Ariana Thacker likes to say that science was her first love and startups her second. Now she can combine the two into a dissertation for her new venture, Conscience VC†
Thacker’s passion for science started when she took college-level chemistry courses in high school. Her interest in startups came years later when she joined the founding team of a startup, Mirus Energy, with her former professor at UCLA after feeling “trapped in a box” at a major energy company.
She soon discovered that the smaller entities were more innovative and likely to move the needle, and dove in. “I realized I loved entrepreneurship, I loved founders, and I want to do that full-time, all the time,” Thacker told australiabusinessblog.com. “I saw that as the best way to create impact and moved to working in an entrepreneurial role.”
She then took a job at Rhapsody Venture Partners that had a strong focus on technology and learned the trade, but soon felt she had developed a thesis worth pursuing on her own. She launched Conscience in 2020 to invest in companies that are at the intersection of consumer and deep tech. The company announces the closure of its debut $10 million fund after an oversubscribed fundraising event that doubled the company’s original goal. The company will lower the checks to $250,000 and will largely operate in the pre-seed phase, but will do everything before Series A, Thacker said.
Thacker received support from LPs including Screendoor Partners, Foundation Capital and Carta, among other institutions, in addition to the founders of unicorn. Despite being oversubscribed, the fundraising journey did not go according to plan for the first solo GP.
“I liquidated my retirement fund, I moved into my parents’ two-bedroom apartment and spent about a year and a half building and setting up an LP network from scratch,” she said. “It was a lot of fun, but a really risky undertaking. It just took a lot longer than I thought. It threw hundreds of LPs for just a ton of rejection and long hours.”
Now, with capital in the bank, Conscience is looking for companies that benefit consumers, but are technically resilient. This dissertation covers a broad base of industries ranging from digital health and treatments to physical products in sectors such as gaming. The company has invested in 17 companies to date.
One is Last Gameboard, a Denver, Colorado-based startup that makes an electronic board game that can simulate a variety of different games and play with any kind of pieces. For co-founder and CEO Shail Mehta, who launched the company because of her love of board games — not her technical expertise — Thacker couldn’t be more helpful.
“It’s like a gold mine,” Mehta said. “When I met her, I had a hardware investor and… [game developer] Riot Play. Then I had Ariana covering the deep tech and the consumer side [of investing]† I’ve never had that perspective before.”
Thacker is deploying her debut fund for the venture market in a volatile time. To help her growing portfolio, she created a fundraising app with 1,000 other potential investors from her network, arranged by industry and stage, so founders can act quickly, something that is very important to Thacker. “We are obsessed with having a high ROI on time,” she added.