Feb 2, 2022
Summary: On the
fourth episode of Season 8 of the Propcast, Louisa speaks with Liza
Benson, covering her journey to becoming a partner at one of the
most prominent female-led Venture Capital funds in the Real Estate
Tech space, Moderne
Ventures. In this episode
you’ll hear how Liza balances the time being a board member of
several companies whilst also raising $200 million in 2021. You’ll
also hear about the plan for deployment and what Liza and the team
look for when evaluating a PropTech business or a tech company.
Lastly, you’ll hear about Liza’s personal experience with being a
woman in the Proptech space, as well as a woman in Venture Capital
and the effect of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives
within some of their portfolio companies.
Key Insights From This Episode:
2000 was an interesting time to join venture capital at a very
instructive time in many ways, because we've seen over the last 5+
years everything is up and to the right. -
- We actually
don't use the term PropTech. We use the term Real Estate Tech. -
- We think about
Real Estate Tech in a very broad way. We actually like companies
that have multi verticals because the more verticals, the bigger
the market, and also not subject to the cyclicality of real estate.
- There are so
many different verticals in PropTech, that it touches anything in
the built environment, whether it’s mobility, ESG or the content.
There is a new vertical coming out every month. -
- You could have
the greatest market, the greatest business model but without the
right leaders to execute on it, it won't work. -
- What we're not seeing as much of,
unfortunately, is women partners. It is still a very, very low
number. I always tell people to make it your advantage. Everyone
will remember you when there's eight guys and you on a Zoom call. -
- We're in
a unique time right now where it's become easier to balance that
work-life balance. I think that is going to be a huge benefit for
women going forward. - Liza
Keywords: Venture Capital,
Real Estate Tech, Women, Investing
About Our Guests:
Liza Benson is a Partner with
Moderne Ventures and helps lead and manage investment activity with
particular focus on high-growth technology companies that can
achieve rapid adoption and scale. Prior to Moderne, Liza was a
Partner with StarVest Partners, focused on expansion stage B2B SaaS
investments. Previously, Liza was a Managing Director of Highbridge
Principals Strategies and invested primarily in online video,
digital media, and marketing technologies and prior to that she was
a Managing Director with Bear Stearns’ Constellation Growth Capital
and an investment banker at Patricof & Co and First Union where
she started her career.
About Our Host
Louisa started her career in
property working at a well-known estate agency in London. Realising
her people skills, she moved over to Lloyd May to pursue a career
in recruitment. She now is a Director at LMRE, who are a specialist recruitment firm driven
by PropTech and recruitment professionals, and Louisa oversees
their 5 core areas. Louisa co-founded LMRE and provides a
constructive recruitment platform to the new disruptors in real
estate. Louisa is also on the board of Directors at UK PropTech
LMRE believe there is a better
way to recruit. LMRE focus on a more comprehensive, client led focus
delivering exceptional talent to the place at the time. They are
passionate about the industry and passionate about people's
careers. LMRE spend time with each client to become and an
extension of the business, and their transparency and core values
help them grow with the sector. LMRE simplify recruitment and
innovate with our clients and evolve the people driven, PropTech
[02:00] You started off in
investment banking, at First Union and then a part of StarVest
partners. How did you come to Moderne Venture and meeting your
- I have been in venture in growth equity for 20
years. I started in investment banking to learn the technical
aspects of modelling and I joined my first fund in April
- I joined StarVest, a B2B SaaS investor, and
that is where I met Constance.
- I have been at Moderne Ventures for 4 years. We
have had a great run, we finished investing the first fund which
was $43 million. Then, last summer we raised our second fund, where
our original goal was a $125 million and our cap was $150 million
and we're able to blow through that cap, get our LPs to agree to go
to $200 million.
[05:50] What makes Moderne
unique, besides the 2 female leaders, and what does that mean to
you? Is there a set mission behind the fund?
- The fund was originally conceived by Constance
as a strategic fund out of the National Association of Realtors.
The basic premise was; “How can I stack the deck? How can I help my
companies in the most in the most profound way?”
- We're an early-stage investor in real estate
home services, FinTech and InsureTech having to do with real
- DocuSign is very interesting because it's
really not a PropTech company in any way. It has a lot of
applicability in our industries, but has many other verticals as
well. DocuSign became in the model for how we work with
- We love companies that have these multi
[8:05] Some of your strategic
investors include; Avalon Bay Communities, Greystar and leading
real estate companies such as Oak Tree Capital Management. Constance
generated a lot of these herself but how do you continue to support
- They are investing in us to improve the
operations and ultimately the NOI of their businesses. Therefore,
we need to make sure that we're bringing the best tech to these
companies so that they can fundamentally innovate
- We have systematized corporate programs that we
work with our LPs on.
- We also have another program that we call
Passport that is our business development group. It is systematised
approach, over a seven-month program, where all of our companies
are led through a mentorship with our LPs and larger advisory group
of 700 real estate execs.
[10:10] You have got about 700
real estate execs of which some notable names are Icon Port, Hippo
and Betta Mortage covering real estate, mortgage, finance and
insurance. Is there anything Moderne Venture looks for when
evaluating a company?
- Late seed to early B stage
- Founders are the number one thing. You could
have the greatest market, the greatest business model but without
the right leaders to execute on it, it won't work.
- Total Addressable Market (TAM), we look at it
in a very systematic way.
- We love companies that have a foothold in real
estate or want to have a foothold in real estate but also have
multi vertical applications.
- We also look at the business model, what is the
cost to acquire a customer? What is the long-term value of that
customer? What are the fundamental economics of the business at
[13:10] You are on various
boards as well like Widevine and Webify. What is it like balancing
all of this and being on the board of various companies?
- I am on 8 or 9 boards as a board member or
- I keep in touch with all of my CEOs on a
bi-weekly or monthly basis for one-on-one phone calls.
- From the perspective of the executives who are
running the companies, they think of Moderne Venture as a strategic
investor. We're not necessarily going to help them with their
budget, but we will help them get customers.
[16:15] Is there any advice that
you can give to woman looking to get into the investment space,
whether they're coming from the banking side, the consultancy side,
the venture capital side?
- There are 2 ways to come into venture capital;
you work for a particular startup or multiple startups that are
successful, or there is the investment banking and consulting
- Core skills of modelling, deck building and
strategic thinking are beneficial.
- What we're not seeing as much of unfortunately
is women partners, it is still a very, very low number. I always
tell people to make it your advantage. Everyone will remember you
when there's eight guys and you on a Zoom call.
[17:55] Are there any positive
experiences personally for you or any successful changes your
various portfolio companies have implemented to ensure
- Giving people the flexibility, they need to
balance work and life.
[19:55] The ‘LMRE’ part, Louisa
asks the guests to talk about:
- Lessons learned in your
- Never have
religious beliefs in either a company or an idea. I think you
always have to be open to the information that comes in open to
criticism, open to other thoughts.
- Mention a person, product or service
Electric Vehicle charger that does not need WiFi or cell
- Rewarding parts of working in the
- It changes every day. There is no schedule that
has to get done necessarily.
- What are you most Excited about for the
future of the space?:
- Being at a
venture fund that is focussed on the real estate
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