Catharine Dockery thinks “vice” industries, like cannabis, sextech, psychedelics, and CBD, could be great opportunities—not just for consumers, but for investors. So, she started a $25 million fund to invest in early-stage companies tackling said categories: Vice Ventures.
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For context, many traditional funds have “vice clauses” that stop them from investing in non-traditional companies.
“But I’d argue that publicly-traded companies could do more harm than vice companies,” Dockery told Crunchbase News.
She raised the money for the fund by cold emailing 500 venture capitalists.
“I had no network when I started this, to be transparent,” Dockery said. She went from trading high-yield debt at CitiGroup to being a part of the digital brand scene, to now, venture capital.
Dockery plans to invest in 25 to 35 early-stage companies, and the average check size will be around $500,000 dollars. Vice Ventures will invest in Players’ Lounge, an online gambling company. Investors in the fund include Marc Andreessen and Bradley Tusk.
Kerin Law, chief scientific officer of LeafWorks, verifies and improves cannabis products to make sure they are safe using DNA testing. It targets natural product companies “searching for accurate botanical identification of raw materials in the marketplace,” the company’s website states.
Law told Crunchbase News that LeafWorks was in a “sweet spot” – it doesn’t work with cannabis directly, but instead helps verify quality cannabis through DNA testing. This, she said, helped them circumvent investor qualms with cannabis companies. The word cannabis is not on their about page.
“You’re making a good investment because you’re able to get into the cannabis space [through] a genetic test, [and] you’re not facing as much federal scrutiny or uncertainty if you were a plant-touching company,” she said.
LeafWorks’ last round, raised through family and friends, was $1.8 million.
Crave, a vibrator startup that designs its products in San Francisco, hasn’t sought traditional venture capital investment; however, it did raise through angel investors in 2015. Michael Topolovac, the company’s CEO, said he was thoroughly surprised by his company’s reception with investors.
In fact, Topolovac said it was easier to raise venture capital for his vibrator startup than his previous company which focused on enterprise cloud management and applications.
“[Investors] look at these categories as the future,” he told Crunchbase News.
Contrary to Dockery’s perception, both LeafWorks and Crave executives said this isn’t the first rumblings they’ve heard on venture funds popping up to address their niches. They said Vice Ventures’ new fund is not a one off – mostly because there’s big opportunities for returns in the market, and that’s all it takes for a vice to turn into an investor’s virtue.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
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