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1Mby1M Virtual Accelerator Investor Forum: With Cindy Padnos, Founder and Managing Director at Illuminate Ventures 2021 (Part 4)

Posted on Monday, May 3rd 2021

Sramana Mitra: What about geography? Are you only doing Silicon Valley?

Cindy Padnos: No, we always had a broader view in that as well. We’ve had companies in New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Canada, and Southern California. We have always had a broader view. My partner, Jennifer is in Seattle. We look deeply into the Pacific NorthWest as well.

Sramana Mitra: So it’s all North America?

Cindy Padnos: 100% North America.

Sramana Mitra: Talk to me about your approach to female founders. I know that you have a different perspective. You support female founders. If I remember this correctly, your philosophy was that you are not focusing on female founders only, but you fund any entrepreneur.

Cindy Padnos: That is correct. I know that I have mentioned a couple that were female-led, but in Coupang, there were no females there. There are many others in our portfolio that are not female-led as well. What we have done is we have simply opened the door wider. We try to avoid the pitfalls of many investors. This includes having a little bit too much pattern recognition around what a typical entrepreneur should look like.

We have built our advisory network. These are an extraordinary group of people from the B2B world. More than half of those members are women. They just happen to be some of the most successful enterprise tech people in the world. These are people of companies that have had billion-dollar exits and the like.

We have an internship program that is also intentionally diverse. This means that half of the students have been women, but three-fourths of them also come from diverse backgrounds. In our portfolio today, nearly half of our companies do have a woman co-founder, but half don’t.

Three-fourths of them have at least one co-founder born outside of North America. We have multiple Latino founder CEOs. We have multiple gay founders and CEOs. We have a level of diversity that we are proud of, but we don’t ever use that as part of our investment criteria.

Sramana Mitra: Talk to me about what your analysis on the current market is going forward. What do you want to invest in? What trends are you trying to get behind?

Cindy Padnos: One of the most obvious areas of disruption over the last year has been the work environment. This is the category that a lot of people are calling the future of work. We go much deeper than that. Each year, we do sector assessments across 12 or so different categories that we are interested in. They are not always technology. We care about things like changes in business models.

For example, one of our companies, Pex, is doing a revenue share model. They are not all SaaS software companies any longer. We also care a lot about the use cases that these companies are targeting. That can shift pretty rapidly when suddenly a company says, “I can serve not only white-collar workers but also blue-collar industrial workers.” Those are areas that we are interested in.

We are very aware of the need for better compliance around regulatory issues but also around the concept of more transparency. This includes transparency in every way that you can imagine including the category that people are calling understandable AI. We are looking at a company that started in Turkey.

Now, their headquarters is in Delaware but they will always have a large portion of their employee base in Turkey. It is really a variety of different areas. We are looking at things that impact blue-collar workers. We are looking at technologies in the low code area and certainly business applications that are going to enable omnichannel delivery of content like ContentStack does.

This segment is part 4 in the series : 1Mby1M Virtual Accelerator Investor Forum: With Cindy Padnos, Founder and Managing Director at Illuminate Ventures 2021
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