Before the 2016 election, Vice Ventures founder and general partner Catharine Dockery was bullish about the future of recreational cannabis in the United States.
“We saw quite a bit more optimism around national legalization, with the feeling that a wave of states legalizing recreational use would be the final push needed” to see drug reform, she said. It was good news for Dockery, who was planning to launch a firm investing in categories like cannabis, CBD, psychedelics and sextech.
She announced a $ 25 million fund in June 2019, but the national policy landscape had shifted considerably.
“The vitriol and division around the election really haven’t left room for substantive discussions. I think this will eventually change, but don’t have high hopes for much policy debate until the election is complete, if at all,” she said. “In a time of uncertainty, we’re taking a small step back.”
Along with many VC firms, Vice Ventures has raised the bar regarding which startups it will fund, but several investors told TechCrunch they were split about how they’re making decisions in the closing days of the presidential campaign. After a booming summer, some said momentum is increasing, while others told us that expectations have never been higher for startups.
“If anything, the pace is increasing,” said Alexa Von Tobel of Inspired Capital. Traditionally, she said founders scale back on fundraising efforts close to the winter holidays because investors’ vacation mentality is kicking in. This year, “I think we’ll continue to see founders taking advantage of the ample flow of capital right now and shore up resources so they can enter 2021 on strong footing,” she said.
While that may be good news for founders, Von Tobel said Inspired Capital is not giving too much weight to the election internally.
“We think of ourselves as patient capital, focused on looking for the best companies no matter the timing,” she said. “While we know the election will create noise and have an impact on businesses long-term, it does not have a place in our process right now.”
Inspired Capital invests more broadly in the early-stage environment, which plays a part in its ability to invest through crises and turbulence. It seems that firms that have more niche investment theses have been more likely to change their pace ahead of the election.
With TechCrunch Disrupt happening last month, I fell behind on watching accelerator demo days. It’s time to correct that oversight.
In August and September, the Techstars network of startup accelerators held demo days for various classes of startups, grouped by either geographic location or focus. Kansas City, for example, or space.
With October upon us, there’s another crop of Techstars demo days around the corner. To prevent falling further behind, let’s take a look at a few startups from Techstars’ September cohorts (and two from August) this morning to get primed for what the accelerator collective and venture fund will get up to next.
To find six favorites to share today, I dug through startups from Techstars’ Kansas City accelerator (full class here), its SportsTech Melbourne accelerator (full class here), its Toronto cohort (full class here), and its Tel Aviv location (full class here). You can find TechCrunch coverage of Techstars’ two space accelerators here, and their full classes here and here.
Before we jump in, this month Techstars has cohorts graduating from another five accelerators, including groups from LA, NYC, Atlanta, and more. So, there will be no shortage of startups to look at in short order. With that, let’s get into some favorites from the the past groups.
Favorites and standouts
We’ll start with the Kansas City accelerator. Kansas City, where my parents are from, incidentally, is a locale best known for its culinary magic and musical history, not to mention a famous sports team or two. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Techstars also had a foothold in the city.