People

A VC-backed formula company turned the tables and let moms invest too

"Women in general are always taking a backseat on this. They will put more money into a nonprofit before they will put it into their own wealth growth," said Bobbie CEO Laura Modi.

​Bobbie co-founders Sarah Hardy (left) and Laura Modi wanted to have other moms invest in their formula brand.

Bobbie co-founders Sarah Hardy (left) and Laura Modi wanted to have other moms invest in their formula brand.

Photo: Bobbie

When Laura Modi worked at Airbnb, the company had conversations over and over and over again about how they could make hosts feel like they had a stake in the company.

"It was very, very challenging," Modi said. "It was a wake-up call for me that as a company evolves, it becomes harder and harder to do that."

That's why she's started early with her new company, Bobbie, a brand of European-style baby formula that survived an early FDA recall to become a cult hit among parents. The company already boasted a 7,000-person waitlist and reached $1 million in revenue in the first quarter. Now Modi did for Bobbie what she had trouble doing at Airbnb: She's given those fans a chance to invest in her company through a new crowdfunding initiative called The MotherLode.

After launching the campaign on Monday, Bobbie raised over $245,000 from 190 investors, primarily from moms and customers. It's also collecting names on a waitlist as it's weighing extending the offering to more moms, Modi said.

The MotherLode was not your typical crowdfunding campaign to raise cash for a business. Bobbie is fresh off raising a $15 million series A round, led by VMG, and has plenty of demand for its product. Instead, Modi, a mother of three, felt like she had a responsibility to offer the moms who are buying her product a chance to also become stakeholders of the company and share in its success.

Bobbie CEO Laura Modi with her family. Bobbie CEO Laura Modi with her family.Photo: Bobbie

"Raising this round woke me up to something that has actually been plaguing me for many years now, which is just the kind of people who get an opportunity to invest always look the same," Modi said. "And when you have an opportunity to build a brand from scratch, you also have an opportunity, maybe even a responsibility, to take money from people that you want to be able to give that value back to."

Founded by two mothers, Modi and Sarah Hardy, Bobbie wanted to raise money from a group that lost out on wealth and income during the pandemic. Last April, 45% of mothers with school-age children were not working, and millions of mothers left the workforce entirely, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In tech startups, female CEO salaries took a nearly 30% dip during the pandemic compared to male's salaries, which mostly stayed the same.

"Women in general are always taking a backseat on this. They will put more money into a nonprofit before they will put it into their own wealth growth," Modi said.

The company launched a campaign on equity crowdfunding site Republic and found it was fully subscribed within three hours. Those who invested also got a free year of Ellevest, a financial and career advice service geared toward women started by Sallie Krawcheck (also a Bobbie investor).

The goal wasn't cash — $245,000 won't go far for a venture-backed business — but to bring in "true fans" of a brand to be more invested in the business. Venture firms and startups alike are starting to crowdfund equity rounds to bring in supporters and give them skin in the game. Backstage Capital, a venture fund, offered a share of its carry to backers also through Republic to help bring more underrepresented investors into the ecosystem. Gumroad, a creator service, ended up raising most of its series C funding round through a crowdfunding campaign, eschewing traditional venture capital altogether.

For Modi, it's also a personal mission to bring moms in to share in the wealth. She already has high-profile moms, like Bumble's Whitney Wolfe Herd, as investors, and Modi wants the average mom to have a chance to invest "just like Whitney."

"The investing world feels closed off, almost like politics, for everyone else," she said. "It is the responsibility of people to try and break that down so that everyone has an opportunity to grow their wealth."

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Sallie Krawcheck's name. This story was updated on June 30, 2021.

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