Anti-Bias Fund Q&A: Yumi Co-Founder Evelyn Rusli
January 21, 2021 | Scott Murphy
We’re pleased to introduce you to one of AVG’s initial investments in the Anti-Bias Fund, which supports diverse founders and companies who help correct systemic biases. AVG recently invested in Yumi and interviewed the company’s Co-Founder and President, Evelyn Rusli.
Yumi is a data-driven, direct-to-consumer, organic baby food brand aiming to disrupt the $40 billion U.S. early childhood nutrition market. While legacy brands have 90% market share, they sell products that are processed, high in sugar, and low in nutrition. By leveraging nutrition science, better data, and content, Yumi is offering a superior, healthier option that parents can trust for children 5 months to 5 years.
New Anti-Bias Fund Open
The Anti-Bias Fund offers investors a portfolio of ~20-30 venture investments that are led by diverse founders/teams belonging or featuring a business model addressing systemic biases. Click below to review fund materials, along with case studies on AVG portfolio companies that demonstrate the kind of investment we might add to the Anti-Bias Fund. If you’re an accredited investor you can also book a call with a Senior Partner if you have questions or want to learn more.
Q&A with Yumi Co-Founder and President Evelyn Rusli
What problems or opportunities is Yumi addressing?
Rusli: Yumi aims to raise a healthier generation by giving families access to nourishing meals, tailored to their child’s development. In the last two decades, there has been significant scientific evidence on the importance of nutrition in the first years of life and the need for specific vitamins and minerals to fuel brain, physical, metabolic development and future health outcomes. Food is one of the biggest factors in brain development, with about 80% of the adult brain formed by age 2.
Unfortunately, the options at the grocery store aren’t cutting it. When Angela, our Co-Founder and CEO, went to the store as a new, working mother, she was frustrated to find that her options were shelf-stable, high in fructose, and low in nutrition. It felt strange to her that there were more options for fresh, direct-to-consumer dog food than baby food.
With Yumi, we want to help parents connect the dots between nutrition and development and make it easy for them to feed their children meals and snacks designed to support development.
How does Yumi’s service work?
Rusli: Parents log on the website and share basic information such as their child’s birth date so we know what to recommend. We provide a menu based on a kid’s stage and age, plus weekly content that’s mapped to their journey. Our meals were designed with the help of nutritionists and pediatricians and are freshly prepared, organic, and delivered weekly. Given our focus on supporting development, we pay a lot of attention to nutrient density, exposing kids to a variety of flavors and keeping the amount of fruit and the fiber-to-fructose ratio in check.
Why is Yumi a good fit for our Anti-Bias Fund?
Rusli: Angela and I are children of immigrants, and we credit a lot of our success to those diverse backgrounds. Angela’s mother was a refugee who fled Vietnam during the war, and my parents came from Indonesia in the 1970s. We first bonded over that as friends, but we also recognize that our upbringing shaped who we are in our personal and professional life. Our parents’ stories and our own experiences and moments of adversity have helped us find a deep level of grit and strength, ultimately leading us to co-founding Yumi.
I love what the Anti-Bias Fund represents and its commitment to supporting diverse founders. I think that’s a huge part in creating progress in this industry.
From Left: Co-Founders Angela Southerland and Evelyn Rusli
What biases have you experienced in venture capital?
Rusli: Humans are wired to look for shortcuts. When you’ve seen samples of success, you want to match that as closely as possible. There’s a lot of pressure on investors to find winners, and sometimes investors will default to more conservative patterns in order to do that. These biases are not necessarily from a place of malice — after all, everyone wants to find the next Mark Zuckerberg. But they certainly make it more difficult for less represented groups to break through.
This dynamic means that if you fit the mold, you may be given the benefit of the doubt. But if you don’t, you have to push that much harder to prove that your startup, idea, or view on the world is exceptional. In speaking with other founders, there’s a sense that women founders are judged more against their recent numbers and performance, vs. their male counterparts who get more questions about promise or potential.
Join our many upcoming Anti-Bias Fund webinars for opportunities to learn more on how to do good and do well by backing diverse founders/teams.
- A Conversation with Mom and Baby Healthcare Innovator Melissa Hanna
- The Challenges and Opportunities in Diverse Investing
- Meet the Portfolio: Conversation with Three Companies Backed by the Anti-Bias Fund
Watch our most recent 45-minute webinar where AVG’s CEO and CIO discuss the opportunity to do good and well through the Anti-Bias Fund.
- Introduction to the AVG Anti-Bias Fund
Can you share examples of bias you’ve experienced?
Rusli: Because the topic of bias has been more front and center, founders are more likely to encounter subtle forms of bias. In some ways, it’s easier to tackle overt bias because you can identify it and know where you stand. I remember one prospective investor suggested we would have a stronger pitch if we brought on a male co-founder. Then a different VC asked us if we really thought there was a big market for our service because all the women in his life loved to cook. Once again, a clear and helpful red flag.
On the other hand, when it’s so subtle, you end up second guessing yourself. You wonder if this person would ask the same question with a male entrepreneur, or use the same tone. It’s helpful having a co-founder that you can unpack these moments with. But there’s also only so much bandwidth, and we have to focus on the priorities of the business.
Why did you decide to work with AVG?
Rusli: You can always tell when investors have true conviction in what you’re building or are just chasing momentum. From our first conversation, AVG clearly communicated their enthusiasm and passion for our mission and immediately understood our vision. We also appreciated AVG’s commitment to being a strong partner and excitement to bring value in areas like partnership, recruitment, and network-building.
AVG’s Anti-Bias Fund offers a portfolio of ~20-30 venture investments that are led by a diverse founding team or feature a business model addressing systemic biases. ~20% of the fund is reserved for follow-on investments. Minimum starts at $25K. Click below to learn more.