Maria Anthony is a Vice President at Vera Equity focusing on founders at pre-seed or seed, and has been in investing her entire professional career. After a stint in buyouts during college, Maria joined General Atlantic post-grad doing tech growth equity.
Vera Equity is a new early stage, fintech-focused venture capital firm. Recent raise of over $20M for the first fund has already been invested in 20 exciting start-ups. Vera's secret sauce really comes from the deep industry relationships and expertise of two founding partners – Mike Vaughan (former COO of Venmo) and Jon Pomeranz (Head of the Fintech Practice at True Search). Vera has been able to harness the power of their networks, as well as True Search’s, to make highly-valuable introductions to talent, partners, customers, investors, etc. and to offer hands-on operational advisory. Maria is happy to be part of Vera's team in getting this fund off the ground, celebrating a mark-up, debating the merits of a deal, or trying to counsel founders through a historic bank failure.
Venture is a key component of accelerating innovation in any industry, and Maria believes that all VCs are enablers. VCs want to provide capital and all of the help they can to teams that have highly-differentiated, impactful, and grand visions – teams that are really swinging for the fences. If even just a couple of their portfolio companies were to succeed in their missions, they would have been a part – however small – of creating big change for fintech.
Being the first and (for now) only full-time employee launching a first-time fund alongside Vera's GPs means this role is a constant challenge, and Maria is able to participate in everything from picking fund name to sourcing and diligence to fundraising to evaluating 401K and insurance options. Every day presents a new opportunity to learn, and Maria is a great fit for this role and for fintech investing generally amidst a downturn, a banking crisis, etc. over the past year. "No one knows everything, but if you’re willing and excited to learn, it goes a long way," says Maria.
This current fundraising environment has eliminated a lot of the “we’re x but better,” copycat-type start-ups which Maria thinks is a good thing. Most of the ideas/companies Vera is funding these days are truly unique, not just iterations of something that has already been done, and over the long-term it is going to result in greater degrees of improvement on the fintech problems that still exist today. She is excited about quite a few across insurtech, API infrastructure, identity, and more.
It’s not advice so much as inspiration, but one of Maria's my favorite poems is by the amazing Rupi Kaur:
on the sacrifices
of a million women before me
what can i do
to make this mountain taller
so the women after me
can see farther
More on Maria
Where you currently live: New York, NY…for now :)
Family at home: Dad, Mom, and three siblings – the best I could ask for!
Hometown: South Bend, IN
Favorite hobby: Pickleball, Yoga, Reading
Favorite show to binge: The Office
FinTech Media inspiration: It is not fintech-specific but I have been really enjoying the Weekly Dose of Optimism newsletter from Not Boring by Packy McCormick recently. It is nice to read news that makes you feel optimistic for a change!
What's the best job decision you ever made?
I’m a fairly risk-averse person (ironic for someone in VC, I know) so deciding to leave the comfort, security, and predictability of a junior investing position at an established, 40+ year old firm to join some first-time GPs in a relatively unstructured role was terrifying. It took some serious urging from my dad, an entrepreneur himself, to take the leap, and I couldn’t be happier that I did. It’ll be a while before we know if the fund is a monetary success, but for me personally, it already feels like a success because of how much I have grown, learned, and developed. Leave your comfort zone!
Can you tell us about a time someone encouraged you to try a task or take on a project you didn’t think that you would know how to do/or be good at?
I spent ten weeks living with a family in Chile as a foreign exchange student at the age of thirteen. Upon arrival, I was terrified, spoke very basic Spanish, and immediately missed my friends and family back home, but my parents encouraged me to stick it out. I bumbled my way through the next few months and came back near-fluent, having made tons of new friends and experienced a whole different way of life. It gave me a passion for travel and language that has impacted me and my life profoundly.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past?
A consistent “mistake” or “weakness” (that I am still working on) in my jobs has been my hesitancy to speak up, particularly when surrounded by people I view as more experienced, intelligent, or accredited than me. It’s usually part fear of sounding stupid, part uncertainty if I’m supposed to contribute, part genuine desire to listen to and learn from everyone else instead of talking myself. I received this feedback at my first job and now, I try to contribute at all meetings or events or calls, even if it’s just with a good question.
Do you have any productivity hacks? What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I have some key habits that I think contribute both to productivity and work/life balance, which for me go hand in hand - setting my phone across the room when I need to focus, bucketing my time so that I can tackle one task at a time more effectively, or taking calls on a walk (vs. sitting at my computer) on a sunny Friday afternoon.
6:30 am - wake up, get coffee in my system as fast as possible.
7:00 am - exercise
8:30 am to 5:30 pm - work (it changes every day but always includes calls, emails, writing, reading, research, etc.); more coffee; breakfast & lunch mixed in.
5:30 pm - walk, errands, appointments.
6:30 pm - dinner
7:00 pm - back online to finish the day!
9:30pm - read, sleep.