Ariana Thacker likes to say that science was her first love and startups her second. Now she can combine the two in a thesis for her new venture capital firm, Conscience VC.
Thacker’s passion for science dates back to when she took college-level chemistry classes in college. Her interest in startups came years later when she joined the founding team of a startup, Mirus Energy, with her former professor at UCLA after feeling “trapped in a box” working in a large energy company.
She quickly discovered that smaller entities were more innovative and likely to move the needle and dive. “I realized that I love adventure, I love founders, and I want to do it full time, all the time,” Thacker told TechCrunch. “I saw this as the most effective way to create impact and transitioned into a role in a company.”
She then took a job at Rhapsody Venture Partners, which specializes in deep technologies, and learned the trade, but quickly felt she had developed a thesis worth pursuing on her own. She launched Conscience in 2020 to invest in companies that are at the intersection of consumer and deep tech. The company announces the closing of its first $10 million fund after an oversubscribed fundraising that doubled the company’s original target. The company will cut checks down to $250,000 and operate largely in the pre-seed stage, but do everything before Series A, Thacker said.
Thacker has garnered support from LPs including Screendoor Partners, Foundation Capital and Carta, among other institutions, in addition to unicorn founders. Despite being oversubscribed, the fundraising trip did not go as planned for the first solo GP.
“I liquidated my retirement fund, moved into my parents’ two-bedroom apartment, and for about a year and a half I was just building and launching an LP network from scratch,” a- she declared. “It was a lot of fun, but it was a very risky business. It just took a lot longer than I thought it would. He was dropping hundreds of LPs for just a lot of rejection and long hours.
Now, with capital in the bank, Conscience is looking for companies that benefit consumers but have technically defensible capability. This thesis encompasses a broad base of industries ranging from healthcare and digital treatments to physical products in sectors like gaming. The company has invested in 17 companies to date.
One of them is Last Gameboard, a Denver, Colorado-based startup that makes an electronic board game that can simulate a variety of different games and be played with any type of coins. For co-founder and CEO Shail Mehta, who started the company out of her love of board games — not her technical expertise — Thacker couldn’t be more helpful.
“It’s like a gold mine,” Mehta said. “When I met her, I had a hardware investor and [game developer] Riot games. Then I had Ariana who straddled deep tech and the consumer side [of investing]. I had never had this perspective before.
Thacker is rolling out its first fund in a volatile time for 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 act quickly, which is very important to Thacker. “We are obsessed with having a high ROI on time,” she added.