Sarah Kunst: This Philanthropic Investor Made History With a $3.5 Million Fund

Sarah Kunst is the managing director of Cleo Capital and a successful entrepreneur and angel investor. She formerly worked for Apple, Red Bull, Chanel, and Mohr Davidow Ventures.

She also worked as a senior advisor at Bumble, where she focused on their corporate venture capital arm, Bumble Fund, and sat on the boards of Venture for America and the Michigan State University Foundation endowment.

According to her company’s website, she created the LA Dodgers-supported Proday and has since sponsored a diverse range of startups, including Ellevest, Hill House Home, Falconx, Planet Forward, and Kobold Metals.

The firm generally invests in Delaware C corporations that are developing software companies with the potential to be multibillion-dollar enterprises. The business enjoys supporting innovators in their early phases with checks ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.

Kunst joined Sequoia Capital as a scout after graduating from Michigan State University and beginning her career in advertising. According to Medium, she recognized an opportunity to empower female innovators after noting that women were chronically underrepresented in the scouting program.

This prompted her to establish Cleo Capital in 2018 with the goal of funding pre-seed firms. She has now been an advocate for a varied range of entrepreneurs, investors, and operators.

“The way to find, hire and fund black people in the tech world is the same as finding, hiring and funding any other group,” she told TechCrunch in an interview in 2020. “You build relationships with people in that group, you seek out thought leaders from the community and learn from them […] It’s not about tokenizing one person or donating to a one time effort or writing it off as a pipeline problem.”

Amid Covid-19 that year, she started the Chrysalis fellowship program. “In March 2020, as Covid was shutting down the economy and startups started laying people off, I decided that simply saying downturns are a great time to build a company wasn’t enough and that Cleo needed to roll up our sleeves and help make those new companies happen. Chrysalis was the result,” she told Medium.

Kunst, who said her $3.5M fund was the second largest first-time fund by a Black woman VC in America ever, started Chrysalis basically for laid-off workers. “…We had hundreds of applications, over 100 people join the fellowship, and in 6 weeks, they came together to meet each other, share ideas and collectively started working on over 20 ideas.”

Kunst’s venture has gained international acclaim. Vanity Fair dubbed her a Future Innovator, Forbes 30 Under 30, and Cool Hunting labeled her a Top 25 Tech Innovator. Furthermore, she was named a 30 under 30 Women in Tech, Top African-American in Tech, and Pitchbook Top Black VC To Watch by Business Insider. The Wall Street Journal called her a top female venture capitalist, and the National Retail Federation named her a top DealmakerHer.

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