where there’s not a lot of knowledge. But also in the background is that, a lot of these companies that have come out over the years, from the birth control pill that was created by a guy, some I don’t know 50 to 58 years ago, I think was in 58 or something like that 60. Pincus, I think his name was, but he developed it. And he was in a church. So, there was this weird thing about how they were able to use it and why they didn’t use it. So, there’s like all of these things that have come about for maybe not the right practical reason. And now you’re going in and saying well we got to go and pitch these things and try to make a revolution. And I think there was talk before too about even testing drugs. And they were always testing them on males because there were too many issues testing drugs on females because they could be pregnant. They could be at the time of the month. it could be any reason and it was just too much. Okay, we can’t do this. So, I think now you’ve seen such a big revolution in change in the way female hygiene products are being created, the way they’re being tested, where they’re being utilized, and I do think that they need to have a lot more women founders or women investors coming into this space so they can really revolutionize this and change the way these products are being faced and utilized. And it’s going to come from the knowledge and innovation of female founders, people that can really get into it and understand the product. So, in taking that knowledge, and what you’ve decided to jump into, are there a couple areas of focus that you really think are really in the need of change today versus maybe what they’re going to look like in the future?
Karr: I love that so much about this. That’s awesome. I mean obviously we can divide up women’s health by two ways. To divide it up, one is just by industry. So, there’s therapeutics. There are med devices and there’s all needs in a lot of those we’re a little more focused on like consumer digital health diagnostics just because I don’t have the skill set to understand what’s needed to get an FDA therapeutic to market or any. I have way more help being able to help with consumer products and things that I understand. And then the other way to divide it up is by what condition we are talking about. Is administration menopause, endometriosis? there’s a lot of chronic conditions that only affect women. So, I would say we’re considering pretty much any condition that solely differently or disproportionately affects women. But definitely we’re really prioritizing taboo topics that might be uncomfortable to talk about. then we’re also looking at really underserved areas of this already, underserved category. So, fertility is actually like over invested in. there’s a lot of fertility startups that are far away. The biggest chunk of VC money has gone into fertility and maternal health as well. And not to say that there’s no considerations we’ll make in those areas, but we have a database of the market sizes of each area. And then we also have a database of how many startups are working in that. So, sometimes we’ll see a huge market size and then only like one or two startups, and we’ll say like there’s something here, like as soon as we see a company that has an innovation in a space, like we’re going to really like to look into that.
Jeffery: I love it, and I think again, taking your background on this and the product side, you’re able to take something from nothing to something big. And I think that that makes a huge difference in any founder that’s looking for that experience and that understanding of how to test a product, how to build taste, smell all of them. And there’s so much tech innovation that’s happening today. There’s one just for an example they’re studying now on how dogs can smell cancer or smell covered, and they want to take that and turn that into an innovation. So, there is so much stuff that can be done especially around female health that would just blow our minds away. And you’re going to be the one that gets to find this. And I think that’s absolutely amazing because again, there’s so much out there that we’re not even aware of today. Is there one that you could share today, a story that really resonates with you that stands out about an entrepreneur that just blew your mind on what she came up with or he came up with and what they’ve built to get to where they are today and just show the audience what it takes to be an entrepreneur?
Karr: one of the products I have here, it’s a tincture and it’s called while w-i-l-e. So, I met this founder a little bit before I launched Coyote, but I just could immediately tell it was a great partnership. And I just look for teams that have an unfair advantage. So, seeing this team of three co-founders plus Judy Greer, the actress, is actually a co-founder as well. So, I met them. I just said like, wow there’s nothing like this. So, basically, they’re either making products that address different symptoms from women 40 plus. So, it spans like perimenopause, menopause, post menopause and women have different symptoms, then it might just be unique to each one of them. So, they said like, okay, here’s a hot flash formula for example. They have a lot of different SKUs and I was just really excited about like there’s a little bit of western medicine showing that like some of these plant-based extracts have phytoestrogens that help modulate the menopause symptoms. So, there is a little bit of western science but then also there’s a little bit of like the eastern medicine where like Ayurveda, this is the ancient Indian medicine. And there’s a lot like Ashwagandha, one of the herbs that is very healing in Ayurveda, and their formulator has a really nice balance of these tinctures with the phytoestrogens. But then adding on some of these really healing things that I would say, like western medicine doesn’t like study as much. But I definitely like to study a little bit of Ayurveda. very interested in how that can be integrated more and then on top of all like beautiful product formulations. They really nailed the marketing where like right now there might be one or two supplements. You can buy it at CVS or Walgreens. But you wouldn’t like to put them somewhere where people can see they’re like ugly. They look like products so it probably speaks to what’s actually in the formulas. So, they said, like this can be a lifestyle brand for menopause, will also make it like it really obviously has to work. And I totally believe that it does. So, since we invested, they launched D to C. they’re on Grove Collaborative and they’ll be in retail nationwide pretty soon. So, I’m really proud of the progress that they’ve made.
Jeffery: That’s awesome. I love it. And again, they’re serving a real need and a problem that has probably been overlooked or been accommodated by Advil or some other off-the-shelf drug because people never really took the time to really understand the real problem. And now you’ve got companies that are really diving into these more female-based concerns and being able to turn them into products. And I would probably even say life-saving material that’s going to help a lot of people have a better fruitful life. inserting it like a layer is also how I said it’s taboo. like maybe now people are starting to talk about menopause as a market. But I think people who experience the symptoms are still embarrassed like at work if they have a hot flash. like people are going to probably shame them or they’re not going to be embarrassed and they’re not going to want to talk about menopause at work or things like that. So, it really affects all women. it shouldn’t be so taboo.
Karr: So, part of the layer of it to me is making something that advances the conversation and makes it less taboo and generates healthy conversations. I love that you brought up the healthy conversation part because one, I think all mental health needs, you are finding that in this community that you’re part of, there are more conversations that are happening. Are founders trying to have that discussion more with the people that are going to be buying their products? that they are driving into this more because like you said, it’s taboo and that’s been a lifetime of taboo because of fear.
Jeffery: I think this goes across all people that they’re afraid to talk about things that are personal from finance to their mental health to other issues, but in the specific area that you’re focused on, are people trying to create more conversations? and I would say they definitely are in many ways. And one example that might be silly but it totally makes sense is having celebrity partnerships. So, while working with Judy Greer, and Judy Greer started to go on Instagram posting about it doing some lives, another company we invested in is Mod, and they have Dakota Johnson who was in Fifty Shades of Gray. So, she’s definitely an ideal partner there to advance conversations around women’s sexuality and so that’s just one way to have an influential voice speaking up like Amy Schumer came out and talked about endometriosis. like that affects one in ten women but a lot of people don’t even know how to say the word or like never heard of it before. But it’s huge. It’s a huge problem. So, I think that’s one way. it’s like yes, a little silly that but it’s like celebrities have the influence. like once they start talking about mental health, it is a huge one too. Like it was historically very taboo but I think part of what helped drive it forward was having people in the Olympics say like wow, this is really affecting my mental health. I need to set some boundaries and I think it’s definitely helped people be able to talk about it.
Jeffery: I totally agree with that. And very well shared. we’re going to now move along. Thank you very much for all of that. we’re going to move into the rapid-fire questions now okay. So, the way this works is that you’re coming in from obviously the VC side and you’re going to pick one or the other, which one fits you best. Okay? All right. founder or co-founder?
Karr: co-founder.
Jeffery: unicorn or four year 10 x exit?
Karr: four year 10 x exit.
Jeffery: Tech or CPG?
Karr: oh, CPG.
Jeffery: NFT or Web 3.0?
Karr: NFT.
Jeffery: ai or blockchain
Karr: ai.
Jeffery: first time founder or second third time founder?
Karr: second third time.
Jeffery: first money in or series a?
Karr: first money in.
Jeffery: angel or VC?
Karr: VC.
Jeffery: board seat or observer?
Karr: observer.
Jeffery: safe or convertible note?
Karr: safe.
Jeffery: lead or follow?
Karr: follow.
Jeffery: equity or interest payments?
Karr: equity.
Jeffery: favorite part of investing?
Karr: seeing the success of the portfolio companies.
Jeffery: number of companies invested per year?
Karr: 20.
Jeffery: preferred terms?
Karr: It’s more about right now we’re focused on really early. So, it’s more about valuation or the cap. So, we’re trying to not do much under 15 million.
Jeffery: okay. you mentioned a little bit of this but just to reiterate verticals of focus?
Karr: CPG, but also like biotech meets CPG and digital health diagnostics apps.
Jeffery: okay. What qualities does a startup require in order to stand out in your eyes?
Karr: capital efficiency, unfair advantage.
Jeffery: I love it. Okay, we’re going to jump into the personal side. [Music] book or movie? Superman or batman?
Karr: superman.
Jeffery: restaurant or picnic?
Karr: picnic. That’s hard. I love Zimbabwe minutes.
Jeffery: Bezos or Oprah?
Karr: Oprah for sure.
Jeffery: I totally agree. She’s a beast. mountain or beach?
Karr: Welcome to the beach.
Jeffery: bike or run?
Karr: bike.
Jeffery: Big Mac or Chicken Mcnugget?
Karr: I was historically a Chicken Mcnugget person. And I actually didn’t have a Big Mac for most of my life. literally the other day, I was thinking about this. I don’t even know why and I’m like they should call, they should come out with the Chicken Mac. And it should be the chicken instead of the meat, beef. it should be a Chicken Mac. I know they have like chicken breasts but i’ll say Impossible. that’s not the same with some chicken back, chicken mac. Impossible came out with some really good chicken nuggets. i’ll put a plug in for that at Gotz if you’re in San Francisco sometime. it’s really delicious.
Jeffery: done. I want to try those. I want to try those so good. trophy or money?
Karr: money. [Music] Jeffery: concert or amusement park?
Karr: concert.
Jeffery: fortune cookie or birthday cake?
Karr: birthday cake.
Jeffery: Ted Talk or book reading?
Karr: book reading.
Jeffery: most famous person that pops into your mind?
Karr: Oprah, because we just talked about her.
Jeffery: I’ve been thinking about reversing those just because I’m like, I think I’m giving it away. all right, thinking about that favorite sports team.
Karr: SF giants.
Jeffery: I like it. favorite book?
Karr: I love The Alchemist. But also, I guess also like Women Who Run with the Wolves is part of how I came up with the whole concept of Coyote Ventures actually. So, that’s probably up there. It’s hard for me because I love books. So, I think those two, Alchemist and Women Who Run with the Wolves.
Jeffery: I love it, all right. I’m taking a few notes while we answer these. Okay, well it’s famous. Oh sorry. the first brand that pops into your mind? while which one? sorry while the one that I was talking about that hasn’t.
Karr: Oh nice, okay. Okay, cheers. I have it sitting here on my desk.
Jeffery: I like it. That’s good. All right. favorite movie and what character would you play?
Karr: My favorite movie of all time is Kill Bill. There’s like two volumes but I love that movie. And Uma Thurman as The Bride. She’s so cool. She goes around and she has her death list. not that I have a death list but I think she’s amazing in that movie.
Jeffery: for sure. perfect. I’m going to have to watch that movie. I actually only think I’ve seen only one of the two. So, I need to go, oh, just sit down and watch it. It’ll take like five hours but these days you spend that amount of time watching, binging like a show right. Okay. What is your favorite app on your phone that you’re using today?
Karr: I have an astrology app called Channy. So, she does like reading and it’s not just like that, I fully believe everything’s going to happen that she says. But I love her voice. It’s very relaxing and she talks about themes in your life that you can like think about. So, even if it’s a full moon, I’m going to go crazy or anything, like that. It’s a really good app. So, I highly recommend it.
Jeffery: I love it. All right. I’m on board with that one. I like the soothing voice. I like the calmness of it. That’s good. She’s great. What is the meaning of success to you?
Karr: I think being in line with your intentions and what you want to accomplish in the world and developing positive relationships around that.
Jeffery: All right. And the very last question, what is your superpower?
Karr: I think part of it is that I’ve lived in different places, talked and worked with different types of people. And I think I like flexibility in terms of me being able to go somewhere, fit in, talk to different kinds of people and gain a shared understanding from that. And also, that can help guide me. like what decisions that I want to make.
Jeffery: I love it. very good. very good. I love your answers. I want to say thank you very much for all of your time today. you provided a lot of great insight, a lot of great information and man, it’s so useful. So, thank you very much for that. And the way that we like to end the show is that we like to give you the last word. So, anything that you want to share to founders, to the investor community, I turn it over to you. But thank you again for joining us today. My dog is also insisting on joining. So, shout out to Eddie.
Karr: yep, sorry the doorbell’s ringing. But I guess the last words are just thank you for what you’re doing. The operators are definitely doing the work, the real work. So, just remembering that and partnering with investors and people to really help support the ultimate mission, right Eddie?
Jeffery: Yes, okay. I love it. Thank you very much Jessica. Thank you. It was really great. I really enjoyed this conversation. So, I’m looking forward to hearing it.
Karr: likewise.
Jeffery: Okay. That was awesome. There was so much good stuff there that was shared. Jessica really has a super strong understanding of the whole product fit, market lifestyle, everything that goes into really building out a company. And I think with the new fund and where they’re focusing on women’s health is phenomenal. I do think that there’s a really big opportunity in this category and I think what she’s put together and the companies that she’s getting to talk to and invest in again is phenomenal. There were lots of great things that she provided from the impact, digital health, the areas that they’re focused on and of course she talked about gender equality and other things that really do need a lot of focus. And with her background in Biochemistry and philosophy, I think she’s got all the right stuff that’s going to help a lot of founders succeed in building out their products and getting them on shelf. So, again, thank you very much for joining us today. one reference I would throw out there that’s a really good book that might fit into this, it’s this, “Is your brain on birth control?” by Sarah Hill. a great book. it really does dive into the problem of what birth control has done over the century. I guess it’s been around but it certainly is a good thing to get into and I think you’ll start to find a lot more startups coming into this space and hopefully trying to change the way women’s health works and finding better solutions. So, again thank you very much Jessica for joining us today and thank you everybody. If you’ve enjoyed this conversation, please feel free to share with your friends or subscribe to our YouTube channel. follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcast and or Stitcher. Your support and comments are truly appreciated. You can also check us out at supportersfund.com or for startup events, visit opn.ninja. Thank you everybody and have a fantastic day.
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