We saw over 500 candidates for our Associate role at Baukunst. It was an exceptional group of people. Chelsea stood head and shoulders above the rest. We love working with interdisciplinary experts, and she’s no exception.
Chelsea’s been an early stage investor at Dorm Room Fund and Space Capital where she led investments into companies like Gaia AI.
Prior to full-time investing, she founded Apex Haus, a boutique product strategy firm working across developer tools, climate, and biotech. Prior to Apex, she worked in Solutions Architecture at Mapbox, Research at Harvard, and Product Strategy at ESRI. She holds a BA from UC Berkeley in Law, a BA from UC Berkeley in Environmental Studies, and an MBA from the Haas School of Business.
Bonus fun fact: years ago while scouting local music talent and booking shows in LA, she helped put on the band Haim’s first residency. Chelsea has an eye for spotting talent early and, at Baukunst, she’ll be supporting the entire investment process at the fund with a special focus on network-driven sourcing.
We took this occasion to sit down with Goddard to learn about the virtual communities she is lurking in to find founders, the forthcoming San Francisco renaissance, and the areas at the intersection of tech and design that most fascinate her.
What’s most compelling to you about working in venture capital?
Chelsea Goddard: I love the detective work that happens behind the scenes. With venture, I am able to step back and research trends in the market, and look for clues about what’s coming next. From there, I am able to piece together a narrative about what is going to happen based on what is happening right now. I think this affords me a very unique opportunity to pattern match across history about technological innovation and act as somewhat of a soothsayer in service of LPs and the Partners.
What I also love about VC is how this more passive work is balanced by the more active role of being of service to founders, helping them build their teams and think through their commercialization strategy. It's really an incredible opportunity to work with people who have the courage to bet on themselves, against the odds, and trust you to help them bring their vision into the world. It’s a great combination.
Where do you go for intel on what’s happening trend-wise?
Chelsea Goddard: I'm on Twitter all the time and am very much a lurker. I don't post a lot. I’m more the residential reply guy. Through Twitter I’ve gained exposure to a bunch of different communities that I’m excited about. Over the past four days, I've spent an embarrassing amount of time obsessively looking at every person on this site called Read.cv. There are some incredible designers in this community and Read makes it easy to look at their portfolios; it’s a similar ethos to Dribble but with a more engaging UI/UX. It’s been a great way to interact with people who are launching new projects and/or looking for new product design roles. And then another community I’ve enjoyed getting to know recently is The Forum on The Information. If you subscribe to The Information and download their app, you can directly interact with the authors of The Information’s articles as well as guest contributors. I've seen a number of founders and investors here, but it still feels relatively undiscovered, which is probably one of the reasons I like it. I think as people have started to kind of churn from Twitter and Mastodon has still not quite delivered on its promise, The Information could be a fascinating template for a future-of-media company.
In addition to being on Twitter a lot, I like meeting people in-person. IRL, go figure. Being social is an important part of the role so I’m always looking to meet people in different cities who are lightning rods for talent and who have the uncanny ability to attract highly attuned people to their friend groups.
In terms of being social, how do you find San Francisco?
Chelsea Goddard: My hope is that 2023 is the renaissance year for San Francisco. Living in San Francisco, there’s a high density of really smart individuals who are often working at the frontiers of innovation. And at the same time, it’s a sleepy city. It doesn’t have the same energy as New York or LA. But I think this can actually be a great catalyst for you to play an active role in organizing events yourself. I’ve started to host dinners and now as part of the Baukunst team, we’re going to be doing this on a regular basis. I think San Francisco is a place where a lot of people want to connect and that presents a great opportunity for someone like me who enjoys bringing people together.
Why is the pre-seed stage of investing appealing to you?
Chelsea Goddard: When I was a kid, I always wanted to be the person who was in the know. I wanted to be the one who knew about the band before everyone else did. I grew up in Los Angeles and one of my fun facts is that I helped the band Haim put on their first residency. I loved being the person who got to share a great piece of music with someone for the first time. For me, that’s magic. I also feel this way about early stage founders. Pre-seed is really interesting to me because, to be great, I think it forces you to find creative ways to discover people who are the best in the world at what they do and establish such a genuine connection with them that when they decide to start their company, you’re their first call. It’s not a stage for transactional fundamentals or the faint of heart.
Beyond the cultural and emotive appeal of investing at the pre-seed, I also like that early stage investing has 1) the highest potential for returns and 2) the closest proximity to my customer base. As a VC, I have two customers: Founders and LPs. I focus on finding the best companies at the earliest part of their journey to ensure that when there is a clear fit (stage, sector, expertise), we are able to support the team in structuring the financing in a way where “everyone wins” (as the Baukunst GPs like to say). There are a lot of approaches to investing and I’m excited to work with a team that has so much experience helping founders successfully raise follow-on capital by investing with discipline.
Are there any areas within tech you’re especially excited about right now?
Chelsea Goddard: I think about this all the time because I really like thesis-driven investing so it’s important to me to have a rotating list of themes I can explore using a repeatable process. For the last six months, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at climate tech and specifically, companies developing novel technologies to generate carbon credits. I think areas of opportunity in that space are both finding better ways to underwrite risk for carbon credits as well as developing lightweight hardware products that make it easier to generate carbon credits. Another area within climate tech that intrigues me, though I’m not sure there is a venture opportunity there, is water filtration. We need new ways to reuse water, and that’s a very interesting design problem.
I’m also always curious about software companies who are building better tools for designers and developers. My partner is an engineer and I also spent a few years helping manage project development for engineering teams, so this is an area I want to continue to develop opinions about. And then an area I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about recently is media. What does the future of media look like? And is that a venture scale opportunity? Historically, publishing and news has been a hard business to get right. But could there be a genuine opportunity for high quality, short form news (like Medium meets Apple News)? It’s an outstanding question.
What motivated you to join the Baukunst team?
Chelsea Goddard: I met Matt (Thoms) a few years ago and we casually stayed in touch. Honestly, he was incredibly gracious with his time since I started reaching out to him when I was first learning what it meant to work in venture capital. When I saw the launch of Baukunst, I reached out to Matt to congratulate him and he suggested I meet with Kate (McAndrew). Kate and I met in a cafe in San Francisco, where we had an hour-long coffee and discussed her thoughts on everything from investing to working with diverse founders. Afterward, on my way to my car, I called my fiancé and said, I just met the woman I want to work for someday. Then two hours later, Kate e-mailed me to ask if I’d like to interview for a position. The rest is history.
I think how VCs treat their team members is often emblematic of how they're going to treat founders. The way I clicked with both Matt and Kate then Tyler and Axel gave me a lot of confidence that this team was going to be very founder first. I’m excited about that.