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Perhaps it’s the end of an era now that Sheryl Sandberg announced she will leave Meta. However, to Kelly Graziadei and Joanna Lee Shevelenko, general partners at f7 Ventures, an early-stage venture firm, they are carrying forward in their new endeavor the influence Sandberg had on them during their time at Facebook.
All of f7 Ventures’ initial seven founders are long-time operators who met each other at Facebook and started the firm over three years ago.
“In the early days, there weren’t that many female leaders at Facebook,” Graziadei said. “And so fast-forward years later, we came together.”
They wanted to take their years of operating experience and roll up their sleeves to provide that value-add to early-stage founders, particularly women and other underrepresented individuals, so they could help them build a foundation to grow and scale and “ultimately become the next generation or the next group of generation-defining companies,” Graziadei added.
Sandberg and her partner, Tom Bernthal, are among the list of limited partners backing f7 Ventures’ new $50 million fund. The list also includes Paris Hilton, Andrew Bosworth, Justin Kan, SoftBank, J.P. Morgan, Insight Partners, Anthemis Group, Espresso Capital and Verdis Investment Management.
“We are so grateful for Sheryl's ongoing support,” Graziadei told TechCrunch. “I felt Sheryl's impact and leadership philosophy and advocacy for female leaders from my earliest days at Facebook.”
She not only had the opportunity to work with Sandberg after joining the company 12 years ago, but recalls also working with people who also worked with Sandberg at both Google and Facebook and who carried on her advocacy for women having a seat at the table.
Over a year ago, Lee Shevelenko and Graziadei decided to take the natural next step of raising an institutional fund to continue investing in pre-seed and seed companies. In May, they closed the $50 million fund.
The firm invests mainly in founders creating technology for the future of work, mental and physical health and connected communities. So far, the investors have infused funding into 20 investments from this fund, and 39 total since they started f7 Ventures.
Lee Shevelenko and Graziadei intend to invest in about 45 companies from their first fund with average check sizes between $500,000 and $750,000, with some flexibility to go up to $1 million.
Meanwhile, Lee Shevelenko, who joined Facebook prior to Sandberg, said she also saw the impact Sandberg made, which included structure and “organization rigor,” and the dedication from others who followed Sandberg to Facebook.
Lee Shevelenko also recalled that Sandberg spoke a lot about women falling victim to the “tiara syndrome,” putting their heads down, working hard and waiting for people to notice and tap them for the next opportunity.
“We shouldn't wait to be tapped or anointed,” Lee Shevelenko added. “Sheryl said we have to go after the opportunities and drive the change we want to see. Similar to Kelly, it was a big push for me to take the leap into venture from leaving our full-time roles as operators.”
Graziadei felt that Sandberg’s influence helped her expand her view of what she thought was comfortable for herself professionally. At the same time, Graziadei was encouraged to think “bigger and bolder” and to push for, and go after, what she wanted.
“That ultimately fueled my need personally to take a leap to start a VC firm and help other women and underrepresented individuals,” she added. “Without that influence who knows if this is the spot we would be in?”