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Abbie Strabala: Changing the Fundraising Narrative for Female Founders

Abbie Strabala: Changing the Fundraising Narrative for Female Founders

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Abbie Strabala, an associate at True Wealth Ventures. Let’s learn about what’s happening at True Wealth Ventures and how Abbie is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Abbie, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through True Wealth Ventures?

Abbie: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Increasing representation of those who haven't historically sat at the table. True Wealth Ventures invests in early-stage, women-led companies improving human or environmental health. In 2022, across the US, 2% of venture capital (VC) dollars went to all-female-founded companies, according to PitchBook. For companies with a male in the founding leadership, that number jumped to 14.9%. For all-female teams, the numbers have changed little in the last ten years. In fact, VC dollars for all-female companies sat at 2% in 2012 and peaked at 2.9% in 2013. Meanwhile, the trajectory for male and female teams more than doubled from 6.9% in that decade. True Wealth Ventures hopes to change that narrative for female founders.

Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?

Abbie: It all started with contraception for me. Despite massive user dissatisfaction with the current methods, I couldn't figure out why few in VC were investing in it. I started looking into firms solving that and found my dream job at RH Capital, investing in women's health startups. Yet fundraising was always a challenge for them. How could solutions serving 51% of the population receive only about 14% of VC dollars? The more you dig into the numbers, the clearer it becomes that gender plays a significant role. With 80% of VCs being men, but 80% of healthcare, and 85% of consumer purchase decisions being made by women, there is a clear disconnect in who receives funding. That's what I'm trying to change.

Spiffy: How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?

Abbie: Our goal is to change the gender dynamic in the VC industry, hopefully. We continue to invest in fantastic women entrepreneurs who are solving critical problems for the environment or human health. We focus on getting them wildly successful exits so they can make a lot of money and scale their solutions into the world, and our investors, 80% women, can also make fantastic returns. Women have been shown to reinvest 80% of their wealth back into their communities, their families, and their health. That’s the long-term goal; to have this virtuous cycle of women doing great things, making a lot of money, and continuing to reinvest that into creating a better world.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?

Abbie: To change the VC industry, we need to change the way it looks across all levels. We aim to increase the overall participation of women investing in the VC ecosystem, from female founders, to female investment decision-makers, to female limited partners. We conduct quarterly "VC Primer" education sessions geared towards women interested in investing, to help demystify VC, and unlock a new opportunity to generate wealth. As you may know, you have to be invited to invest in a VC fund and subsequently benefit from VC returns. What we found during our firm fundraising process is that too often, women aren't asked. We hope to change that through these sessions.

Spiffy: Can you share an inspiring startup that your organization has helped to advance its impact?

Abbie: As an impact firm, we actually have inspiring startup stories for all of our portfolio companies. If I have to choose one to highlight, it would be Refiberd, a textile sorting and recycling system that uses artificial intelligence and robotics to convert post-consumer garments into new 100% recycled thread. Using their technology, more than 90% of the textile waste stream can be recycled (vs fewer than 15% today). One of my first tasks after joining True Wealth Ventures, during my first week—I went to their office for a site visit. Sara and Kerry (my two general partners at the company) had been pretty deep in diligence and were getting ready to offer a term sheet to lead their seed financing. We led the deal, closed the round; now the company is launching pilots with brands, and the impact can be seen in real life.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Abbie: Embrace your curiosity. Just keep letting it guide where you should go next.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Abbie—it’s been an honor!

Abbie Strabala is an associate at True Wealth Ventures. She previously worked at RH Capital, investing in women's health startups driving innovation, access, and equity across the reproductive and maternal health landscape. She also runs QVC, a network group for LGBTQ+ identifying VCs. (Nominated by Patrick Driscoll at Chasing Rainbows. First published on the Ladderworks website on September 20, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Shikha Tandon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.