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Now a co-managing partner, Upfront’s Kara Nortman is one of the first women promoted to a leadership role in VC

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Kara Nortman has always been dedicated to supporting women in technology and in startups.

As one of the founders of the All Raise, the organization dedicated to supporting gender equity in venture capital and technology, a director for Times Up and as the co-founder of the Los Angeles-based expansion women’s soccer team, Angel City, Nortman has been a voice for equality in her professional and personal life.

Now with her promotion to co-managing partner at Upfront Ventures, Nortman (and her firm) are taking another big step to advance women in the industry. Her promotion represents what is likely the first time that a large venture capital firm has promoted a woman to the position of co-managing partner.

Historically women in the venture capital industry have had to launch their own funds to assume a leadership role in the industry. Norton’s promotion flies in the face of that — likely as a recognition that times have changed and firms need to adapt to a world where entrepreneurs are often choosing to take capital from firms that align with their values as much as their strategic vision.

For Upfront’s newest co-managing partner, the path to leadership at a fund with roughly $2 billion in assets under management began with late nights as an associate with Battery Partners in Massachusetts.

“I was the 23 year-old at the office reading MassSciTech and Red Herring until 10 at night,” Nortman recalled. “There wasn’t a ton of data to scrape and pull and run algorithms against.”

At Battery, Nortman focused on enterprise software before moving over to the corporate world as an executive at Interactive Corp. The Los Angeles native has been a partner at Upfront since 2014 where she’s invested in retail companies like Parachute Home (her first Upfront investment) and more recently in enterprise software companies like OpenRaven and Fleetsmith (which was acquired by Apple in her first big exit as an Upfront partner).

“My personal portfolio is about 30% consumer and 70% deeptech enterprise,” said Nortman. “I did all enterprise and infrastructure early in my career at Battery … because that’s all there was. There was no consumer to invest in 1999… Webvan and Pets.com were not good ideas.”

At Upfront Nortman will continue to work alongside managing partner, Mark Suster, leading the firm’s fund investment activities.

“If I had a dollar for every founder or VC who told me how much they loved Kara I’d have a 10x fund,” Suster said in a statement. “Kara is a natural leader as evidenced by her role as a founding member of All Raise, a board member of TIMES UP and in bringing the women’s professional soccer team, Angel City Football Club, to Los Angeles. Our giving her more leadership inside of Upfront is just a recognition of the role she already plays here.” 

Nortman is universally respected in the Los Angeles venture community with several investors saying that the move was an excellent strategic choice for the firm. It’s also (as far as I can tell) a historic one.

While there have been amazingly talented and qualified women working in venture capital for decades, few if any were able to assume leadership positions by being promoted from within. Jennifer Fonstadt and Theresia Gouw left DFJ and Accel (respectively) to launch their own fund. And Trae Vassallo, Aileen Lee and Beth Seidenberg all spent time at Kleiner Perkins before striking out on their own to launch independent funds.

Nortman said there won’t be any other changes to the partnership whose roster of partners includes Kobie Fuller, Greg Bettinelli, Aditi Maliwal and Michael Carney.

Nor will there be any changes to the strategy which has seen the firm invest roughly half of its capital in the greater Los Angeles region with the rest spread across deals in the U.S., Europe and Israel. 

Upfront’s success has tracked the broader expansion of the tech ecosystem in Los Angeles with big exits coming from hometown heroes like Ring, TestFlight and Maker Studios along with investments in rising Southern California stars like Bird, Apeel Sciences, and GOAT.

For Nortman, who has seen a lot of changes in the industry, the biggest is the need for specialization as firm’s grow. “It used to be that you could just hustle,” Nortman said. “You have to be really disciplined about how you build brands.”

Beyond that, there’s a need for investors to be more strategic about picking their investments, because hold periods are longer and the markets companies are tackling are exponentially larger than 20 years ago.

“I’m the first board member of almost every company I join. And I may be on the board for ten to 15 years,” Nortman said. “These days you need to be faster to make decisions and build brand but the commitment level is much much longer.”

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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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This 55″ 4K TCL Smart TV Hangs on Your Wall for $200

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

TCL 55″ S434 4K Smart TV | $200 | Best Buy

Best Buy has an insane deal going for a brand new 55″ 4K TCL smart TV. It’s the S434, which is pretty baseline for TCL’s lineup, but at just $200, there’s little to complain about. TCL’s panels are plenty sharp and accurate, and with this set, you’ll get HDR10 compliance for enhanced color and brightness in supported games and video content. This model has Android TV onboard for all your app needs, and with an included voice remote, all your favorite content is just a shout away with the help of Google Assistant.

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