Kim Seals, General Partner at The JumpFund
Kim is an investor in early-stage technology, health care, energy, fintech, and consumer products companies. Since 2013, The JumpFund has invested in more than 30 woman-led, Southeast-based companies across our two venture capital funds.
She has over twenty-five years of global expertise in human resource consulting, corporate and leadership roles. Kim’s experience includes leading M&A transactions, service delivery transformation, talent, compensation, benefits and recruiting program design, as well as technology development, selection and implementations.
Kim received a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Louisiana State University.
Connect with Kim on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Funding 101
- The ROI of investing in women
- Southeast entrepreneur ecosystem
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Welcome back to the start of Showdown podcast where we discuss pitching, funding and scaling startups. Join us as we interview winners, mentors and judges of the monthly $120,000 pitch competition powered by Panoramic Ventures. We also discuss the latest updates in software Web3, Healthcare, Tech, FinTech, and more. Now sit tight as we interview this week’s guest and their journey through entrepreneurship.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:38] Lee Kantor here another episode of Startup Showdown, and this is going to be a fun one. Today on the show, we have Kim Seals and she is with the jump fund. Welcome, Kim.
Kim Seals: [00:00:49] Hi, Lee. How are you?
Lee Kantor: [00:00:51] I am doing well. I’m so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about the jump fund.
Kim Seals: [00:00:56] Sure. Happy to do it. The junk bond is what we would call a micro VC, which means we’re a smaller size venture capital firm. We’re focused on investing in gender diverse women led startups here in the Southeast. We invest across all industries. So it’s really about are you headquartered in the southeast? Are you do you have a gender diverse leadership team? And then after that, it’s very traditional early stage startup metrics as we look to decide if we’ll make an investment or not. We started back in 2013, and in that time since then, we’ve invested in over 30 startups around the Southeast in just about every industry. So we are really excited about the progress we’ve made in our goal to get more capital in the hands of female entrepreneurs.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:46] Now, what’s your back story? How’d you get involved in this line of work?
Kim Seals: [00:01:49] It’s actually a little bit of a different path. I’m not I don’t have a background in finance or investment or anything like that. I actually have a background in HR and talent strategy. And back in 2013 I was at mercer and we mercer’s a large global h.r. Consulting firm. We were doing some work with the world economic forum at that point on the mission around keeping more women in the workforce on par with men. And as I was looking at some of the research that Mercer did in conjunction with the World Economic Forum and was showing the real economic imperative behind this, really the ability to affect the GDP of countries if you can get and keep women in the workforce rates on par with men. I started looking to see was anyone really solving this problem? Where were women going when they were leaving the work place? And what I saw pretty clearly was many of them were leaving to start their own businesses and becoming entrepreneurs, as maybe there were some frustration with what was happening in traditional corporate roles. Maybe they needed more flexibility to be calling their own shots, whatever it might be. But women were starting companies at rates even higher than men, but they weren’t getting the funding. And I started looking at how I could be a part of helping to solve that problem and sort of becoming doing investing on my own as an angel investor through Golden Seeds up in New York.
Kim Seals: [00:03:12] And it was there that I met one of my fellow jump from partners, Christina Montague, who was also looking to solve the same problem. And she was looking to start a fund here in the Southeast. So she asked me if I would get involved and invest some money in the fund, help take some of my HR background, help coach some of the entrepreneurs that we were investing in. Because one of the things we know is a lot of women entrepreneurs are first time founders. They don’t really know how to grow and scale a company. You do a lot of that through your people strategy who you hire. And it was just on from there. I mean, again, it was a very nontraditional path and to becoming an investor myself. But I really enjoyed it over the last what are we going on nine years now and and really have found that my background in HR and strategy has been an interesting add to our team as we look at the entrepreneurs that we’re investing in and then how do we coach them through the lifetime of our investment?
Lee Kantor: [00:04:09] Now, you mentioned that there was some research that was part of, I guess, the impetus for you to pursue this. Can you share a little bit about that and and share a little bit about the disparity about how many women own firms get funded versus men? Because I think it is eye opening and not everybody is aware of of those kind of statistics. You probably don’t have them all off the top of your head, but you probably have kind of a general ballpark idea of what they are.
Kim Seals: [00:04:39] Sure. Absolutely. In the last several years, there’s been a lot of even some more updated tracking since what I was talking about back in the day. And the numbers are still pretty grim, right. If you look at the total amount of venture capital dollars that get allocated, it’s still something disappointing. Like less than 3% of that money goes to women led organizations. And that’s that’s really the problem that we’ve been trying to solve. And we’re trying to help these female founders get access to capital in a way that they have not been able to do traditionally. If you look at angel investment dollars, the numbers are better, right? So maybe 20%, I think was the last number I saw, close to 20% of investment dollars of angels go to women led companies. But when you’re in more traditional VC, it’s still a very small number. And then when you add on the component of race and you look at black founders, the number is even smaller. Like I think it’s somewhere around 1%. So. We’re pretty passionate about helping to solve this problem and helping these founders find the capital they need. Because on the flip side, the data also shows that women led companies are outperforming and are very capable of becoming big, scalable startups that deserve this investment.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:54] And that’s where the rubber hits the road in this in the business, right? Where the ROI of investing in women is very good and really doesn’t warrant the lack of investment if people just go by the numbers.
Kim Seals: [00:06:08] That’s right. And part of the way to solve this problem is to get more women in check records, because we know that women get a more direct, more thorough look at their at their startup or investment when there are women in the mix that are helping to evaluate these companies, because not always, but many times women are solving problems and challenges that directly impact women. And what we see is if you don’t have women in there listening to your pitch, you may be missing that perspective of really how big is this problem? Who wants to pay you to solve this problem? How big is that total addressable market? So when you’re dealing with with some of that, you can get eliminate some of those biases of perhaps the audience you’re pitching to, not understanding your product solution company. And so I think certainly when we’re talking about companies that are solving problems that that target women, it’s certainly helpful to have women in the room listening to the pitch. Right. And to jump at the jump ball. We have invested in companies beyond that, we’ve invested in clean tech, energy, 3D printing, medical device. But again, it is a part of the problem that there aren’t enough women out there that our check writers.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:18] Right. I’ve had the pleasure to interview some women that are involved in the fem care and then they weren’t getting funding because it wasn’t on the radar of a guy. Like it was something that they don’t even want to think about it. And they said they’re just passing where a woman is like, Oh, that’s a real problem. This is something this like so obvious. Thank you for sharing. Like, it’s a big it’s a totally different way of looking at it, but the guy doesn’t have that perspective and the woman lives it. So that’s real. Like this is that’s why it’s important to have everybody in the room and have that representation.
Kim Seals: [00:07:54] Yeah. I’ll give you one more data point that really backs up what you’re saying, which is every BI decision in every household, at least 85 to 90% of the time is made by a woman. And when you’re talking about health care related decisions, that number goes up exponentially into the high nineties. So if women are your buyer, then you’ve got to know more about that perspective. And so it just tells you that we should be looking at how this money is getting allocated and are we missing the real opportunity for a big ROI on our investments if we were investing in more women led companies.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:30] Right. And it doesn’t it’s not it doesn’t have to be a oh, that’s a nice thing to do. It’s a good business thing to do. Like. Right. It’s it’s great that you have kind of a female led fund that’s all in in this. And that’s super important. But it should be it shouldn’t be unusual. It should be part of all funds.
Kim Seals: [00:08:51] It shouldn’t. And I’ll I’d say I think it’s probably close to now 85 to 90% of our LP base are actually women as well. So we went after a thesis that women would invest in this asset class and women would invest in other women as another way to also make that point, that you should be engaging more women as entrepreneurs, as investors, as LPs, that women are. They play an important part in this entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:22] Right. And it sounds like you’re taking kind of a big role in building out this community.
Kim Seals: [00:09:28] We have been we were, I think, one of the first funds to come in and focus exclusively on women. We are seeing more do that now. And it was but back when we were doing it in 2013, we were getting a lot of feedback that our focus was too narrow. We were cutting ourselves off from good deals by only looking at women led companies. We were told we wouldn’t find investors. So we’re pleased to be sitting here nine years later with exits under our belt and having successfully deploy capital across two different funds.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:00] Now, you mentioned some of the industries you’re in. Are you like kind of totally industry agnostic?
Kim Seals: [00:10:07] We are. There are some industries where we feel like we don’t have a lot of expertize like food and beverage. That’s one we kind of tend to stay away from. But if people want to go to our website, the jump fund, our portfolio companies are all out there. They can take a look at them and they can see we’re in fintech, health care, tech, energy, traditional software service, we’re in HR and talent type spaces. So we really have invested pretty broadly. Across many of the industries.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:38] So now when you’re talking to a founder, what are some of the kind of green lights and red lights and yellow lights like? What do you like to see? What is kind of a turn off for you where you’re like, Oh, this is not going to be a good fit? Can you share a little bit of that for the people who are founders that are listening? Sure.
Kim Seals: [00:10:58] You know, obviously, we want to see companies that can grow and scale to be bigger companies. So we do look at the market opportunity. We look at the market size, total addressable market. So we have very standard criteria around there. We want to see traction. We want to see some proof points that that the problem that you’re solving is one that people will pay you to solve. But but when we look at the founder and our team, we want to make sure that you have a coachable, capable leadership team. We want to make sure that you understand the numbers and the financial metrics around your business. One of the red flags for me is that we are talking to a founder who doesn’t understand the economics of their business. So when we say what is the business model, how will you make money? What do you think is happening with your expenses? What do you see as your forecast over the next couple of years? If we have a founder who who can’t speak in detail and with a level of confidence about those financial projections, that’s one of those red flags for us that would make us pause and say, is this the right entrepreneur for us to invest in now?
Lee Kantor: [00:12:04] Is that do you have as part of your community or your ecosystem, a place for that person who may be just isn’t ready for you but has their heart in the right place and has, you know, the desire, but maybe just isn’t there yet from a, you know, skill set in terms of ready to launch a business and have a conversation with investors.
Kim Seals: [00:12:25] Sure. I mean, if I think about just Atlanta alone, there are so many great resources here in Atlanta for someone who’s just starting out, who needs more coaching and needs to get ready to ta ta and learn more about their business before they’re ready to take outside investors. We are at the jump fund and investor in a in a fund called the Fearless Fund. And this Fearless Fund has a a program called Get Venture Ready. And that’s exactly what their purpose is, is to take in. And in fact, there’s specifically focused on women of color who have started businesses and helping them get the grounding business principles they need and learn more about how to grow and scale their business before they ever start taking on outside funding. So programs like that Atlanta Tech Village has programs. They have a whole summer school program that has a nice curriculum that helps you with some fundamentals as you’re looking to to start your business or grow your business at D.C.. The city of Atlanta has the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, where they select 15 female entrepreneurs and put them in a 15 month cohort and help them learn some of the things they may not be as well versed in that they need to know to be to move from that founder to that CEO role. So a number of different resources that we will refer entrepreneurs to if we feel like they’re too early for us. And then we’ll track them. We’ll say, add us to your distribution list. Keep us posted on the progress of your company. And who knows, we might come back around again and be ready to make an investment later on.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:02] Now, how did you find out about Startup Showdown and Panoramic Ventures? How did that get on your radar?
Kim Seals: [00:14:10] We are co invested with panoramic in a couple of deals, so I know the team over there know one pretty well and they reached out and asked me if I would be a judge and one of their sessions, I believe it was late last year and it was a great experience and I was happy to do it.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:26] Now, any advice for a founder that’s going through an event like Startup Showdown or they’re kind of some do’s and don’ts you can recommend them for them?
Kim Seals: [00:14:35] You know, I think it’s really important that you take advantage of the opportunity to be in this in this program, because there’s some mentoring and coaching that happens as they are looking to select those top companies that actually make it to the startup showdown. So I think that’s important to to to do those mentoring sessions to learn at your meeting some really interesting people that have donated their time to to help coach you. So I really do encourage folks to do that. And the second thing I’ll encourage you is practice your pitch, because you’ve only got a very brief amount of time. You need to be really concise and thoughtful about what you’re saying when you’re up there pitching. And how do you convey the really the important details of what we need to know about your company so that you’re positioning yourself to win to win the startup showdown?
Lee Kantor: [00:15:22] Now, having you mentioned earlier that you’re coming from a kind of a nontraditional path into this world. Is there anything about your background that is maybe a superpower of yours that is different than some? The other folks that are in this industry?
Kim Seals: [00:15:38] Well, I think it’s the piece around HR and talent strategy and my ability to coach the entrepreneurs as they’re looking to bring on new talent. Many times we invest in this in these companies when they were much smaller, maybe 2 to 3 or four people. And we have some that have now grown to be over 50, 60 people. And we have and it’s been great along the way to really help help them think through their people strategy. When do they need to bring on new talent? What kind of new talent? How are they finding the best talent? How to navigate sometimes when you’re not able to pay market competitive salaries because you’re also giving equity in the company. So I think my superpower has been my ability to work with those entrepreneurs on their talent strategies as they’re thinking about hiring, growing and scaling their company through people. It’s one of the most important things they’ll do.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:26] Now for the jump fund. What do you need more of? How can we help?
Kim Seals: [00:16:32] We are currently focused on helping our existing portfolio get their next round of funding. So I would say if you take a look at our portfolio companies and listening and it goes out to our website and you think you can help make introductions to later stage venture capital? We’re we’re still trying to bust for those walls, if you will, and get more capital for our entrepreneurs as they continue to grow as they’re doing their series A and their series B. So that’s predominantly what our focus is right now, is we have a lot of companies out there continuing to raise money. We as an early stage investor, a lot of times we’re we’re out for some of those later rounds, like the B round or the C round. But we still want to support and help coach those entrepreneurs and make introductions for them as they’re looking for those later stage venture capital dollars.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:19] Now, can you share a story about a founder maybe that you’ve worked with that you help take to a new level that and maybe even it exceeded your expectations and there’s.
Kim Seals: [00:17:30] You know, there’s probably a few, but I think, again, it’s in terms of my personal impact, it really is around one of our companies just entirely replace their C-suite. So they the founder is still there, but over the last 12 to 18 months realized that what got them to the point they were at now was not what they needed for the future. And I really spent a lot of time with that founder thinking through what the new leadership team structure needed to be. What were the skills and capabilities that she needed to bring on in this new C-suite to bring in people who would complement her skills as the CEO? And I’m really proud of the work we did. And the team that that she has in place now is the team she needs to take her to that next level.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:14] Well, congratulations on all the success. If somebody wants to learn more about the jump fund, get on your calendar or your radar. What’s the website.
Kim Seals: [00:18:23] Ww Have you got the job for CNN.com or connect with me on LinkedIn and and send me a message there and we’ll make it happen.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:31] All right, Kim. Well, thank you again for sharing your story. You’re doing important work, and we appreciate you.
Kim Seals: [00:18:36] Thanks, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:37] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Startup Showdown.
Intro: [00:18:42] As always, thanks for joining us. And don’t forget to follow and subscribe to the Startup Showdown podcast. So you get the latest episode as it drops wherever you listen to podcasts to learn more and apply to our next startup Showdown Pitch Competition Visit Showdown Dot VC. That’s Showdown Dot VC. All right, that’s all for this week. Goodbye for now.