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.

A 'Soho house for techies': VCs place a bet on community

Contrary is the latest venture firm to experiment with building community spaces instead of offices.

Contrary NYC is meant to re-create being part of a members-only club where engineers and entrepreneurs can hang out together, have a space to work, and host events for people in tech.

Photo: Courtesy of Contrary

In the pre-pandemic times, Contrary’s network of venture scouts, founders, and top technologists reflected the magnetic pull Silicon Valley had on the tech industry. About 80% were based in the Bay Area, with a smattering living elsewhere. Today, when Contrary asked where people in its network were living, the split had changed with 40% in the Bay Area and another 40% living in or planning to move to New York.

It’s totally bifurcated now, said Contrary’s founder Eric Tarczynski.

Keep Reading Show less
Biz Carson

Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.

Binance CEO wrestles with the 'Chinese company' label

Changpeng "CZ" Zhao, who leads crypto’s largest marketplace, is pushing back on attempts to link Binance to Beijing.

Despite Binance having to abandon its country of origin shortly after its founding, critics have portrayed the exchange as a tool of the Chinese government.

Photo: Akio Kon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In crypto, he is known simply as CZ, head of one of the industry’s most dominant players.

It took only five years for Binance CEO and co-founder Changpeng Zhao to build his company, which launched in 2017, into the world’s biggest crypto exchange, with 90 million customers and roughly $76 billion in daily trading volume, outpacing the U.S. crypto powerhouse Coinbase.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.


How I decided to leave the US and pursue a tech career in Europe

Melissa Di Donato moved to Europe to broaden her technology experience with a different market perspective. She planned to stay two years. Seventeen years later, she remains in London as CEO of Suse.

“It was a hard go for me in the beginning. I was entering inside of a company that had been very traditional in a sense.”

Photo: Suse

Click banner image for more How I decided seriesA native New Yorker, Melissa Di Donato made a life-changing decision back in 2005 when she packed up for Europe to further her career in technology. Then with IBM, she made London her new home base.

Today, Di Donato is CEO of Germany’s Suse, now a 30-year-old, open-source enterprise software company that specializes in Linux operating systems, container management, storage, and edge computing. As the company’s first female leader, she has led Suse through the coronavirus pandemic, a 2021 IPO on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and the acquisitions of Kubernetes management startup Rancher Labs and container security company NeuVector.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.


UiPath had a rocky few years. Rob Enslin wants to turn it around.

Protocol caught up with Enslin, named earlier this year as UiPath’s co-CEO, to discuss why he left Google Cloud, the untapped potential of robotic-process automation, and how he plans to lead alongside founder Daniel Dines.

Rob Enslin, UiPath's co-CEO, chats with Protocol about the company's future.

Photo: UiPath

UiPath has had a shaky history.

The company, which helps companies automate business processes, went public in 2021 at a valuation of more than $30 billion, but now the company’s market capitalization is only around $7 billion. To add insult to injury, UiPath laid off 5% of its staff in June and then lowered its full-year guidance for fiscal year 2023 just months later, tanking its stock by 15%.

Keep Reading Show less
Aisha Counts

Aisha Counts (@aishacounts) is a reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software. Formerly, she was a management consultant for EY. She's based in Los Angeles and can be reached at

Latest Stories