If someone mentions a dream machine, they might be referencing the beloved, discontinued line of Sony clock radios. Or, they could be talking about the ball pit and streamer-filled interactive playground (i.e. Instagram bait) popping up in Brooklyn this summer.
But in Silicon Valley, there's only one Dream Machine people are talking about right now: It's Alexia Bonatsos 's new, San Francisco-based venture fund.
Bonatsos is no stranger to the world of startups — she wrote about them for years during her tenure as the co-editor of tech industry news site TechCrunch. She departed the site in 2015 to earn her Master's in Management from Stanford's Graduate School of Business.
After graduating and exploring her options, she began investing in companies in January 2018. Now, she's ready to make a name for herself in the VC world in the same way she did in media — and is looking, along with other women, to bring some much-needed diversity to the space in the process.
Ahead, Bonatsos tells Refinery29 about her dreams for the future of the fund.
What made you decide to go into venture capital versus another area in tech?
"Life is short. I have a rule to spend my short time here on this planet immersed in the subjects I’m most curious about, which currently happens to be venture finance. I’m also inspired by the women at All Raise, whose goal it is to double the percentage of female partners in VC from 9% to 18% by 2023. That’s 170 new partners — I’m happy to put them .6% towards their goal with Dream Machine."
What skills from your journalism career are you applying to your new role?
"This is an obvious one: Knowing what questions to ask. This is a non-obvious one: cold emailing and calling and cleverly-written follow ups."
Why did you choose the name Dream Machine?
"Because that’s what venture capital should be, a machine that brings entrepreneurial dreams to fruition."
What do you look for in a startup? Are there any make or break factors for you when deciding whether or not to invest?
"I look for a 10-year, gargantuan founder vision and commitment. That’s why the Dream Machine motto is 'making science fiction non-fiction,' a riff on Arthur C. Clarke 's 'any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic' rule. In converse, lack of integrity is a deal breaker, even if everything else is a rocketship."
Over the past year, there's been a particular emphasis on the lack of funding going to female founders. Will you look to lessen this gap and, if so, how?
"Yes, I hope to. Though my fund is opportunistic, I am especially looking for women and men of color to invest in."
Do you have any advice for women in the space — both those looking to get into VC as an investor and those looking to get funding?
What startups are you most excited about right now?
"Fable, Molly, TruStory, Omni, Trash, and two more I can’t talk about yet in my portfolio. Outside of my portfolio, The Wing, Rent The Runway, Glossier, Styleseat, Manrepeller, Mightybell and Blavity are all female-founded companies I’m rooting for hard. It’s not exactly a startup, but [Recode's] Kara Swisher introduced me to WeCroak very recently and it’s changed my life — by reminding me five times a day that life is short."
This interview has been edited for length and style.
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