Ariana Thacker likes to say that science is her first love and entrepreneurship is her second love. Now, she can combine the two into a thesis for her new venture capital firm, Conscience VC.
Thacker’s passion for science began when she took a college-level chemistry course in middle school. A few years later, she joined the founding team of a startup, Mirus Energy, with a former UCLA professor, and she became interested in startups because she felt “stuck in a box” while working at a large energy company .
She quickly discovered that the smaller entities were more innovative, and might be pushing the needle and throwing themselves into it. “I realized I love venture capital, I love founders, and I want to do it full-time all the time,” Thacker told TechCrunch. “I think that’s the highest leverage way to create impact and transition into venture capital.”
She then landed a job at Rhapsody Venture Partners, which focuses on deep tech, and learned about the industry, but soon felt like she had come up with a paper worthy of her own research. She founded Conscience in 2020 to invest in companies at the intersection of consumer and deep tech. The company announced the closure of its first $10 million fund after an oversubscribed fundraiser doubled the company’s original goal. Thacker said the company will cut checks by up to $250,000 and will operate primarily at the pre-seed stage, but will do anything before the Series A.
Thacker has backing from LPs including Screendoor Partners, Foundation Capital and Carta, as well as unicorn founders. Despite being oversubscribed, the fundraising journey didn’t go as planned.
“I liquidated my retirement fund, I moved into my parents’ two-bedroom apartment, and for about a year and a half, I was just building and marketing an LP network from scratch,” she said. “It was fun, but really a high-stakes endeavor. It just took a lot longer than I thought. It was just pitching to hundreds of LPs with lots of rejections and a long time.”
Now, with bank funding, Conscience is looking for companies that benefit consumers but are technologically defensive. This dissertation covers a wide range of industry bases, from digital health and therapy to physical products in gaming. To date, the company has invested in 17 companies.
One of them is Last Gameboard, a Denver, Colorado-based startup that is making an electronic board game that simulates a variety of different games and can be played with any type of chess piece. For co-founder and CEO Shail Mehta, who started the company because of her love of board games rather than her technical expertise, Thacker couldn’t have been more helpful.
“It’s like a gold mine,” Mehta said. “When I met her, I had a hardware investor, [game developer] Riot Games.Then I have Ariana, she straddles the deep tech and consumer side [of investing]. I’ve never had this view before. “
Thacker deployed her first fund during a turbulent time in the venture capital market. To help her growing portfolio, she created a fundraising app that includes 1,000 other potential investors from her network, organized by industry and stage so founders can move fast, which Very important to Thacker. “We’re obsessed with getting a high ROI on time,” she added.