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New Fare Partners is latest female-led VC to close first fund

Venture capital firms have a tight grasp on their dry powder for now, but amid the investment slowdown are a flurry of new funds being announced, many of them from female-led venture capital firms.

The latest is New Fare Partners, co-founded by Elly Truesdell and Hallie Bonnar, who secured $20 million in capital commitments for its inaugural fund investing in early-stage food and beverage businesses.

The firm was launched in early 2022. Truesdell, general partner, was previously Whole Foods Market’s global director of local brands and product innovation. It was largely through that experience, especially working with brands to get them on store shelves, where she said venture capital became a calling.

“My whole life at Whole Foods was dedicated to young emerging brands, helping accelerate young companies that we brought in from areas that had whitespace or category growth,” Truesdell told TechCrunch. “I became this person in the natural foods industry that people came to when they were looking to launch their product. When I was getting ready to leave Whole Foods, I had a lot of opportunities presented to me in venture and private equity.”

From there, she went on to operate her own company, a food private label and co-packing business called Canopy Foods, before joining VC firm Almanac as a partner. Most recently, she co-founded Made by Nacho, a crafted cat food brand, with renowned chef and restaurateur Bobby Flay.

Truesdell and Bonnar, who started her career in the fintech industry, have worked together over the past five years, having first met at Canopy Foods. Bonnar later joined Truesdell at Almanac, where Bonnar was marketing lead. She also worked with Truesdell at Made by Nacho as head of marketing.

“Having that co-packing operating experience has really proven invaluable in the next phases of our work and as our role as investors now, including what it takes to bring a product to market within food,” Bonnar told TechCrunch. “We also were able to accelerate growth for a number of small food brands by jumping in and creating strategies for them. Our value-add galvanized this idea that we’ve had for a long time of what our own funds would be in the future.”

In addition to Bobby Flay, New Fare’s backers includes a group of mainly former founders, including Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods Market; Kathleen King, founder of Tate’s Bakeshop; Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Organic; Andrew Abraham, founder of Orgain; Gabi Lewis, founder of Magic Spoon; Charlie Sweat, former CEO of Earthbound Organic; David Barber, partner at Astanor Ventures, co-owner/founder of Blue Hill and Almanac; and Nick McCoy, founder and managing director of Whipstitch Capital.

Truesdell and Bonnar expect to make between 16 and 20 investments from their first fund and have made eight already. These include Made by Nacho, convenience retailer Foxtrot, Mexican omnichannel brand Tacombi and functional chocolate bar brand Mid-Day Squares.

Meanwhile, the market has been a tough one to raise in, “certainly a first-time fund,” Truesdell said.

“The nice thing has been that there’s a real understanding and acknowledgement that valuations have been too high, especially in food tech,” she added. “There are some positive feelings around what’s coming for consumer foods and then being priced more appropriately to the right growth expectations. Also, maybe there was a real upside to investing in a fund that launched in 2022 versus 2021.”

Truesdell also noted that New Fare being women-led and co-founded is still rare in the venture capital business. Women traditionally comprise less than 15% of decision-makers at VC firms, but firms like New Fare are grabbing some of that capital for funds.

For example, last week, Pact, a new seed VC fund, launched with $36 million in capital commitments to back early-stage startups across Europe. That was preceded by Magdalena “Mags” Kala raising around $30 million for her first fund as a solo GP of Double Down, a firm focused on early-stage consumer startups in the web3 space. Similarly, Switzerland-based Privilège Ventures launched its fourth fund of just over $20 million targeting women-led early-stage startups across Europe.

In addition, Curate Capital, a Houston-based venture capital fund, raised $15 million for its first fund, closing on it over the summer. Carrie Colbert, an energy executive-turned-investor, started the fund in 2021 and said she attracted 50% more in capital commitments.

Though it wasn’t without some challenges, including finding LPs who would invest in a smaller fund, Colbert told TechCrunch. However, that did give her a chance to meet some women who were interested in being investors.

And as my colleague, Dominic-Madori Davis reported in October, addressing the gender imbalance in venture capital firms will hopefully lead to more gender balance among investments when all of that dry powder is deployed in coming years.

Colbert agrees, and purposefully brought in over 80% female limited partners, most of whom are first-time investors.

“What sets us apart is having this kind of ground movement of women supporting women and so for that reason, I think it’s a really good way to get people engaged and involved,” she said. “Maybe I was too small to attract a big institutional check, but I was small enough that we were approachable to welcome new investors to the fold.”

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