When my oldest was born, someone told me the old adage that, with kids, the days are long but the years are short. Building a company feels the same way to me, never more so than in 2021. Our team packed so much into these 12 short months. I have never worked so hard and given so much of myself to work – and for me, that is saying a lot.
2021 was a year of transformation. We started the year as the Female Founders Alliance, a Facebook group that became something bigger but hard to define. We end the year as Graham & Walker, a venture capital firm powered by that grassroots community.
Change is hard, unsettling and scary. In the leadup to our October announcement, we had no idea how this rebrand would land. Imagine building a brand for 4 years only to change it overnight, with a tiny team and a shoestring budget. Worrying that you’ll have to start from scratch because nobody will know your new identity. Or worse, that they’ll know your new identity and hate it.
And then there was my fundraising – nearly two years from deck to close. It might seem easy and obvious in hindsight, but for most of that time I had no idea how much I’d raise, or whether I’d be able to raise anything at all.
The work of change was slow but the change itself was swift. Case in point: It took almost one full year to soft circle the first $1M. The last $1M closed in less than 48 hours. It happened one week in October, and it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
Here’s what my team orchestrated in that same week: While I raised the last million and closed the VC fund, they hosted a 3-day virtual summit with hundreds of guests and super high profile speakers. We simultaneously launched a brand new website, migrated all our social media from the old to the new name, and coordinated a media campaign that landed multiple great stories. Through all this, we let hundreds of our closest community members in on the secret – so they could be a part of the announcement with us – and somehow managed zero leaks! When we finally went live, I’m told our twitter reached nearly a million views within 24 hours – and that’s without counting the hundreds of posts from everyone in the community.
That Friday evening, giddy with relief and shaking with adrenaline, I fell asleep by 8.
The weeks since have been no slower. Instead of meeting investors, I now spend my days meeting founders, doing my best to deploy this capital and build a portfolio worthy of our name. I find myself in the investors’ shoes in a very public way, handing out the same rejections that I once faced as a founder. I hate that part. I’ve become obsessed with making our rejection letters as kind and encouraging as I can, while also staying firm and authentic. I know I’m not there yet. But I’m not done trying.
And while I spend my time running the fund, the rest of the team continues to foster our founder community, now counting more than 2300 woman and non-binary founded startups. We doubled the number of partners we work with, adding dream organizations to our roster – partners like Silicon Valley Bank, AWS for Startups, and UBS Project Entrepreneur. We continue to match hundreds of startups with hundreds of mentors, angels and VC investors through best in class programming. And we continue to innovate, even as we focus obsessively on the one big goal: to reshape the Nasdaq by the time my daughters graduate from college.
Because of all this work I now have the privilege to invest in world-changing – and Nasdaq-reshaping – companies. We’ve made 13 investments so far, with several more in the pipeline. The collective potential of these companies is breathtaking. To those founders and their teams: I am profoundly honored to be a small part of your journey, and grateful to have you in mine.
As we barrel towards the end of another pandemic year, I am full of gratitude. Gratitude to our founders, our partners, our community of supporters. Gratitude to my LPs, my family, and my amazing team. I feel so lucky. I don’t take any of this for granted. And I will continue to do everything in my power to be worthy of it all.
Sending each and every one of you a fully vaccinated and well earned hug, with my warmest wishes for the new year.
All the best,