How Elizabeth Davis Supports Female Founders Through Financial Services

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” comprises stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.

Elizabeth Davis, investor at Anthemis, is committed to supporting female founders and providing companies with the best financial services to succeed. 

Davis always had one goal in mind: to empower women. She started her career working in sustainability at The Coca-Cola Co. before venturing into the entrepreneurial space. That was when she realized how many female founders struggle to receive funding. With this in mind, Davis went to business school and began her career in venture capital working with Anthemis, an organization that aims to bridge the gap between women founders and available funding opportunities. 

In this Q&A, Davis shares her journey to becoming an investor, what she looks for in founders when making investments, and what advice she has for those interested in getting into the VC space. 

Q: Tell us a bit about Anthemis. What’s the firm’s core theses, what types of companies do you invest in, and at what stage?

Anthemis is an early-stage venture capital firm committed to cultivating change in financial services. We have made more than 100 investments in fintech and insurtech companies with hundreds of millions of dollars of assets under management with offices in London, New York, and Geneva. Anthemis is led by three key guiding principles: authentic collaboration, virtuous cycle outcomes, and diversity, equity and inclusion. I am an investor at the Female Innovators Lab by Barclays and Anthemis. The Female Innovators Lab was launched in 2019, dedicated to investing in female founders in fintech in the pre-seed and seed stages.


Q: Tell us about your career journey. At what point in your career did you decide to work as an investor and why?

I started my career working at The Coca-Cola Co. on its global sustainability team. I had an amazing opportunity to work around the world, from India and China, to Turkey and Atlanta, and became enthralled in the work that Coca-Cola was doing to economically empower 5 million women. 

I was so inspired by these incredible women that I decided to leave Coca-Cola to go to the entrepreneurial side and become a co-founder of a purpose-consulting firm, On Purpose, with the “Mother of Cause Marketing,” Carol Cone, working with companies like Staples, Aflac and LG. I was in charge of developing and implementing their social impact and purpose strategy. 

While at On Purpose, I was recruited to join Worn, a mission-driven creative and digital agency focused on female founders, and fell in love with helping founders build their businesses. At Worn, so many of the founders we worked with struggled to get funded by venture capitalists. I realized that I wanted to be the one driving capital to female founders,  so I decided to leave Worn to go to business school to pursue a career in VC. I now help increase the 2.3 percent of venture capital funding that goes to women. 


Q: What do you look for when considering a company or idea for investment?

At the Female Innovators Lab, we look to invest in companies at the earliest stages of their journey. Because we look to invest so early, we place a big emphasis on the team and why they are uniquely positioned to solve the problem they are looking to solve. 

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to identifying successful founders in terms of age, education, or work experience. We look for founders who have deep subject matter expertise in the industry, have a different perception of a problem, are resilient, and are able to sell the vision to employees, investors and customers. We will also look at the company’s unique value proposition, customer acquisition and go-to-market strategy, the white space opportunity, and if this is something that needs to exist. 


Q: What types of companies are most exciting to you?

Embedded finance—creating a system that is powerful, intuitive, and invisible—is core to our thesis at Anthemis. Personally, I couldn’t imagine a more exciting sector to invest in. Financial services is one of the most regulated industries in the world, and for good reason. It touches every single person in some way shape or form. This intersection of regulation, technology, incumbent processes, and challengers requires specific domain expertise that sector-focused funds like Anthemis have acquired over the past 10 years. 

We believe that investors should prioritize diversity across all funds and vehicles and recognize the need for more focused efforts to support underrepresented groups, and that we should help build the companies we want to see in the world. 


Q: What advice do you have for others either looking to join an investment firm or to start one of their own?

Investors come from such varied backgrounds. There’s this misconception that you need a specific background to become a venture capitalist, but there is no “right” path to becoming an investor. If you’re interested in investing I would think about what stage you are most interested in, if you are excited about a specific sector or if you want to be a generalist, and if you have a location that you specifically want to be in. I would then focus on firms that match those three criteria. 

From there, start building out your own personal CRM of companies that you are tracking and founders you have talked to. If you have the opportunity, I would look to make a handful of angel investments to show that you have gone through the investment process, even if you haven’t worked at an institutional fund. These checks don’t have to be large, but they can be incredibly important to understanding the investment process. 


Q: Do you mentor aspiring investors? Do you feel that these opportunities are important for the future of the industry?

Absolutely. When I first got into venture, I had some incredible mentors along the way, including my venture angel, Stephanie Manning Cohen, who is an operating partner at Lerer Hippeau, and my husband, Justin Saslaw, who is a partner at Social Capital. They both were instrumental in flagging job opportunities that could be interesting, preparing me for interviews, and answering a million and one questions about venture. I currently am a mentor through the BLCK VC Path Program and have been a mentor for Future VC in the past. I also sit on the advisory board for The Vinetta Project to drive more capital to women founders. 


Q: What can be done to allocate more funding to female founders and to increase the number of female investors?

We need to invest in companies that are led by women and build products that are focused on the main problems women currently face, build diverse boards, and encourage every participant within the entrepreneurial system—from early-stage founders, venture capitalists, capital allocators, investment bankers, attorneys, government regulators, to the stock exchanges—to act on gender diversity. We also need to encourage more women to pursue investment roles, whether that is thinking about roles during undergrad or creating pathways for women who are getting MBAs.


Q: What advice would you give to a company or founder wanting to pitch you?

  1. Make sure that you are a fintech female founder in the pre-seed or seed stage and haven’t raised institutional capital. 
  2. Check to make sure that your company isn’t competitive to any of the Anthemis portfolio companies. 
  3. Find some sort of connection (i.e., Did you go to the same university or are we from the same state?). 
  4. Put together a pitch deck and an investment memo and send them prior to our call so I can dig in.
  5. Be yourself! I want to get to know you, why you created this business, why you’re uniquely positioned to solve this problem, and why you’re the next founder we want to invest in. 

Elizabeth Davis is a member of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies extraordinary entrepreneurial women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection and high-impact resources. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to their monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and and career resources.

  • Originally published September 16, 2021, updated April 26, 2023