Minnie Ingersoll, Partner TenOneTen


Pemo Welcome Minnie. So great to speak to you and get to know you. Do you want to talk a little bit about what you like to invest in and the firm that you work for?

Minnie Sure, absolutely well. My name is Minnie and I’m a partner at TenOneTen and TenOneTen is an early stage fund here in Los Angeles and we like to lead seed stage rounds and get really involved with the founders that we’re backing and help them get to the next milestones in their journey. We mostly do B2B software investing and that manifests a lot in sort of automation and efficiency for legacy businesses. But always looking for whatever is next and cool.

Pemo And LA is sort of booming in the last few years really as regards startups and investors and I know even some Silicon Valley investors went down to LA. How is the scene down there? Is it pretty much booming particularly now since the crisis?

Minnie Yeah I would say that’s a fair characterization I think when my friends ask what sort of startup to join, that sort of thing, I always say you know joining one that’s got a lot of momentum and just the growth makes.

Minnie You know, the rising tide lifts all boats and I would say LA as a market really has that feel to it. It feels like a fast growing ecosystem which is exciting. The only sort of interesting caveat perhaps to what you said is it does seem like a lot of investors are moving down and in some ways LA and San Francisco or LA and the Bay area sort of feel like they’re becoming one market.

Pemo Oh okay, that’s interesting. The only reason I have a question mark around that, was that I did promote an investor led event in Silicon valley. I organized a whole lot of venture capitalists to come to an event for this electric car and I found that the investors that employed me had no idea about the culture in Silicon Valley and I had to educate them? I thought gee we’re so close to LA and you would think that it’s sort of similar? And this was a few years ago obviously, I think 2018 so you know, maybe things have changed but I was sort of shocked that they seemed to have no idea? Now it may have just been that particular investment firm. They weren’t venture capitalists. So I don’t know why? That is why I questioned it.

Minnie I know I don’t think you’re alone at all so I do this weekly podcast where I interview a lot of different Los Angeles based VCs on my podcast and everyone has told me oh you’re going to run out of  VCs.  And I’ve been doing it over 2 years and have found something like 150 different partners at different VC funds here in LA and that always surprises people.

Pemo Wow Yeah, yeah, well, that’s really good news. And fantastic to hear your perspective! And what do you particularly like to invest in? What’s your main focus and do you want to talk more about some of your portfolio companies?

Minnie Ah sure, on the one hand I invest in great people and that’s really the motivating factor. As most of my career has actually been running my own startup and then being very early at Google. And a lot of what I did in those roles was actually essentially recruiting. Essentially what I did with at least a third of my time was just interviewing people and so I take some of that same approach when I’m doing Venture Capital as I do what I know right? Which is that I interview people. And you know when you’re a founder you’re quite heads down and so transitioning from being a founder to being a VC, I feel like a lot of VCs are sort of smarter about these developed theses. They’ve really had their heads up and are looking at how different markets evolve.  And I feel like I’m at best qualified to interview people. So that’s always a starting point for me.

Pemo It almost is so compelling when you’re good at interviewing! I would say that’s what I’ve noticed that some people then think just in ordinary conversation that you’re interviewing them and I’m like oh no I’m just talking to you.

Minnie Right? right? No, I mean I’ve learned a lot about interviewing and you know idle questions I mean and getting people off their talk track but without asking them questions that you’re not really interested in the answer to and all of that.

Pemo Ah, fantastic. Oh well. I’ll put the link in the transcript for your podcast and hopefully people can tune into that podcast as well. It sounds great and I was wondering. I noted that obviously you’re a female VC and I noted that you’ve been raising kids. How is that? Just to give you a little bit of my background, when I first went to Silicon Valley I spent a year after failing to raise venture in Europe. I spent a year video interviewing VCs in Silicon Valley and women founders on why women are funded less than men?  And in those days of course  it was less than 2 percent and I think these days it’s just a bit over 2 percent. But at least I was 1 of the voices that was raising awareness of the challenges for women and also for female VCs. That’s changed a lot. There’s a lot of female VCs but it is hard to imagine raising a family and also having a high profile job like yours as a female Venture Capitalist. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Minnie Yeah, sure. So many different dimensions. So first off I completely agree that it has changed in the past, let’s call it 5 years, not just the numbers but actually the tenor of people deliberately trying to support each other or support women or other minorities. I mean it’s just night and day different. But the way I sort of think about that is yeah I mean it sort of comes back to diversity and inclusion which is really thinking about the inclusion side of things. And so I think about it as not just how do we encourage women to raise their hand, to have a seat at the table?  But how do decisions get made? How we decide how to allocate money as investors or even you know at Google or at large companies. How do resources get allocated and I think that if the way that those decisions get made is because someone is pounding the table and speaking confidently about their five-year projections? And we’re not actually leaving room for people who maybe have a different approach to raising capital or asking for resources. I think that’s the challenge that we need to face in thinking about this sort of decision making as a society. And making sure that we have room for whether it’s women or others who might just have a different operating mode than the kind of traditional older white man at the table in the VC rooms. But you know specifically, first off, my husband hasn’t worked now since we had our first child who’s 9. Maybe he hasn’t worked in 9 years now and I don’t think I would be able to have the career that I have and feel good about the way that my children are being raised if I didn’t have that.  Someone else at home who I had complete faith in was really taking care of my children. I also live with my parents. So I know that a lot of the reason I’m able to do what I’m doing as I work a lot. And I like working a lot. I really feel very lucky. It feels much easier for me to go to work on Monday.  And if I were to stay home I find that harder actually a harder job. But you know a lot of that is because my husband is home with the children.

Pemo And so nice that you’ve sort of got the extended family as well with your parents I mean it. It just becomes like what do they say? It takes a village to raise a child and that doesn’t often happen in the West it happens a lot more in ethnic societies. But definitely not so much in the West. I was a single mother raising 3 children by myself after my marriage went so I know the juggle of trying to work in my own business as well as raise the children. So it’s a lot. Yeah. So tell me how it’s been since the crisis? What have you noted? I’ve spoken to a few investors and I know at the beginning of the crisis that everyone just had big question marks. But now it seems like investments are really hot and the market’s really heated up. Can you want to talk a little bit about that?

Minnie Yeah I was still thinking about children. I mean I had all 3 of my children essentially while I was building my startup so I mean it was crazy crazy times. So that’s where we are now.

Pemo Oh I get it.  Yes, yeah, yeah, intense.

Minnie Well I mean different places where we are so on the one hand I think a lot of the conversation right now is around Are we in a bubble? with valuations because as you say everything has heated up? We have 85 companies in our portfolio now and you know companies that I might have said hell you’re a little early to go raise your series A, I said this recently and the company just raised from Tiger at a $125 million.  And I thought they were maybe a little early to go out and raise their Series A had a $56 million valuation. So clearly I was miscalibrated on that.  But you know people ask So are we in a bubble?’  And I guess,I mean obviously I don’t know? But there aren’t any signs that things are slowing down other than everyone’s asking. Are we in a bubble? There aren’t signs like portfolio companies struggling to raise money or people struggling to raise more venture capital dollars or family offices getting interested in the asset class. So There aren’t those signs now! That isn’t to say that things might not pop but it doesn’t look like things are gradually cooling by any stretch.I also think that the other piece of this is our country’s and our world’s approach to entrepreneurship has changed and I and I think it’s going to continue to change so that so that in some sense the supply of entrepreneurs  is only growing and so it can actually support a quite robust venture ecosystem with an almost new approach to employment. So it’s not just that more people are starting startups but it’s that fewer and fewer people are having careers in just one profession and they’re without a side hustle of some sort. You and I both have podcasts for example. I mean that’s entrepreneurship right? and I think we’re just seeing the tools that are available and the societal norms and and and a variety of different factors are coming together to enable everyone to to have whether it’s a side hustle or a side hustle that becomes a startup or you know a new business and I think people are just that that. Career path has been D-riss. You don’t have to, you know, do a startup and therefore live off ramen or that sort of thing. Um, you know there’s less Stigma. So anyways, the whole ecosystem is interconnected and and has remained what I know everything I see is still extremely strong.

Pemo Right? And that particularly during the crisis so like in the last year and a half or so have you noticed any differences or than before.

Minnie Yeah I mean a lot of that has a lot of that has really um, ah exacerbated or or accelerated during the crisis which is the valuations. Um, a lot of that has only accelerated and I don’t really think.  The crisis has almost not been the key factor. I think in a lot of that I think it’s actually been more probably seeing the Crossover investors as in public traditionally Public Market Investors um entering the private markets more and more and what we just saw with Sequoia which is private Market investors bleeding into the public markets and so that merging of the worlds has led to more money in the private markets.

Pemo Right? And also with so much remote work I gather some investors have mentioned this that it used to be quite parochial where VCs wanted to invest where they were based and now almost like that’s not happening anymore or can’t happen anymore with the world going virtual. So do you have any perspectives on that at all?

Minnie Yeah, yeah, I think that’s true, which is now we’re, you know, getting much more comfortable investing and meeting people over zoom. I also think that when I was first starting my entrepreneurial journey or just even early at Google it was more of a black box and so actually. Entrepreneurs ah more felt the need to go you know join an accelerator or move to the Bay area to rub elbows with other founders or other investors. Um, and now you know universities all over the world. Ah, and others. You know, Non -university institutions are teaching entrepreneurship. It. It’s been demystified in a really accessible way. So it’s not just the VC dollars the investors can invest in other places. It’s that entrepreneurs are being born in other locations. And I have 1 caveat to that a little bit.  Well I said that I’m mostly a B2B Investor I think in certain fields. It’s easier to um, grow ecosystems. Um and what I would say is if you’re building a company that is selling into the enterprise. The muscle of a product manager who’s built a product for Enterprise and understands you know Enterprise Security and Enterprise the authentication and all of those concerns is different similarly with the enterprise sales that muscle is harder to come. Without experience. Um, and so I think when L a got started. It was a lot more on things like mobile apps like snap is sort of the classic example that where from LA decade ago. And so what you saw I think is some of the ah areas that. That LA started in were ones that were sort of easier to get going without that plethora of experience. But now with you know with decades later of experience I think we now have those people who have that muscle of doing more sort of later stage and sort of more Enterprise focused company building.

Pemo That’s a really good insight and I have to ask this question because you’re based in LA. How has the supply chain crisis or the global shipping crisis affected startups? There is a whole lot of new innovation. Starting to pop up around this these issues that have occurred over the last year and a half

Minnie Yeah I think it’s a really good question. I think that um you know as you may know, southern California Los Angeles has the largest port in the United States as well as the second largest port in the United States. It’s the largest manufacturing city in the United States um, and so.

Minnie So there’s so very much affected by this global crisis and you know, kind of like what you so alluded to with our Covid crisis crises are sort of good for entrepreneurship because.  Everyone then is looking for new and innovative solutions and so I have an investment in a company called VendorFlow is a communications layer for the transportation industry and you know it’s sort of shocking but even in today’s day and age.

Minnie Let’s say freight Brokers communicating with freight carriers. They send email. They use Whatsapp they send sms but it is not efficient and so they might email someone and say can you know? Do you have a truck available to go from point A to Point B and it needs to have refrigeration and the person might reply back I don’t have a refrigeration truck and then four months later you know you don’t have a CRM system set up. You don’t have that communication sort of layered in with your CRM system and so you. You reply back Again. You know four months later hey do you have a refrigeration truck and the answer is again. No and so there’s a lot in that sort of global supply chain. I’m just using Vendorflow as 1 example, where things can get more efficient and can have technology that enables or fixes. A lot of the things that are broken.

Pemo Right? Ah Minnie just to finish off what’s your takeaway from what we’ve all gone through in the last year and a half? It’s just the elephant in the room so I have to finish with that piece. What’s your takeaway from the crisis?

Minnie Ah, many different things. Um on the 1 hand we’ve shook up a lot and some of those pieces are going to land very differently at the end hopefully of this crisis and. And some of that will be positive and obviously so some will be a challenge. For a lot of people and children. Um, but you know some things like the assumption that we all had to travel and go into the office and meet people face to face a lot of those have a lot of positive things. Very positive on medicine and just amazing things coming out of really sort of the intersection of technology and health and medicine. And really being able to apply artificial intelligence to the way we do things like. Genomics or proteins. Um and and then so very positive on sort of the opportunities there. And you know I think that ‘s just. General crisis in America is around the bottom half of society sort of being left behind and I think the crisis has accentuated that in in negative ways and so ah, but that’s not really just the crisis that’s sort of the state of the world that we’re in right now and so. If anything, Hopefully it’s even more of a wake up call on what we need to do to make sure that you know we’re not leaving people behind and you know children aren’t at home without access to um, the learning and the technology and the resources that that the top half of Society has.

Pemo And of course at the same time that covid crisis hit, the climate change crisis seemed to heat up and intensify. Although you know I’m quite old and I’ve been focused on that since my twenties. But it seems like everyone now has to pay attention to what has also impacted in the sense of their startups coming in with innovation around climate change. Great.

Minnie Yeah, absolutely and I think ah maybe a decade ago. There was maybe even more than that decade ago when a lot of ah Silicon Valley Funds made bets on um, clean tech and now we call it climate tech. We’ve changed the term  but I think that 10 years ago there was a need to invest in projects that were infrastructure projects. There were hundreds of millions of dollars. and now there’s still that mandate that need. But there’s also a lot. Those infrastructure projects have matured. You know we have huge solar farms and wind and so now there’s also a lot of startups that might be more in the wheelhouse of something that that my fund could do which are software projects that are less capital intensive projects that are you know. Artificial intelligence applied to grid optimization or to battery testing or you know different things that are that that aren’t a you know? yeah half a billion dollar buildout. And so that’s exciting, which is that there’s a lot of different funds.

Pemo Yeah. Fantastic! Look absolutely interesting and delightful to talk with you Minnie today and I’ll definitely hopefully include a link to your podcast so people can tune in to your podcast as well.

Minnie Can do LA Venture podcast

Pemo Really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.