With Eye on LA, Putin Advocate-Turned-VC Raises Second Fund

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

With Eye on LA, Putin Advocate-Turned-VC Raises Second Fund

The world of venture capital is filled with interesting characters, and Masha Drokova is certainly one of them.

Born and raised in impoverished rural Russia, Drokova was a pro-Putin youth activist who led a Kremlin-backed group that intimidated opposition figures. In 2014, she immigrated to the U.S. where she started doing public relations for startups like Hotel Tonight and Houzz. And then in 2017, she became a VC starting Day One Ventures in San Francisco.

The firm is announcing the close of its $50 million second fund Tuesday, which is more than the double the size of its first fund. The majority of the capital comes from tech founders hailing from more than 10 countries, according to Drokova.

In a recent interview, the 31-year-old Drokova said it has been nearly a decade since she's lived in Russia. She says she no longer follows the country's politics and has no opinion about President Vladimir Putin. She says her background has never hindered her ability to make deals.

"I left politics when I was 18 or 19," Drokova said. "I think smart people understand I was a kid and that was just part of my experience and learning."

Drokova is more eager to talk about her firm, which uses her PR expertise to improve companies that she calls "consumer obsessed." Day One gets its name from Jeff Bezos' famed 2016 shareholder letter where he decrees companies should avoid stasis at all cost and always embody the mentality of a hungry startup just beginning.

Drokova says scrappy startup founders should empathize with her story.

"I grew up in a small town in Russia where the average salary is $200 a month and in a way it's a journey similar to something that early-stage entrepreneurs have to go through as they start a new company," Drokova said. "I haven't gone to Stanford. I wasn't working for Google or Facebook. And it proves that America is a country of opportunity, because even with this noncommercial background, I managed to create the firm that invested in a number of very successful, fast-growing companies alongside the top VCs."

In April, Day One Ventures hired Drake Austin Rehfeld, a former Snap product lead, as an L.A.-based principal.

Drokova says L.A. companies are often a good match for the firm's consumer focus.

"We like that they have close touch with consumers because you can do lots of experiments with consumers and big companies like Snapchat created a good foundation," she said. "I think it's also a very diverse city, which creates opportunities to start companies that have more inclusive products."

Though Day One Ventures is based in San Francisco, about 15% of the dozens of startups it has backed are based in Los Angeles. Standouts include Snafu, which uses AI to predict which artists will break out, Octi, which uses AR to create a social shopping experience, and Yumi, a child nutrition company.

"It's rare to find investors who fundamentally understand the value of storytelling," said Evelyn Rusli, co-founder and president of Yumi, explaining why she accepted funding from Day One Ventures. "They were immediately helpful and great to work with."

When asked what she thought of Drokova's past, Rusli seemed taken aback by the question. After a pause, she declined to comment.


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Greater Good Health Raises $10 Million To Fix America’s Doctor Shortage

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

Greater Good Health Raises $10 Million To Fix America’s Doctor Shortage
Courtesy of Greater Good Health

The pandemic highlighted what’s been a growing trend for years: Medical students are prioritizing high-paying specialty fields over primary care, leading to a shortage of primary care doctors who take care of a patient’s day-to-day health concerns. These physicians are a cornerstone of preventative health care, which when addressed can lower health care costs for patients, insurers and the government. But there’s a massive shortage of doctors all over the country, and the pipeline for primary care physicians is even weaker.

One local startup is offering a possible answer to this supply squeeze: nurse practitioners.

On Wednesday, Manhattan Beach-based Greater Good Health unveiled $10 million in new funding led by LRVHealth, adding to $3 million in seed funding raised by the startup last year. The company employs nurse practitioners and pairs them with doctor’s offices and medical clinics; this allows nurse practitioners to take on patients who would otherwise have to wait weeks, or even months, to see a doctor.

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Plus Capital Partner Amanda Groves on Celebrity Equity Investments

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
PLUS Capital​’s Amanda Groves.
Courtesy of Amanda Groves.

On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, Amanda Groves talks about how PLUS Capital advises celebrity investors and why more high-profile individuals are choosing to invest instead of endorse.

As a partner at PLUS, Groves works with over 70 artists and athletes, helping to guide their investment strategies. PLUS advises their talent roster to combine their financial capital with their social capital and focus on five investment areas: the future of work, future of education, health and wellness, the conscious consumer and sustainability.

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