Sustainability and Venture Capital are two buzz-worthy terms but oftentimes aren’t used together. This week’s feature, Lisa Feria, aligns her personal beliefs with her work while leading Stray Dog’s strategic investments to help create a more sustainable future for everyone. The firm invests in game-changing companies to promote a sustainable food system by leveraging food technology, precision fermentation, cellular agriculture, and synthetic biology. As Managing Partner & CEO of the Venture Capital firm, Lisa develops strategies to find and support visionary entrepreneurs capable of driving food system changes the world desperately needs.
Full name: Lisa Feria
Current job title: Managing Partner and CEO
Current company: Stray Dog Capital
Current location: Boulder, Colorado
As a Chemical Engineer, Lisa had always been involved with consumer-packaged goods and food while working at Procter & Gamble and General Mills respectively. At her last job, she saw two documentaries, Meet your Meat and Forks over Knives, that shifted her life’s view and sharpened her purpose.
“I knew that our unsustainable food system needed to be reinvented for the sake of people, animals, and the planet so I entered the Venture Capital field.” She now co-leads a Venture Capital fund that invests in early-stage food companies looking to replace the most environmentally harmful animal-based products.
Investments in precision fermentation and synthetic biology are sectors that interest Lisa the most. “The growth of plant-based eating has been astronomical and shows no signs of stopping. It is currently growing at twice the rate of the products it is trying to replace and is a very exciting area for investment. I am excited about investing in companies that offer different types of plant-based products that are better for you and better for the planet. In addition, I am very excited to support companies that are using biotechnology to grow meat without the animal (using cellular agriculture) and synthetic biology that will replace products such as collagen and gelatin.”
At Stray Dog Capital, Lisa and her team are currently fundraising for their third fund (expected to be a $75M fund), Stray Dog Capital Fund III, and also deploying the rest of the follow-on capital from their other two funds (SDC I and II).
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Lisa graduated from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of business with her MBA. She moved to the US during her sophomore year of undergraduate college to Georgia Tech with aspirations to finalize her chemical engineering degree. The real challenge for her was the language barrier wherein Lisa had to constantly translate everything from Spanish to English to stay on track during the complicated chemical engineering lectures. “I also didn’t know anyone at school and the study groups were set up already. I had to adapt or return home. That experience made me a much more resilient person and has served as a launchpad for other risky, but promising career moves that I’ve been able to make because I know, now, that I can survive and thrive.”
Along the way, Lisa had an incredible mentor, her boss at P&G who encouraged her to spread her wings and be herself. “He didn’t try to change my approach to match his, or to alter the way I saw things. He identified my potential, acknowledged my humanity, and celebrated my differences. He used to say that his job wasn’t “working on me”, that it was “removing obstacles for me”. It made all the difference in the world.”
Lisa utilizes the Pomodoro technique (20-30 mins of focused work followed by a 5-minute break) while listening to instrumental music to stay productive. “During the break, I get up, get something done at home (empty the dishwasher, water the plants, etc.), and then return to complete another session. It has been life-changing in terms of productivity.”
More on Lisa
Currently lives: Boulder, Colorado
Family at home: Husband, two boys (ages 11 & 13), and three dogs.
Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Favorite hobby: Reading.
Favorite part of your day: Morning because it’s when I’m the most productive.
Favorite show to binge: Currently rewatching Friends and watching “The Midwives” on Netflix.
6:00 am – I get up and stretch. I recently got diagnosed with plantar fasciitis so I’m trying to baby my feet back to health. I don’t use my own alarm but rely on my husband’s alarm to get me out of bed. I changed my approach after I noticed that when my alarm goes off, my body releases a lot of adrenaline and I feel a low-grade panic that hangs around for an hour afterward. But, when I hear my husband’s alarm go off, it doesn’t cause the same response so I can get up and be less frazzled right off the bat. I grab my cup of coffee (espresso with soy milk) and go over my meetings for the day. I use three tools to plan: a notebook, a planner on my iPad (that I purchased from Etsy), and Microsoft To Do. I set up my three top priorities of the day (personal and work-related), review if I need to prepare for meetings, and set up “opportunistic” tasks (in case I have extra time).
7:00 am – I take my dogs for a walk around the neighborhood. I am trying (and mostly failing) to teach them to be better leash walkers, so I take treats for the walk. I have three rescue dogs my family adopted from Great Plains SPCA and they are, as a fellow walker remarked: small, medium, and extra-large-sized.
7:15 am – I complete my skincare routine, apply makeup, do my hair and get dressed. Gotta get that sunscreen on!
7:30 am – My workday starts, and I use my planner to slot the top priorities of the day between meetings: I like to have a time of the day planned for each top priority. I use the Pomodoro technique and work in 20-30 min spurts with 5 minutes of breaks in between. This method plus the “Endel” app (provides instrumental music) helps me stay laser-focused on the top tasks. When the timer is up (I track the time with my phone’s timer) I get up and do something from my “personal” to-dos. The only requirement is that it needs to be completed in 5 minutes. I get a lot done in those 5-minute spurts! It has the additional benefit of getting me up my chair to move around. I have a treadmill desk that I used quite a lot during the pandemic and will use again once it gets too cold to walk outside
11:30 am – I break for lunch and quickly review my emails to identify the urgent ones. I have a specific folder called “A1 Priority” for emails that need my urgent attention but that can wait until the end of the day. I quickly categorize my emails (delete, file in folders, or complete the action if it takes a few minutes to do so). For lunch, I try to relax my brain and not work, so I grab a book, newspaper, or other reading material and head outside to eat. After reading the “How Not to Diet” book by Dr. Michael Greger, I have moved to starting meals with either a salad or a small soup to increase my whole-food plant consumption. I eat plant-based but can sometimes fall prey to eating the same, carb-heavy meals and not including enough fruits or vegetables.
12:00 pm – I start on dinner by setting up vegetables to be roasted in the oven with a timer and the pressure cooker to make brown rice with the delayed timer. I prep other ingredients I need to make final dinner preparations easy.
12:30 pm – Back at my desk to work. I check email again before diving into the next urgent to-dos (I set my Pomodoro timer, put on my headphones, and go at it).
2:30 pm – Let the meetings begin! I have been working hard over time to improve my meeting strategy because I was doing 8-9 meetings a day and ending the day exhausted and with no todos done plus a lot of emails to go through. It was unsustainable, unsatisfying, and inefficient. I started using Calendly and protected my mornings, which is when I am at my most creative and productive. I shortened the meetings to 30 minutes and found that 99% of the meetings that would’ve been scheduled for 1 hour could easily be done in 30 minutes. I have 30 minutes in between meetings so I can follow up and add items to my Microsoft Tasks as needed. I generally plan for 4-5 meetings a day to keep my energy flowing all day through.
3:30 pm – I have my green tea or coffee plus a snack. I am partial to green smoothies, apples with walnuts, or Trader Joe’s cashew yogurt with chia seeds, elderberry tonic, berries, and sliced almonds.
5:00 pm – I start my shutdown process, check my to-do list, prepare the to-do and meeting list tomorrow and clean out my email.
5:30 pm – I tidy my desk and finish dinner. My husband, kids, and I eat dinner together and chat about our day. After dinner, I am pretty tired.
7:00 pm – I hang out with my husband and dogs, watching TV, reading etc. Recently we’ve been rewatching the movie “In The Heights” on HBO Max (before they remove it). I find it so joyous and there is always one song from that musical living rent-free in my head.
9:00 pm – I take a bath, do my nighttime skincare routine, and get ready for bed.
10:30 pm – Lights out!
8:30 am – I wake up and cannot believe I slept in late! I usually cannot because my back starts bothering me (I’m getting old!). I rush out for a photography class my husband and I are taking downtown. I really like photography and I am learning how to use my DSLR camera fully. I am an “eternal student” and love learning new things.
11:00 am – We drive to a Farmer’s Market recommended by a colleague and purchase some vegetables, sign on to a compost bin recycling program and learn about neighborhood farms that are selling local, organic vegetables and fruits. We leave the market and find one of the homes with a 1.5-acre urban, organic farm. We meet the farmer, who gives us a quick tour and buy some amazing-looking veggies for the week. On our way back, we stop at Trader Joe’s to buy yogurt and a few filler items.
11:30 am – We stop by a new bookstore that opened, Blk & Brwn, to get more books. I salivate at the thought of spending Saturday afternoon cuddled up in an electric blanket, with my Dachshund/Chihuahua mix snuggled next to me, while I read a new book. This is to be one of life’s greatest pleasures.
12:00 pm – After a quick lunch, we work on the yard, landscaping, and weed our tiny vegetable garden. I download the photographs we took and start backing them up into a portable hard drive disk and google photos. I will edit those later.
5:00 pm – We eat dinner – roasted vegetables, seitan, brown rice, and beans and retire to read and watch some TV. We follow many Minimalist Baker recipes because you can find easy and quick whole-foods plant-based recipes and it gets us out of our rut.
6:00 pm- It is a rainy day, and we are tired, so my husband and I watch each other’s Tik Tok feeds for a while. It never ceases to amaze me how different they are! His is full of trucks, blue-collar workers, welding, automobile repair, and yard work (not to mention a lot of southern accents). But he is a vegan engineer who drives a Prius! I crack up when yet another truck video pops up in his feed. My Tik Tok is full of creators of color, plant care, DIY, book reviews, and news. I get enough of venture capital from my day job!
10:00 pm – Lights out!
Reach out to Lisa on LinkedIn