ACT #199 Sara Rywe, Partner at byFounders
For someone who's had a meteoric rise through VC, Sara describes herself as someone completely ordinary. Join us to hear why she's anything but ordinary to us 🚀
Today, we're happy to welcome Sara Rywe, partner at byFounders, a Nordic and Baltic's early-stage tech investor with a difference.
They stand toe to toe with founders and have a community-driven approach to investing. Founders know exactly what they're getting into when they engage with byFounders from the metrics they're looking for to ticket size, investment terms, and the fund standard term sheet. It's all published on their website.
Portfolio founders also have access to the wisdom of the byFounders collective, a group of experienced founders, tech experts, and more who can help them through the company building journey. The firm has two funds under its belt and invests across tech sectors. Sara joined in 2019 as an associate with a focus on finding funding and having the back of founders across the new Nordics and has since grown to become a partner.
This episode was kindly made possible by our friends over at Tactyc - the leading forecasting and scenario-planning software for venture capital funds combining portfolio construction, portfolio management, forecasting and reporting into a unified platform.
For someone who's had a meteoric rise through VC, Sara describes herself as someone completely ordinary. In many ways, Sara's prior experienceat McKinsey, her MBA and the fact she's a Kauffman Fellow gloss over the fact she did not originally pursue a conventional path. She'll talk more about her journey starting work in her teen years at McDonald's through to her entrepreneurial journey, starting up a dance school, and how this led her to catch the founder bug and lead to opportunities in tech.
Sara's deep interest is in impact-aware startups. She's mentored and invested in startups in sectors that combine profit with purpose and has a particular focus not just on responsible companies, but responsible founders. In this episode, we'll hear more about Sara's journey into VC, her path to partner, and how she's turned her interest and impact into a core pillar of the investment strategy and decision making process at byFounders.
Sara’s Journey into Venture
I started off in a very ordinary place and just fell in love with entrepreneurship when I was 17 and I started my own dancing school and that allowed me to have my first employees. I realized that this thing called entrepreneurship was pretty cool, even though at that point in time it had nothing to do with tech.
Sara & byFounders’ commitment to Impact Awareness
Over the past four years, byFounders has been deeply committed to a mission of responsibility and impact. With 210 million euros under management across two funds, the firm acknowledges the weight of its role in shaping a better future for people and the planet through strategic investments.
byFounders' unique approach positions it between two distinct ends of the investment landscape. On one side, there are pure impact funds, which exclusively focus on companies that offer products and solutions aimed at creating positive change. While this segment constitutes around 20% of investments in the Nordics and the Baltics, byFounders believes that this alone is not enough to drive the desired impact.
On the other side, conventional VC funds have a broader scope, allowing them to invest in a wider range of startups, including those with an impact-oriented mission. However, byFounders strives to go beyond traditional investing by infusing a strong sense of responsibility into every investment decision.
By setting an ambitious goal of having at least half of its investments in impact startups, byFounders aims to support companies that tackle pressing global challenges and create outsized returns. These impact-driven startups represent a beacon of hope, addressing societal issues while unlocking remarkable opportunities for growth.
So what we've done is that we have set a target that, or let's say an ambition to have at least half of our investments in impact startups because we believe that the outsized. Returns will come from impact startups. Those are many times the ones solving the biggest challenges today.
At the core of byFounders' investment philosophy lies a focus on responsible founders. The firm defines responsible founders as those who demonstrate a genuine commitment to core values, including diversity and inclusion, people's well-being, data ethics and security, and environmental sustainability.
While an impact product may not be the sole determinant, byFounders seeks founders who incorporate these essential ESG themes into the fabric of their businesses. This emphasis on responsible leadership is key to fostering a new wave of startups that prioritize making a positive impact while building scalable, successful ventures.
As a firm that believes in continuous learning and growth, byFounders understands the importance of balancing impact and responsibility with delivering strong returns to its Limited Partners (LPs). The journey towards creating a lasting legacy for future generations requires navigating challenges while staying true to the vision of making a meaningful difference in the world.
We have four main ESG themes that we evaluate after. Diversity and Inclusion, People Wellbeing, Data Ethics & Security, and Carbon Footprint. So if you truly care about those four main things and work on that, then we believe you can run and scale a responsible business.
byFounders is convinced that the trailblazers of tomorrow will emerge from impact startups, and it is an honor for the firm to support and empower these visionary founders. Through purpose-driven investments and a commitment to responsible practices, byFounders is dedicated to driving positive change and shaping a better future for all.
Sara’s Biggest Failure, how it felt and what it taught her
Around eight years ago, Sara harbored a significant dream of delivering a TED Talk, a dream that seemed within reach when she was chosen as one of the top four candidates for the opportunity. Filled with enthusiasm, Sara committed herself fully to the preparation, even leaving her job to focus on perfecting her talk. The moment finally arrived, and she delivered her TED Talk before an eager audience, hoping to secure the chance to host the main event. However, fate had other plans, and Sara was not selected for the coveted role.
Surprisingly, the reason for the decision brought clarity and enlightenment. The organizers believed in her potential, foreseeing a future where she would indeed deliver a TED Talk. Instead, they decided to offer the opportunity to another candidate, considering the potential impact it could have on their career trajectory.
This revelation struck a chord with Sara, leading her to a profound realization. She recognized that her online persona, especially her LinkedIn profile, only showcased the successes in her life, concealing the struggles and failures she had encountered along the way. This revelation prompted her to embark on a brave and transformative journey.
Sara decided to publish a "CV of Failures," laying bare her setbacks and challenges for the world to see. This act of vulnerability proved to be a turning point, inspiring and resonating with countless individuals far beyond her expectations. Sara's openness became a source of strength, empowering her to embrace her authentic self and connect with others on a deeper level.
Through this experience, Sara discovered the power of vulnerability and authenticity. Embracing her failures not only helped her grow as an individual but also inspired others to embrace their own imperfections with grace and determination. The TED Talk opportunity that had seemed like a missed milestone became a catalyst for Sara's personal and professional growth.
Today, Sara stands as a testament to the transformative power of embracing failures. She views setbacks as stepping stones towards greatness and navigates life's challenges with resilience and empathy. This defining moment continues to shape her journey, empowering her to be open, honest, and unapologetically herself as she pursues her passion for impact-driven investments and fostering positive change in the world.
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