Interview With Ariana Thacker
Fund / GroupConscience VC
LocationLos Angeles / Miami
Focus Areas“Consumer x Science” (Consumer Tech, Deep Tech, AI/ML)
Focus GeographiesNorth America
Stage(s)Pre-Seed and Seed
HOW AND WHY DID YOU GET STARTED IN PRIVATE INVESTING?
In one word: founders.
I love working with founders -- they are the most ambitious people on the planet, and their work is incredibly underrated. Founders are solving the world’s toughest problems, driving the economy, creating new jobs, and continuously challenging the status quo to improve our way of life. Early in my career I fell in love with startups, and saw private investing as the best way to drive impact and support entrepreneurs in the innovation ecosystem.
I see my work as the combination of being a super-headhunter (you’re effectively “hiring” who you’d want to see running a company, voted for by your investment), a lifelong student (you never stop learning as an investor), and a customer service role (your job is to serve your founders and LPs, aka your “customers”) wrapped into one, supported by a business model that is much more scalable than a consulting practice (as an investor, you get to work with several founders concurrently).
WHAT IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU VALUE IN AN INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY?
It’s hard to pick just one, but the strength of the founder(s).
WHAT ARE THE BEST INNOVATION THEMES THAT YOU SEE IN THE MARKET TODAY?
The intersection I’m currently pioneering - the convergence of consumer and science.
BEYOND ECONOMIC RETURN, WHAT KIND OF IMPACT DO YOU HOPE TO MAKE WITH YOUR PORTFOLIO?
Not to sound cliche, as I mean this quite sincerely - expanding and enabling access to technology to better lives, drive environmental and social impact, and create new opportunities for all groups. The portfolio aligns well with these goals. In fact, the word “Conscience” is also fun word play for “conscious”, underlining that beyond seeking an economic return with our investment, we emphasize investing in an ethical and socially responsible way. To this end, over 50% of the portfolio to date has female or minority founders, and the investments often touch upon the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
WHAT ARE THE MOST PRESSING CHALLENGES OR PAIN POINTS IN MANAGING YOUR DAY-TO-DAY PRIVATE INVESTMENT ACTIVITY?
The primary challenge, or constraint, at this stage, is around processing power as a solo-GP. In fund 2, I anticipate this problem manifesting as difficulty finding A+ investment talent that can thoughtfully diligence opportunities in this intersection. There really is a gap of investors able to underwrite consumer-science companies. There are many opportunities that I am fielding on a daily basis -- incredible investors that can navigate the wide landscape and quickly come to decisions are rare. I am constantly on the lookout for this talent.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST INVESTMENT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED AND/OR THE BIGGEST INVESTMENT MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE?
The strength of the founders and founding team is the most critical ingredient for success at the early stages. I find myself spending more time underwriting the founders’ psychology, and their relevant experiences, leadership abilities, and intrinsic motivations in diligence. Historically, I’ve prioritized and vetted technical defensibility and market, which are of course important too.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE INDUSTRY INFORMATION SOURCES AND/OR SERVICES?
I love podcasts - I often bounce between many investor and technology centric shows on my morning walks. Other than that, I absorb pertinent information from regularly meeting with other GPs and reading their content.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE NON-BUSINESS INTEREST OR HOBBY?
PLEASE LEAVE US A BOOK RECOMMENDATION (BUSINESS OR OTHERWISE).
Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet is one of the most underrated books for entrepreneurs. I strongly recommend it.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THE PRIVATE MARKET OVERALL?
Hmm, it’s difficult to assign a number as this really depends on where you operate (sector, stage, geography, and offering). For early-stage, particularly pre-seed venture capital, generally I am bullish. Where I am operating specifically in the ecosystem, a 10.
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