Jessica Karr
IMPACT INVESTING

Jessica Karr

#112

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Investor – Founding General Partner at Coyote Ventures

Integrating different team skill sets – Jessica 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.”

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.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Jessica Karr

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