The Inside Story of How Jordan Gaspar Co-Founded a $90 Million VC Fund
Jordan Gaspar is a Managing Partner of AccelFoods, an early-stage venture fund investing in consumer products. Her duties include overseeing deal origination, structure and investment execution, as well as heading up strategy and general management of the fund. However, for brands with children as their primary audience, none of that is going to happen if their product doesn't first get past Gaspar's two children, the resident snack taste-testers.
AccelFoods invests in high-growth packaged food and beverage companies, with the goal of creating the next generation of enduring brands. Gaspar takes partnerships to the next level, once inviting a company founder to bring their children to the AccelFoods office when they were unable to find a babysitter. Fortunately, these children had a plethora of snacks to choose from.
In our candid interview, Gaspar shares intimate details on how she, along with her co-founder Lauren Jupiter, were able to grow AccelFoods from a home office to a fund with $90 AUM and a portfolio of 37 companies.
Attempting to solve the jigsaw puzzle.
"My partner Lauren Jupiter and I met in October 2012. We were both searching for something meaningful to do and felt like we were both really smart and had a strong appetite to throw ourselves into something. We just couldn't find that thing that we were passionate about. It's hard being a woman in your late 20s and early 30s because you are weighing things and trying to determine how it's all going to fit together with your life. My son Benjamin was two and a half years old, and I was eight and a half months pregnant with my daughter Juliet. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and you're thinking, 'What do I want to do?' 'How much money do I want to make?' 'How will I factor in my future responsibilities or current responsibilities as a mother?' It's all very loaded and you can’t always articulate the challenge."
Finding a partner with a similar mindset.
"After our initial meeting, Lauren and I set up a follow-up for the next week. And then at midnight the night before, even though I barely knew her, I sent her a text message: 'I'm in labor, meeting is canceled. So sorry, let's meet same place/ same time one week from today.' I had a c-section and recovery in the hospital lasts a little bit longer, but still, seven days later, I showed up at our meeting and she couldn't believe it. But you know, I knew that this idea was something I was excited about and something worth exploring. I had already grasped the fact that I would have to balance work and life. Lauren was getting married at the time, so she was going through a lot of change in her life and was up for it as well. Entrepreneurship is in you or it's not."
The whirlwind first year.
"We built AccelFoods throughout 2013 and joked that if for some reason it didn't work out, by August we would have learned a lot, built a great network and would likely get great jobs out of it. But by August we had fundraising documents out for the new fund, we had a website going up and we had companies we were about to invest in. In January 2014, we launched with 200 people officially affiliated with a platform that hadn’t existed a year before. I used to say that Lauren got married twice that year and I had my third child."
"I wanted to build and be part of something that I was proud of while setting an example for my kids. In my case, these are products that my kids are eating. Every day I come home and I say, 'What do you think of this?' My son says, 'Can I have a Soozy's for breakfast?' My daughter Juliet asks, 'Can I have some kombucha?' She doesn't know soda exists. And so, they've been a part of this entrepreneurial experience in a really different way. My kids are in my office all the time. When they're sick and I don't have coverage, they’re on the beanbag in my office watching an iPad until I can figure out a solution. I didn't really apologize for that along the way. I think that early on I didn't talk about it because I was building my own credibility, but there was a point where I realized that there is no hiding these obstacles and they make me a better entrepreneur and more relatable as a businesswoman."
Building a legacy.
"Early on it was like, get through the day, execute well, and then do a little bit of forward planning. But now we are at a point where we can say, 'What are the various goals and initiatives we want to pursue?' For example, when we invested in Roar Organic, which is a female-directed electrolyte beverage. When we met the founder, Roly Nesi, he was coming off of a more traditional sports drink product that had evolved to serve women. We were excited to put our resources behind this concept because Roar is addressing an underserved community: adolescent girls, digital natives, millennials and moms. It was a wonderful moment for us to say, 'It's not just about us choosing a great company, but working together to build a company framed around female empowerment and taking on an old-school male-dominated industry.' I don't think we really had the foresight or maybe even the capabilities four years ago to do something like this. It is a pretty capital-intensive and aggressive move. But if we're not up for the challenge then I don't really know what we're doing here."