How VC firm Swiftarc is making the industry more empowering and inclusive of women.
Swiftarc Engagement Director Leslie Wolfson. PHOTO COURTESY OF SWIFTARC VENTURES
Swiftarc Ventures (swiftarcventures.com) is changing the venture capital industry one day at a time, and its newest launch of the Swiftarc Beauty Fund is an exciting addition for both the VC world and for women. Beauty Fund launched in July 2021 with a $10 million investment, with the mission to back innovative female-led beauty and wellness brands. Beauty Fund is the first in the industry to appoint an all-female Beauty Council, comprising a variety of individuals from many different industries.
To learn all about how this innovative team plans to take the beauty and wellness industry to the next level, we chat with engagement director and co-chair of the Beauty Council Leslie Wolfson.
What are the short-term and long-term goals of Swiftarc?
The Swiftarc Beauty Fund’s short-term focus is centered around dynamic female founders who have developed and built game-changing companies in the beauty and wellness space, and on finding the right investors who share our ethos. Our long-term goals are to deliver high multiple returns for our investors, provide unwavering support for our founders from idea to IPO, and to inspire true industry change by committing to funding diverse female founders.
What are some of the greatest challenges a startup faces?
Raising capital! Starting your own business is hard, and finding investors who are true partners is even more difficult. For female entrepreneurs, the difficulty is even more acute—in 2020, only 2.5% of the billions of dollars allocated went to women, and of that, only 5% of those funds come from female investors. Swiftarc Beauty is laser focused on changing those metrics and doing our part to make sure we level the playing field.
How do you plan to differentiate yourselves in the market?
Throughout my entire career, I have been a business builder and collaborator. With that mindset, we created something unique to venture capital in what we call our Beauty Council, a working brain trust of incredible, influential female executives, founders and entrepreneurs that work with our portfolio companies hands on to build stronger foundations, scale quicker and more efficiently, and hopefully exit at a greater multiple. That council directly translates into mentorship, peer-to-peer networking opportunities and targeted training facilitated by these female pioneers in their respective fields. Having that council as an incredible resource to our founders, we believe investing in women is not only the right thing to do, but it’s the smart thing to do. In fact, 38% of our investors in the fund are women—our diversity efforts span all touch points from our staff to investors, advisers and our founders.
Leslie Wolfson with Swiftarc Ventures founder and managing partner Sid Jawahar and President Fabian Urquijo. PHOTO COURTESY OF SWIFTARC VENTURES
Describe your investment strategy.
Swiftarc looks at several factors when analyzing a company, but a strong, experienced leader is a must. Once we’ve established that, we look at products, platforms, formulations or delivery systems that are making a difference or addressing unmet needs in the market.
Another factor we take into consideration is the role we play: how we can help founders in growing their companies. We work with strategic investors and our beauty council to provide as much value as we can and potentially eliminate certain mistakes by leveraging our combined experience. Of course, you’re never able to avoid all mistakes, but if there are any obstacles presented, we are able to mitigate quickly.
Why is the beauty sector so important right now? Are there other female-dominant industries you’d love to explore next?
Beauty and wellness have always been important, but since the height of the pandemic, I think that sector took on an even more important meaning. We all had more time at home to pamper ourselves along with a deeper need for self-care. Consumers also looked at purchasing in a new way, as we were locked behind our computers and physical retail stores were closed. We purchased makeup and skincare online before we ever tested them on our faces. The growth of AI, personalization and other digital tools as well as new delivery methods and business models are just a few changes that were amplified over the last 20 months. We are doing a series of three funds over the next several years, and though our first one focuses exclusively on beauty and wellness, I believe there are so many new sectors geared toward the female consumer that the possibilities are endless.
Photography by: Courtesy of Swiftarc Ventures