Silicon Valley-based Neythri Futures Fund closed on its inaugural fund to invest in companies at any stage that are founded or led by underrepresented individuals.
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We spoke with Mythili Sankaran, the founding managing partner of Neythri Futures, a fund with over 247 limited partners, 90 percent of whom are South Asian women, 70 percent first-time investors, and 83 percent first-generation immigrants. The youngest accredited LP in the fund is 25, and the oldest is 76.
The fund is a culmination of Sankaran’s work over the last two decades as an entrepreneur, community leader and angel investor. She decided to harness trailblazing South Asian women who were not well represented in investing circles but “had done very well as operators, as entrepreneurs and had the resources to both write a check, but also offer their expertise, their domain expertise,” she said.
According to the fund, only O.4 percent of VC partners are South Asian women.
The fund invests in business-to-business enterprise technology companies in the U.S. and is stage agnostic. It will invest in companies with a diverse founding team whether it be gender, orientation or immigrant status, according to Sankaran. However, the portfolio company must have at least “one female in a decision-making role in the company,” Sankaran said. This can be a woman founder, on the management team or on the board if the company is at a later stage.
How it started
When Sankaran was raising a Series A funding for her startup in 2006 , she found “there was absolutely no one that I encountered that looked like me, not just in terms of my ethnicity, but also as a female founder.” She was unable to raise the funding as investors “were not willing to bet on a first-time female entrepreneur who had no track record then.” So she sold the assets of that company and became an angel investor to deepen her understanding of how the funding ecosystem works.
Sankaran also came upon several women investor forums Portfolia, Golden Seeds and Pipeline Angels and became an investor in those funds. She did not see many South Asian women investing, though she knew many South Asian women operators and entrepreneurs in her personal networks.
Neythri Futures’ first investment was in Webscale’s Series C funding, with Sonal Puri as its CEO. Puri admits that funding at Webscale has not been challenging as she is fortunate to have a group of investors who believe in the company.
“But I know plenty of people like me, who don’t fit the pattern and don’t get the investment, even though they are at the top of their game and they’re willing to work hard. There’s a lot of inner roadblocks that tend to come our way and, so, for me, it’s really improving that pattern so when my daughter becomes my age and she wants to be a CEO, she’s the pattern.”
Monica Kumar, one of the fund’s first-time investors, who also joined our conversation, acknowledged that she invested “because it’s purposeful wealth creation. It’s focusing on providing access to these women who’ve never been investors before.”
Limited partners in Neythri include Archana Ramamoorthy, director of Google Cloud; Bhawna Singh SVP of engineering at AuthO; Leela Srinivasan CMO at Checkout.com; Navin Chaddha, managing partner at Mayfield Fund1; Nitin Rao SVP at Cloudflare; Rayman Mathoda, former CEO of Xome; and Shobhana Ahluwalia CIO of Peloton.
Neythri has made nine investments to date.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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