Now a co-managing associate, Upfront’s Kara Nortman is without doubt one of the first ladies promoted to a management position in VC

By | October 26, 2020

Kara Nortman has at all times been devoted to supporting ladies in expertise and in startups.

As one of many founders of the All Increase, the group devoted to supporting gender fairness in enterprise capital and expertise, a director for Instances Up and because the co-founder of the Los Angeles-based growth ladies’s soccer workforce, Angel Metropolis, Nortman has been a voice for equality in her skilled and private life.

Now together with her promotion to co-managing associate at Upfront Ventures, Nortman (and her agency) are taking one other huge step to advance ladies within the trade. Her promotion represents what is probably going the primary time that a big enterprise capital agency has promoted a lady to the place of co-managing associate.

Traditionally ladies within the enterprise capital trade have needed to launch their very own funds to imagine a management position within the trade. Norton’s promotion flies within the face of that — doubtless as a recognition that occasions have modified and companies have to adapt to a world the place entrepreneurs are sometimes selecting to take capital from companies that align with their values as a lot as their strategic imaginative and prescient.

For Upfront’s latest co-managing associate, the trail to management at a fund with roughly $2 billion in property underneath administration started with late nights as an affiliate with Battery Companions in Massachusetts.

“I used to be the 23 year-old on the workplace studying MassSciTech and Crimson Herring till 10 at evening,” Nortman recalled. “There wasn’t a ton of knowledge to scrape and pull and run algorithms in opposition to.”

At Battery, Nortman targeted on enterprise software program earlier than transferring over to the company world as an govt at Interactive Corp. The Los Angeles native has been a associate at Upfront since 2014 the place she’s invested in retail firms like Parachute Residence (her first Upfront funding) and extra lately in enterprise software program firms like OpenRaven and Fleetsmith (which was acquired by Apple in her first huge exit as an Upfront associate).

“My private portfolio is about 30% shopper and 70% deeptech enterprise,” stated Nortman. “I did all enterprise and infrastructure early in my profession at Battery … as a result of that’s all there was. There was no shopper to spend money on 1999… Webvan and weren’t good concepts.”

At Upfront Nortman will proceed to work alongside managing associate, Mark Suster, main the agency’s fund funding actions.

“If I had a greenback for each founder or VC who advised me how a lot they beloved Kara I’d have a 10x fund,” Suster stated in an announcement. “Kara is a pure chief as evidenced by her position as a founding member of All Increase, a board member of TIMES UP and in bringing the ladies’s skilled soccer workforce, Angel Metropolis Soccer Membership, to Los Angeles. Our giving her extra management within Upfront is only a recognition of the position she already performs right here.” 

Nortman is universally revered within the Los Angeles enterprise group with a number of traders saying that the transfer was a superb strategic alternative for the agency. It’s additionally (so far as I can inform) a historic one.

Whereas there have been amazingly gifted and certified ladies working in enterprise capital for many years, few if any had been capable of assume management positions by being promoted from inside. Jennifer Fonstadt and Theresia Gouw left DFJ and Accel (respectively) to launch their very own fund. And Trae Vassallo, Aileen Lee and Beth Seidenberg all hung out at Kleiner Perkins earlier than hanging out on their very own to launch impartial funds.

Nortman stated there gained’t be another modifications to the partnership whose roster of companions consists of Kobie Fuller, Greg Bettinelli, Aditi Maliwal and Michael Carney.

Nor will there be any modifications to the technique which has seen the agency make investments roughly half of its capital within the higher Los Angeles area with the remainder unfold throughout offers within the U.S., Europe and Israel. 

Upfront’s success has tracked the broader growth of the tech ecosystem in Los Angeles with huge exits coming from hometown heroes like Ring, TestFlight and Maker Studios together with investments in rising Southern California stars like Hen, Apeel Sciences, and GOAT.

For Nortman, who has seen loads of modifications within the trade, the most important is the necessity for specialization as agency’s develop. “It was once that you could possibly simply hustle,” Nortman stated. “You need to be actually disciplined about the way you construct manufacturers.”

Past that, there’s a necessity for traders to be extra strategic about selecting their investments, as a result of maintain intervals are longer and the markets firms are tackling are exponentially bigger than 20 years in the past.

“I’m the primary board member of just about each firm I be a part of. And I could also be on the board for ten to fifteen years,” Nortman stated. “Lately you have to be quicker to make choices and construct model however the dedication degree is way for much longer.”


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