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Who markets marketing? This duo started a VC firm to scale what 'founders are starving for'

A megaphone with colored streams flaring out as if a message were being amplified

Emily Kramer is well known in the marketing world, both for her professional expertise and her voice. The entrepreneur was Carta’s former VP of marketing and made headlines in 2020 when she filed a lawsuit that accused the company of gender discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination and of violating the California Equal Pay Act.

Now, three years after the lawsuit was first filed, Kramer says the “matter was resolved.” Filings show that the settlement came a month ahead of the case’s impending trial date. She declined to comment further.

“It definitely impacted where I am now in the sense that this was an inflection point,” said Kramer, who is one of many former Carta employees embroiled in legal battles with the company. “I want to do something on my own terms, and I want to do something that I think matters and can have an impact. And I want to invest in companies that I think care about DEI.”

Enter MKT1 Capital, a venture firm that Kramer is building alongside Kathleen Estreich, who previously led marketing and operations teams at Box, Facebook and Scalyr. MKT1, which is a play on their initials and the word “marketing,” closed $5 million in investment capital last year from over 85 individuals. The firm announced today that it is pivoting to a 506(c), which means it can publicly solicit fundraising, with the hopes of raising another $5 million.

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Estreich says that it was always their plan to start with a private fundraise, and -- after getting early traction -- switch to a raise that would allow accredited investors outside of their community to invest. The strategy is similar to that of Sophia Amoruso, who dedicated a $1 million allocation to a public fundraise, and Turner Novak, who is raising publicly for a tranche of his second fund after building his venture brand in public for years prior. Both entrepreneurs have solid online followings -- and the same goes for Estreich and Kramer, who have a popular marketing-focused newsletter with over 20,000 subscribers.

The two founders, who nearly completed each other's sentences during their interview with TechCrunch, want to reframe tech’s messaging around marketing -- both by investing in companies that need support and by on-ramping a network of marketing professionals into the angel investing world.

“You have to be as good at distribution as you are at building a product,” Kramer said. “We really think of marketing as a strategic lever and in some ways it is under-utilized and under-supported.” Part of the reason behind that, she added, is because, unlike sales, marketing results are harder to measure and can lead to longer-term revenue goals rather than immediate short-term results.

The investors think that there is eagerness in the cohort of marketing professionals to not just shape stories, but also write checks. “Marketers aren't investing because they're not getting the opportunity to invest,” Kramer said, citing stats that show that less than 1% of angel investors on the investing database Crunchbase are marketers.

“They don't know where to go. They're not in these circles with the product people or the sales people -- there's just like no inertia there, Kramer added.” So far, over half the LPs in MKT1’s first close were from the marketing world, and it has a reduced minimum check size for any marketing professionals looking to invest in the new tranche of the fund.

While the firm is working on rebranding marketing, MKT1 doesn’t just invest in marketing companies, but instead applies a marketing lens to potential investments and pursues companies that they believe they’ll be able to help on the go-to-market side. So far, it has invested in 14 startups, including Anrok, Pocus, Plain and Vori.

“Founders are starving for this,” Kramer said. We’ll tell them something very basic -- we tell them complicated stuff as well -- but we’ll tell them something really basic, and they’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, this changed the game for us.’”