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A first-time VC raised $2 million in 2 months to invest in women after Roe was overturned

July 21, 2022, 12:05 PM UTC

Erika Lucas wasn’t planning on launching a venture fund two months ago.

Lucas, who runs mentorship and accelerator programs for women and entrepreneurs of color in Oklahoma City, has made about 30 personal investments in startups with her and her husband’s own money over the years—but she didn’t want to be a GP. 

“I had shied away from raising a fund for multiple years,” she says. For one, Lucas had already been a partner at a private equity firm in the past. But more importantly, she’s maintained that it’s important to lay out all funding options to founders, such as lending-based financing or traditional bank loans, depending on their needs. Venture capital isn’t for everyone, she says.

But then May 2 rolled around. Politico published a groundbreaking report that the Supreme Court was close to overturning Roe v. Wade. Two days later, Lucas was getting on the phone to fundraise.

The undprecendented reversal of the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling on abortion hit Lucas a little differently than some of her other peers in the venture capital and startup industry. After all, Lucas lives in Oklahoma, a state that promptly moved to pass antiabortion legislation shortly after the leak. There may be funds focused on women founders out there, Lucas acknowledges, but there aren’t many in the middle of the country, and particularly in states that will be impacted most by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling.  

“Decisions continue to be made for us, instead of by us,” Lucas says. “And that’s only going to change when women are in those positions of power in the private sector—so that they can drive the solutions that are part of developing the future of work and fixing our care infrastructure.”

Lucas began making calls to women within her circle of female executives and high-net-worth individuals from accelerator program StitchCrew and private network VEST Her. She is calling her new firm VEST Her Ventures, and she plans to back women-led pre-seed or seed startups in the future of work or care economy space. In two months, Lucas closed $2 million from individual limited partners, all high-net-worth women who live in the middle of the country. Now she is turning to institutional capital, and is seeking to raise another $18 million by the end of the third quarter.

Last week, VEST Her Ventures closed its first investment with some of the new capital—backing Byrdhouse, an Illinois-based app that uses artificial intelligence to provide real-time translation on video chats. 

As for Lucas’ track record, it’s still early, as she only started angel investing about four years ago. Thus far, she had a 5x return on her investment in From Seed to Spoon, an app that teaches people how to grow their own food, which was acquired by gardening e-commerce company Park Seed earlier this year. She’s also been an angel investor in reproductive health startup Noula Health, which just raised $1.4 million in pre-seed funding. About 30% of Lucas’ personal portfolio companies have already gone on to raise their Series A, she says.

Lucas says the new fund will back women wherever they are, but she plans to focus on companies in the middle of the country, as she says those deals often aren’t getting as much visibility.

“I feel like if we want to really see a change, and we want to see it faster, we’re going to have to start funding women,” Lucas says. “And not just women entrepreneurs—but women who are focusing on delivering solutions that are redefining the way we work and integrate life.”

A programming note… Tomorrow I am headed over a couple states for RAGBRAI, the annual 460-mile bike ride across Iowa, so, needless to say, I won’t be in your inbox for a little while. Not to worry: This newsletter will still be going out in my absence, and you will be in very capable hands! Please continue to send deals to Jackson at termsheet@fortune.com. And, should I survive this wretched heat wave, you’ll be hearing from me again on Aug. 2. 

Cheers!

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com
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Jackson Fordyce curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.

VENTURE DEALS

- Contentsquare, a Paris and New York-based digital experience analytics company, raised $400 million in Series F funding. Sixth Street Growth led the round and was joined by investors including Bpifrance, Canaan, Eurazeo, Highland Europe, KKR, LionTree, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock

- Halborn, a Miami-based blockchain security firm, raised $90 million in Series A funding led by Summit Partners.

- BigHat Biosciences, a San Mateo, Calif.-based biotech company developing antibody therapies, raised $75 million in Series B funding. Section 32 led the round and was joined by investors including Amgen Ventures, Bristol Myers Squibb, Quadrille Capital, Gaingels, and GRIDS Capital.

- 15Five, a San Francisco-based performance management company, raised $52 million in Series C funding. Quad Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Next47, Origin Ventures, Matrix Partners, Point Nine Capital, and New Ground Venture.

- Cartography Biosciences, a Foster City, Calif.-based precision medicine company, raised $51 million in Series A funding. 8VC led the round and was joined by investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Wing VC, Catalio Capital Management, ARTIS Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, AME Cloud Ventures, the Cancer Research Institute, and Gaingels

- ZEBEDEE, a Hoboken, N.J.-based fintech and payment processor for the gaming industry, raised $35 million in Series B funding. Kingsway Capital, The Raine Group, and Square Enix led the round and were joined by investors including Lakestar and Initial Capital

- Gordian Software, a Seattle-based API for selling flight add-ons, raised $25 million in Series A funding. Accomplice, Kinnevik, and others invested in the round. 

- Dot Compliance, a Phoenix-based quality and compliance platform company, raised $23 million in Series B funding. Israel Growth Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Vertex Ventures and TPY Capital

- AppViewX, a New York-based machine identity management and application infrastructure security company, raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Brighton Park Capital

- Priori Legal, a New York-based marketplace for in-house legal teams, raised $15 million in Series A-1 funding. Eagle Proprietary Investments led the round and was joined by investors including Thomson Reuters Ventures, The LegalTechFund, Thirty Five Ventures, Peak6 Strategic Capital, Soma Ventures, Bridge Investments, Great Oaks Venture Capital, HearstLab, Mindset Ventures, and Jambhala

- YourChoice, a Berkeley, Calif.-based male contraception company, raised $15 million in Series A funding. Future Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Refactor, Knollwood, North South Ventures, and RH Capital.

- valid8Me, a Cork, Ireland-based digital identity SAAS platform, raised €12.5 million ($12.72 million) in funding from Grant Thornton Ireland

- Optic, a San Francisco-based Web3 A.I. company, raised $11 million in seed funding. Kleiner Perkins and Pantera Capital led the round and were joined by investors including Greylock Partners, Lattice Capital, OpenSea, Circle, Polygon, CoinDCX, Neon DAO, Flamingo DAO, and others.

- Natron Energy, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based sodium-ion batteries manufacturer, raised $7 million in funding from Nabors Industries.

- Charter, a New York-based digital media and insights company, raised $3 million in seed funding. Bloomberg Beta led the round and was joined by investors including Precursor Ventures, The Fund, Old Town Media, and other angels. 

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Abris Capital Partners acquired SIGAD, a Bucharest, Romania-based environmental reporting software developer. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- OMERS Private Equity agreed to acquire Bionic, a London-based energy, insurance, finance, and connectivity services provider to UK small-to-medium businesses. Financial terms were not disclosed.  

- Peak Technologies, a Sole Source Capital portfolio company, acquired Siena Analytics, a Franklin, Mass.-based supply chain and logistics analytics software and artificial intelligence solutions provider. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- RedBird Capital Partners and StepStone Group agreed to acquire a majority stake in Talent Systems, a Los Angeles-based casting software and talent marketplace for the entertainment industry. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Ryan, backed by Onex Corp and Ares Management, acquired Fundingportal, a Toronto-based funding access platform. Financial services were not disclosed. 

- Smart Care, backed by Wind Point, acquired Espresso Partners, a Firdley, Minn.-based specialty coffee equipment service firm. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

EXITS

- Blackrock acquired Vanguard Renewables, a Wellesley, Mass.-based renewable natural gas producer, from Vision Ridge Partners. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- EQT Private Equity agreed to acquire a minority stake in United Talent Agency, a Los Angeles-based talent and entertainment company, from Investcorp. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

-  International Designs Group, a portfolio company of Mill Point Capital, acquired Construction Resources Holdings, an Atlanta-based building products distributor in the Southeast. from Monomoy Capital Partners. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

OTHER

- Basis Vectors acquired CommerceV3, a Minneola, Fla.-based SaaS company. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- FNZ acquired New Access, a Geneva, Switzerland-based private banking technology firm. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

SPAC

- NewAmsterdam Pharma, a Naarden, Netherlands-based biotech company treating metabolic diseases, is in talks to go public via a merger with Frazier Lifesciences Acquisition Corp., a SPAC, according to Bloomberg. A deal is valued at $700 million. The company is backed by Forbion, Morningside Ventures, and Ascendant BioCapital

FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS

- FirstMark Capital, a New York-based venture capital firm, raised $1.1 billion across two funds. Their Capital VI fund will focus on consumer and enterprise technology companies in their earliest stages of development and their Opportunity Fund IV will focus on breakout companies in their growth phase.

- Portage Ventures, a Toronto-based investment firm, raised $655 million for a third fund focused on fintech investments in the United States, Europe and Canada. 

- Castle Creek Capital, a San Diego-based private equity firm, and Launchpad Capital, an Oakland-based venture capital firm, raised more than $90 million for a fund focused on early-stage technology startups.

PEOPLE

- Monroe Capital, a Chicago-based asset management firm, hired Matt Rosenberg as managing director, head of media finance. Formerly, he was with MUFG.

- Spring Mountain Capital, a New York-based growth equity firm, promoted Kenneth Soll to principal.

- Vida Capital, an Austin-based investment firm, hired David Shapiro as managing director. Formerly, he was with Monarch Alternative Capital.

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