Q&A with Kimberly Marshall: An angel investor on a mission

By Nancy Dahlberg

‘I think the more diversity of perspective you have, the better the company that you can build’

You could say this angel investor fell under the Magic City’s spell – hard.

Kimberly Marshall has lived and worked in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Boston and has explored the world – 52 countries and counting. But after a short stint in Miami from 2012-2013 leading Uber’s pre-launch, she knew she’d find her way back. In 2018, Marshall moved from the San Francisco Bay Area back to Miami and hasn’t looked back.

Marshall is on the founding board of Black Angels Miami, an organization founded last year and led by Kevin Cadette. BAM’s mission is to increase the number of Black angel investors in Miami and nationwide and connect them with deal flow in technology. What’s more, Marshall is an active angel investor herself, both in startups that could change the world – 20 so far – and as an LP in venture funds.

“Increasing access to capital for entrepreneurs and creating access to deal flow wealth creation for personal investors is something I'm really passionate about,” she told me. “I am thankful to be an angel investor, to find all these great businesses by women and minorities that were spectacular businesses but didn’t have friends and family access to capital that gave them an opportunity to take their ideas to the next level.”

Marshall also advises Goldman Sachs’ Launch with GS, which is its $500 million investing strategy guided by the data that diverse teams drive returns. As part of that this summer, she developed a Black and LatinX entrepreneur GS cohort, in which Miami entrepreneur Maxeme Tuchman from Caribu was one of the 14 founders accepted from over 400 companies that applied.

Previously, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Marshall designed and executed  edtech investing strategy. In Uber's early years, she was part of its growth from 19 markets to over 400 markets, and she held a number of private equity roles before that. She earned undergraduate degrees in economics and French from Harvard and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg.

I caught up with Marshall to learn more about her role with BAM, her life as a Miami angel investor and her mission to increase access to venture capital among female founders and entrepreneurs of color.

You’ve had such an interesting career, starting out in private equity but then veering into venture and even the startup world working for Uber. How did all that come about?

That's a great question. When I went to business school, I did not know what venture capital was. I thought I was going to just stick with private equity. But I had an internship in venture capital out of San Francisco, and It really blew my mind. So much of private equity is financial engineering and the leverage that you use to create value for companies. And there's less about actually digging in and figuring out how to help the founder build something great. So I'm introduced to venture where someone comes up with an idea and they're creating hundreds or thousands of jobs. It’s creating tremendous value.

Job creation has always been really important to me. I knew then I wanted to work in venture and also I wanted to live in San Francisco. But to really get into that venture space, you need startup experience, which I did not have. So, I got super lucky to join Uber when I did join, when we were in just 19 markets. I stayed until we had over 400 markets, I stayed there for four years.

In San Francisco, everyone is investing in your friend’s company, everyone has a company, everyone's an angel. I was very aware of the discrepancy between what my white male founder friends could raise and what my female founder friends and my people of color founder friends could raise.

When I left Uber, I actually planned to go back into pure venture, but I was recruited by the Gates Foundation to focus on edtech startups for the for-profit space. I did that for a couple years and it was really fun, and I moved to Miami and focused on my own personal investing.

Why did you decide to join BAM?

When I moved back here in 2018, I was keen to get back involved in the tech scene and it was delightful to see how much it has evolved just in those five years. I spoke at an Aminta Ventures event and met Rebecca Danta [who runs Miami Angels] on the back of that. I love the work she's doing. And Barron Channer [now chairman of BAM’s board] was there and mentioned they were looking to do something in the black angels space and that was really exciting to me.

Miami is as great ecosystem. There’s a unique base of accredited investors here, from current and retired corporate executives to professional athletes. There are great opportunities to educate people here in Miami and South Florida about early stage tech investing and create opportunities for them to do so, even beyond investing in companies but also as potential LPs. Having more investors and a larger investor ecosystem is a super important part of growing Miami's tech ecosystem.

I’m on the founding board of BAM and we collaborate a lot with angels. For example, we syndicated a fund investment in MaC Venture Capital, and BAM and Miami Angels worked together on that. What was really fun is that Goldman came back and invested in MaC Ventures after we had.

Individual minimums [as an LP] can be $250K for these funds. Being able to invest into a venture fund that has an incredible track record, fantastic returns and has an entry point at $10,000 [through a syndicate] just makes it so much more accessible to so many more people.

Tell me about your personal investing.

My portfolio is very diverse – a lot of people of color, a lot of women, and a couple that aren't, but I just really leaned heavily into that.

When Goldman wanted to lean deeply into people of color, I ended up joining them as an advisor to work with them as they built out their offerings for people of color. And it’s a for-profit completely returns driven investing strategy, and Goldman is committed to increasing access to capital for diverse entrepreneurs and diverse fund managers.

On the personal side, I have about 20 portfolio companies total, which means I invested in way too many last year [she invested in 10]. I already have four on tap for this year that I am really excited about it so it's off to the races.

I really like fintech, especially fintech for the underbanked. I don’t have any sort of healthcare background, but a number of my portfolio companies are in the healthcare space. Then I'm also very interested demographically in women and people of color.

How did you get into investing as an LP?

I love investing in companies and partnering with entrepreneurs. But I'm also a believer that, if I want to see more capital go to women and people of color, then I also have to get more capital to women and people color.

The data shows that once you have a woman partner in a fund there are more women in their portfolio and data shows that people of color entrepreneurs are more often invested in by other people of color. There's some intentionality for me around funding investors of diverse backgrounds, as well as funding companies of diverse backgrounds.

Also, there's something to be said for letting the professionals do it.

What do you look for in startups you personally invest in?

I invest quite early so I'm comfortable with pre-revenue. One of the biggest things I look for is the founders’ ability to sell into their target market. It’s super easy to see if they are a consumer company, but I do tend to do more enterprise investing and that piece is really hard.

So what are the customer insights that inform their product? Who did they talk to? What did they learn? And then sometimes depending on how technical it is, are they coming from that industry and do they have a track record in this industry – that tends to be pretty important for me. Basically, it is about their connections to that problem they're trying to solve.

Tell me about a few of your portfolio companies and fund investments.

Cadence Health was my first healthcare investment, and they're bringing the first birth control pill over the counter - tremendous for women's health care in the US and elsewhere. I've never invested in in a media company before, but I invested in a one of Goldman's cohort companies, Revry, which is the world's first and largest streaming service for LGBTQ+ and I'm super excited about what that team is doing. It's a really diverse founding team as well. I think the more diversity of perspective you have, the better the company that you can build.

Kiira Health is women's healthcare for college campuses. Then some of those funds are 645 Ventures, and I'm also in Union Square Ventures, Ensemble VC and this year I'm looking forward to investing in MaC Ventures and Collab Capital.

As you know, some of the best businesses have been born in challenging economic environments. Underrepresented founders, both women and minorities, are already familiar with building great businesses with less capital. They've always had to do more with less, their valuations are lower, their rounds are lower - it's awful. But I think it's really enabled them to outperform this market. Max at Caribu is a great example of that - she's crushing it. It's so exciting to see these women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color be able to leverage all the life experiences they've had with less capital in normal economic environments during these times.

What are some of the challenges that you are seeing for women and founders of color who just haven't had the same access to capital?

There are two things that I've been seeing the most. One is the discrepancy in valuations and the amount they’re able to raise. These businesses by diverse founders have often progressed further along and they still have lower valuations and longer fundraising cycles and just have to jump through so many hoops.

And the other thing that is really concerning, especially in the wake of like racial unrest this summer, is corporations and foundations are reallocating philanthropic funds to invest in minority founders, in that essentially they're taking founder equity with funds they planned to give away.

What are your investing goals for 2021?

Diversification – I am actually really hoping to do something in real estate. I'm interested in providing affordable housing, maybe a small 10- to 12-unit building where I just want to be a really great landlord for great tenants working really hard to provide their families and live their lives. It’s been a personal goal of mine for a while.

In my early-stage investing, I'll do probably four more funds and then I'll probably try to limit it to maybe four to six more companies that are just building amazing things, probably in future of work.

I'll continue to look at fintech. I'm excited about some of the great companies in Miami, like Sebiya, I met her [Samella Watson] over a year ago. She's one of those rare entrepreneurs. It's not that rare for women and people of color to bootstrap product development, but she bootstrapped into revenue.

When you talk to these founders, you’re like wow it’s amazing you got your company this far without ever raising capital, and they're like, well, it wasn't by choice.

How do you see the Miami tech ecosystem evolving?

I'm excited about the Miami ecosystem, and that it has investors like Monique Idlett at Reign Ventures. She's a fabulous investor and one of the things that makes her so fabulous is that her founders love her.

I love what Monica Simo Black is doing with Function, an elevated approach to angel investing. One of my favorite things about Miami's ecosystem is its close connectivity to South America, and the technology transfer opportunities available.

And I do want to just continue to get closer to the ecosystem. Obviously being here in 2012 and 2013, some of the key people from back then were the Knight Foundation and Refresh Miami and it has just exploded since, a lot of it with the funding from the Knight Foundation.

I am so excited about what's being built here, and it is being built in such a thoughtful way.

I've heard all these things about more tech people moving here and I'm like, cool, more tech. I just hope everyone gets involved. I'm doing the tech thing and I also joined the Perez Art Museum of Miami's Board of Trustees. I’ve been learning more about some of the other ways to engage like through Lotus House. There's such great need.

My friends over in Silicon Valley are very comfortable investing in startups, but here in Miami it has been much more conservative. I hope that, as more people come who have more exposure and experience with obviously very risky investing, that will just increase the dollars that are circulating in the ecosystem going to more LPs, going to more companies – I think that will be great.

I hope to be part of that bridge.

What do you hope to see BAM grow into this coming year?

I am so bummed we're not in-person yet but the great thing about not being in person is that we can reach more people. We host pitch nights and we're still exploring what's the best way to connect entrepreneurs and investors to get more companies and more fund managers funded and to do much more education. Our education programs are fantastic. I don't know if you saw the event with First Round in December but it was awesome.

To make more and better connections between investors and entrepreneurs, we're looking at ways beyond the pitch nights as well. We see dozens and dozens of companies and obviously can only feature so many. We are looking at how we can also share these dozens of companies that may be interesting for some of our members.

‘When you talk to these founders, you’re like, wow, it’s amazing you got your company this far without ever raising capital, and they're like, well, it wasn't by choice.’

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter  @ndahlberg and email her at ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

 

Nancy Dahlberg
Follow me