AUSTIN, TEXAS — Springdale Ventures is challenging the status quo of venture capital. The female-led fund is committed to closing equality gaps that have long persisted in the consumer products industry.
Based in Austin, a hotbed of emerging brands, Springdale Ventures partners with early-stage consumer brands and technology companies with a focus on health and wellness. Food and beverage investments include Tiny Organics, Better Booch, Fitjoy, Goodles, Karma Nuts and Maxine’s Heavenly, among others. In three years, Springdale has invested in more than two dozen portfolio companies.
Nearly two-thirds of the businesses in its portfolio have leaders who are female, Black, Indigenous or people of color, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. As it nears the close of its second fund, Springdale Ventures remains dedicated to diversity.
“We really believe, and the data show, that teams with diverse backgrounds perform better,” said Genevieve Gilbreath, co-founder and general partner. “That’s what we look at when we’re looking at teams. Does this team have that diversity of perspective and experience? That’s what we invest in. It’s simple as that.”
Less than 15% of decision makers at venture capital firms in the United States are women, according to PitchBook, a private market data company. Female funders are twice as likely to invest in startups with at least one female founder and more than three times as likely to invest in a business with a female chief executive officer, according to a report by All Raise, a non-profit dedicated to advancing women entrepreneurs.
“In general, I think women approach things in a different way because of life experiences we’ve had,” Ms. Gilbreath said. “And I think that having women in leadership attracts more companies that are women-led and have diverse teams. That’s been rewarding to see. I can’t tell you how many female founders I talk to who are so relieved to get on all calls with us.”
Ms. Gilbreath founded Springdale Ventures with fellow entrepreneur and operator Dan Graham. Previously, she was managing director of SKU, the Austin-based consumer packaged goods accelerator, and earlier founded and scaled two supplement companies. She developed and piloted the international, cross-cultural Princeton University Bridge Year Program India and was an adjunct professor in health and wellness at Baylor University. She also was a founding board member and president of Naturally Austin and Naturally Network, non-profits supporting startups in the natural products industry.
Mr. Graham previously co-founded e-commerce business BuildASign.com, which was acquired for $280 million in 2018. He then co-founded Notley, a mission-driven organization providing knowledge, collaboration and capital to support social innovation. Over the past decade he has made more than 100 early-stage portfolio investments in consumer brands and technology startups.
Marissa Epstein, a registered dietitian nutritionist, joined as third general partner last year. She brings expertise in health, wellness and nutrition, having spent nearly a decade partnering with business leaders to build innovative products and brands since spearheading nutrition initiatives at The White House. She was associate director of the Let’s Move! campaign with former First Lady Michelle Obama and led health education technology and services for Stanford Health Care, where she developed and taught the Food and Nutrition Entrepreneurship course for Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Recently, she was the director of The University of Texas Nutrition Institute, developing programs and courses for early-stage food and beverage entrepreneurs. She advises various food and beverage startups, many founded by former students.
“Because our team has a really deep and diverse background within consumer, we’re able to leverage our expertise in different areas to help brands grow,” Ms. Gilbreath said. “Helping the entrepreneurs from the seed to Series A or B stage is such a crucial impact point, and that’s where Dan, Marissa and I feel like we can bring the most value and we are the happiest.”
The partners tap into a vast network of entrepreneurs, operators and investors to help founders overcome challenges and achieve meaningful scale.“We don’t get in and operate in the weeds with any of the companies,” Ms. Gilbreath said. “We help remove obstacles to growth, lend our experience and expertise, and make powerful industry connections. Knowing all the right people in the industry to connect founders to, helping them raise downstream capital and helping them bring on good talent are other ways we add value to our portfolio companies.”