HomeInterviewsZelda Ventures, Interview with General Partner Suzanne Fletcher

Zelda Ventures, Interview with General Partner Suzanne Fletcher

Zelda Ventures General Partner Suzanne Fletcher
Zelda Ventures General Partner Suzanne Fletcher

Zelda Ventures, a Portola Valley, CA-based venture capital firm, closed its first fund, at $33m. In conjunction with the announcement, founder and General Partner Suzanne Fletcher replied to our questions about her background, the firm and their overall strategy, their approach to founders, etc.

VCWire: Hi Suzanne, can you please tell us a bit more about you? What’s your background? 

Over the last two decades, my journey has been deeply intertwined with the dynamic landscape of innovation investment. This journey spans from the initial stages of startup financing to the complexities of secondary market investing across multiple market cycles.

Before founding Zelda Ventures, I served as a general partner at Prime Movers Lab. In this role, I played a key role in scaling the firm and leading seed rounds. Prior to this, I managed the co-investment vehicle at StartX, one of the world’s most prestigious startup accelerators, serving the Stanford University community for five years. From these experiences, I developed a keen appreciation for the elements that foster exceptionally effective, healthy, and prosperous investor-founder partnerships.

In late 2022, I launched Zelda Ventures from my basement in Portola Valley, in the Bay Area. It took about 11 months to raise our $33 million debt fund.

VCWire: Can you introduce Zelda Ventures? 

Zelda Ventures is a boutique early-stage fund dedicated to backing in-network serial entrepreneurs, often providing the first check for their next startup.

VCWire: Which is your overall strategy?

Zelda Ventures is a generalist pre-seed fund specializing in investing in the next startups of serial entrepreneurs I have previously supported. During my tenure at StartX, I had the privilege of working with over 900 entrepreneurs. I estimate that approximately 10% of them will start a new company each year.

To date, Zelda Ventures has backed nearly a dozen startups, including Andromeda Surgical, Pointable, bitHuman, and Redcoat AI. We have plans to invest in about 40 startups out of this fund.

VCWire: Beyond capital, how do you support startups?  

The unique strength of Zelda Ventures lies in the deep-rooted connections and high-trust relationships we have established with this set of entrepreneurs.

Our support for the entrepreneur is at the core of Zelda Ventures’ approach. Over the past two decades, I have closely worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs during critical moments, such as navigating the complexities of investor relationships, resolving co-founder dynamics, and addressing cap table issues. My expertise centers on guiding founders through their crucial first 18 months, steering them towards reaching the Series A stage. I categorize our focus areas into two buckets: the challenging issues founders might be hesitant to discuss, such as co-founder disputes, and the more eagerly approached topics like plans and milestones. The stuff you ‘don’t like to talk about’ and the ‘stuff you do’. We’re there for both, and they know that’s true because we’re investing in founders whose prior companies we were involved in – so it isn’t just marketing talk. 

VCWire: What do you like to see in founders?….And what don’t you like to see in them? I mean, is there something which impresses you at a first glance?

I value passion and commitment, along with strong team dynamics and execution abilities. It’s crucial for me to understand the team’s connection to the problem they’re tackling and their dedication to creating a business solution for it. I appreciate co-founders with a history of collaboration, such as those who have worked together previously or even were roommates. Conceptually, I look for frameworks that manage disagreements and clearly defined areas of expertise. Execution strength on business and technical milestones is key, and I firmly believe in having technical talent on the founding team, as opposed to relying on outsourced development teams. At an early stage, the extent of customer development work is a significant factor for me. The more, the better!

The one thing I definitely don’t want to encounter is a talented entrepreneur expending their energy on an idea that doesn’t ignite their deepest passion.

VCWire: Please, tell us a bit more about the portfolio. You can list five startups whose paths have made you particularly proud of. 

The launch of Zelda Ventures arrives amid a surge in entrepreneurship from Stanford-StartX alums, who are establishing new companies. This trend is partly fueled by groundbreaking advancements in AI, heralding a new technological era. Entrepreneurs from this group, many of whom have highly relevant PhDs in computer science and computer vision, are at the forefront, launching companies that are set to play pivotal roles in shaping this era.

At present, Zelda Ventures has invested in seasoned entrepreneurs from nearly a dozen startups across various sectors, including healthcare, housing, and artificial intelligence. I am particularly proud we’ve backed Andromeda SurgicalPointablebitHuman, and Redcoat AI. These early investments underscore our commitment to being the preferred choice for initial funding, solidifying our position as a trusted partner from the pre-seed stage onwards.

For more insights, here’s a recent article about one of our investments, bitHuman: VentureBeat Article on bitHuman.

VCWire: Which sector/s would you bet 2 cents in the next five years?  

From a philosophical standpoint, I don’t typically ‘bet on’ specific sectors. My approach at the pre-seed level is founder-centric, guided by the passion and commitment of experienced founders venturing into new industries. I have reservations about highly sector-specific pre-seed investing.

The composition of the Zelda Ventures portfolio naturally mirrors the types of companies that experienced entrepreneurs are currently starting. While AI (Artificial Intelligence) is certainly a recurring theme, its applications within our portfolio are diverse, ranging from medical billing to dev ops infrastructure.

VCWire

20/12/2023