Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Laurel Touby of Supernode Ventures was recorded in January 2018.
Laurel Touby, Managing Partner at Supernode Ventures, and a former entrepreneur and avid angel investor, has now launched her new institutional pre-seed fund.
Sramana Mitra: I’m surprised our paths haven’t crossed until now.
Laurel Touby: Me too.
Sramana Mitra: Tell us about your investing focus. How big is the fund? What sized investments are you making? Let’s get to know one another.
Laurel Touby: Let me start off by saying I’m a Founder first. I’d like to frame the whole discussion with how I started out as an investor.
Sramana Mitra: Perfect.
Laurel Touby: I started out as a founder. Before that, I was in journalism as a writer and editor. I wrote for every kind of magazine, from Businessweek to Glamour Magazine. While I was working as a journalist, I started a cocktail party to meet guys. It was before Tinder existed. The party evolved into a massive community of journalists, media professionals, to people in sales and marketing in media. I had something inside of me that was entrepreneurial.
I started thinking of these parties as a focus group with my customers. I started asking people, “What can I offer you that you would pay for? What kinds of products and services do you need?” The party was a magical place where people were finding jobs. They were finding boyfriends and girlfriends. There are people who are now close friends who’ve remained in touch for all these years because of the parties.
People told me, “I could use jobs. I could use education. I could use health insurance.” There were all sorts of things that journalists needed. I started offering those things. I created one of the first websites for media people in the United States. It’s called mediabistro.com.
It went online in 1996 and it’s still around. It’s still out there. The website went out live in 1996. I grew it to multiple millions of people using it. I had 40 employees. I sold it in 2007. I own 64% of the company and sold it for $23 million. I began investing in tech. Now I’m doing my first institutional fund. That’s a bit of my background.
Sramana Mitra: What are the specifics of the Supernode Ventures fund? Who else is involved? What’s the context?
Laurel Touby: The fund itself is a pre-seed fund. We are investing in pre-seed. It deals with the very early stages of tech. We’re looking at B2B, enterprise, FinTech. We do some consumer but not a lot. I have a partner. Her name is Jenny Friedman. She worked at Eniac Venture prior to this.
Sramana Mitra: What about geography? Are you investing in any particular geography? Do you have specifics?
Laurel Touby: No. I don’t think we have a geographic focus. We’re most invested in East Coast because we can affect the companies that way. One of the main things about our venture firm is that we actually help our companies. We have dinner parties and events that we do. I brought that skillset to venture. You don’t see a lot of venture firms our size that are doing so many events and so many high-value networking connections for their founders.
Sramana Mitra: We are in the beginning of 2018. What types of companies would capture your fancy aligned with the investment thesis that you’ve created?
Laurel Touby: I’m looking for serial entrepreneurs who have already started their companies successfully like me and who are starting their next company. It seems like it’s an addiction for a lot of founders to start multiple companies. We’re looking for serial entrepreneurs. It’s probably easier for me to tell you what we’re not willing to do. We’re not doing healthcare IT. We’re not doing hardware. We’re not doing a lot of ad tech or a lot of consumer. We’re not interested in things that take millions and millions of dollars to get to market.
Sramana Mitra: You’re doing mostly B2B SaaS.
Laurel Touby: Yes. We’re very practical. The West Coast is all about moon shots and the future of Tesla. That’s all great. For our first fund, we want to be able to make a return for our investors so that we can put our second fund together. We’re probably going to err on the side of being a little more practical for this first fund.