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How Madeline Darcy is Bringing More Diversity to Venture Capital

The Crunchbase “Female Investors Series” is comprised of stories, Q&As and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies, or investing in them.

This article is part of the Crunchbase Community Contributor Series. The author is an expert in their field and a Crunchbase user. We are honored to feature and promote their contribution on the Crunchbase blog.

Please note that the author is not employed by Crunchbase and the opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect official views or opinions of Crunchbase, Inc. 


Madeline Darcy, founder and managing partner of Kaya Ventures, is passionate about expanding access to capital for women and BIPOC founders, and on a mission to build a healthier, happie, and more empowered future. 

After a career in management consulting, Darcy saw an opportunity to shift gears into venture capital so she could have a greater impact and continuously learn alongside the founders she backed. Darcy kicked off her career in venture capital as a venture fellow at Austin-based G51 and has been working in the field ever since.

We asked Darcy about her journey as an investor, what resources have helped get her to where she is today, and her best advice for those looking to pitch to investors. 


Q: How did you begin your career?

My first job was at McDonald’s at 14 years old—the legal working age in Australia at the time. It was there I learned the tenets of customer service and the importance of showing up. As a bonus, I also learned how to perfectly swirl a soft serve. I then went on to work at The Walt Disney Co. in-store operations, then as an Apple campus Rep. I quickly gained a deep appreciation for the power of consumer brands and the innovation made possible through strategy and technology. 

 

Q: When did you first get interested in investing?

My interest in investing started with personal finance. I made early mistakes while learning how to invest my 401k and Roth IRA and knew it was an area where I wanted to sharpen my skill set. I joined my university’s investment club and fiercely googled my way through Investopedia articles until I learned the art of the stock pitch. 

Entering management consulting was an entirely new learning curve. At Oliver Wyman, I was fortunate to work with amazing teammates and clients who are now close friends and mentors. I partnered with consumer-facing businesses and gained deep experience in growth strategy, new business development, and mergers and acquisitions. Digital and omnichannel were top of mind for many executives, and many strategics were looking to emerging brands for acquisition.

When I left consulting, venture capital seemed like a perfect fit as it combined my love of problem-solving, building things and people. I knew it was a space where I could have an impact while also continuously learning. I was fortunate to reconnect with a mentor who had built his own firm in Austin and started my first role in VC as a fellow, sourcing and evaluating tech deals. I’ve been in venture investing at the intersection of consumer and technology ever since. 

 

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

I’m most excited about companies that are expanding access to health and wellness. I believe these brands and platforms will win through creating: 

1) Solutions for underserved demographics—this includes (but is not limited to) women, aging and lower-income populations;

2) Accessibility—more targeted physical distribution and digital enablement; and

3) Affordability—new pricing models and/or financing solutions.

I’m excited for a future that enables people to be more empowered and engaged in their health in a way that’s not exclusively a luxury product or offering. Wellness shouldn’t just be for the 1 percent—we need to look at who is solving for the other 99 percent. 

 

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

I’m incredibly grateful for those who have mentored me across various points in my career and do my best to pay it forward. I’m active across several diverse investor communities including All Raise, Women in VC, Harvard Business School, and Synergist, which all provide structured programs and informal opportunities for folks to build stronger relationships and networks. 

Communities like these are instrumental to the future of our industry. Research consistently shows that diverse teams outperform, and getting more diverse investors into our industry is often a function of networking and knowing where opportunities exist. 

 

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

We have a long way to go, as only 5 percent of VC Partners are women, and only 2 percent of VC dollars go to female founders. But I’m optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction. 

Building diverse networks and taking a more data-driven approach toward accountability are great places to start. I encourage investors to look at opportunities to mentor women both within and outside of their firms and to actively track the data both in their hiring and deal-flow funnels. 

 

Q: Which books, podcasts, educational programs, or other resources have been most helpful to you?

There are so many! I am extremely grateful for the amazing teachers and mentors I’ve had throughout my career, and have also learned from so many folks I’ve never met.

If you’re looking for a good place to start, I recommend the following:

 

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

Tell a story that is authentic to your brand and that clearly communicates the size of the opportunity. Ultimately, investors need to understand not only where your business is today, but what key levers will get you to be a sizable business with strong exit opportunities. 

Remember that a “no” is often a “not right now” and keep in touch with investors along the journey. Continue to update them on your progress and keep developing your funnel. 

Finally—always believe in yourself! You’ve got this.


Madeline Darcy 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 career resources.

  • Originally published March 3, 2022