The co-founder of a women’s pro soccer team and the former manager of investments and business operations for the San Francisco 49ers have joined forces to launch Monarch Collective, a venture firm dedicated to women’s sports.
The Los Angeles-based firm has raised “most of the capital” for its debut fund targeting $100 million, co-founder and managing partner Jasmine Robinson tells Venture Capital Journal.
“We’ve held a first close and have raised a substantial amount of the capital,” she said. “We’re focused 100 percent on women’s sports. Within that we’re really focused on investing in teams, leagues and adjacent rights-based businesses.” Rights-based businesses include things like media rights, games and consumer products that tie in to sports leagues and teams.
Robinson declined to share the terms of the fund or exactly how much it has raised, but she said LPs include tennis legend Billie Jean King, longtime Netflix executive Cindy Holland, Rethink Impact partner Heidi Patel and CapitalG managing partner Laela Sturdy. (CapitalG is the growth fund of Alphabet, the parent company of Google.)
“Particularly given what we want to build, it’s been fun being really thoughtful about building the LP base in the right way to help us be effective in our strategy,” Robinson said. “We’re having some institutional conversations too, but that’s been our priority group.”
Robinson founded Monarch alongside Kara Nortman, who co-founded the Angel City Football Club and spent eight years as a partner at early-stage tech investor Upfront Ventures.
It runs in the family
Robinson has her own deep ties to sports. She is the daughter of Mark Leon Robinson, who played nine seasons as a safety in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After earning her MBA from Stanford, Robinson worked for Bain & Company for a couple of years before a three-year stint as manager of investments and business operations for the 49ers and spending nearly six years as a partner at Causeway, a sports-focused growth-stage venture firm.
“As we think about our approach to investing, we really think about being investor-operators and finding the through line in that,” Robinson told VCJ. “For me a lot of the operating side comes from my days at the 49ers and having been there at a really unique time, when the business was changing a lot. Plus, a lot of the investing experience I got with Causeway being a very sports-oriented fund, I’ve seen what’s worked and what’s not around emerging teams and leagues.”
Monarch Collective has not completed any deals yet, but has its first investment “teed up and ready to go” and plans to make an announcement in the near future.
Robinson said there are three reasons why she and Nortman decided now was a good time to invest in women’s sports: growing viewership trends, increasing monetization opportunities and the lack of investment interest in the space. The NCAA women’s March Madness final achieved a record 9.9 million viewers on average, more than double the previous year, according to data from ESPN.
“Every week or month new records are being broken [in women’s sports], so I feel like we’re on the right side of the trend around audience growth that’s going to continue,” Robinson said. “I think we’ve also finally reached a point where you see brands explicitly making allocations out of their investment targets to focus on women’s sports.
“Despite those dynamics, there really aren’t that many people paying attention to investing in this category. We think we’ll see a lot of dealflow and be able to structure it in the right way to make a really attractive return profile for our LPs.”
The firm’s name, which Robinson credits to her co-founder, speaks to something important to each of its founders. “Monarch” pays homage to the butterfly effect, a concept in chaos theory that says small changes can have exponentially larger effects down the line.
“I think for both of us there have been all of these moments where maybe something we didn’t think that much of really blossoms and blooms into a big part of the opportunity set in life,” Robinson said. “There’s all of these butterfly effects and now we focus on how we carry that forward into the women’s sports ecosystem.”
“Collective” stands for the firm’s intent to build women’s sports in a collaborative way, differing from the traditionally hyper-competitive space of venture capital. Robinson said each of the debut fund’s LPs brings a unique skillset to help grow women’s sports, and that a number of the firm’s family office LPs have expressed an interest in taking a substantial direct investment majority stake in the teams, leagues and rights-based businesses it seeks to invest in down the line.
For more information about Monarch, see its website here and read a Medium post by Kara Nortman announcing the new fund.