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October 2021

Announcing Grace Isford as Principal Investor on the Canvas Team

Grace has been with Canvas since 2016, and during her time at the firm she has sourced ten deals representing more than $100M in deployed capital and serves as either a board director or board observer on seven of those ten companies. As a rising star in today’s competitive investing landscape, Grace has built an extensive network and demonstrated conviction around Canvas’ consistent focus on leading Series A investments in fintech, healthtech, marketplaces, and on the infrastructure that powers them. Grace has developed a specific thesis around companies participating in what she is calling the “Autonomy Economy,” including API, data, and ML-first companies.

At Canvas, deep thesis work is foundational to our approach. As my fellow partners Rebecca Lynn, Mike Ghaffary, Gary Little, and I have observed, Grace has an innate ability to dive into a burgeoning space and come out with a comprehensive understanding of the landscape, its opportunities and challenges, and the future winners. She does this by digging into research, developing a new network, and meeting with the best entrepreneurs. Over Grace’s 5 years with Canvas, she has consistently proven her versatility and strength as a valued partner and team player at the firm.

My partner and co-founder at Canvas Rebecca Lynn says it best: “We have been so impressed by the extensive network Grace has cultivated across the venture & tech ecosystem. Within Canvas, she’s built successful working relationships with our entrepreneurs since Day 1 when she started as a liaison a while at Stanford, similar to the way I kicked off my career in venture while at Berkeley.”

I have had the privilege of working with many great venture investors and mentored a few who have gone on to be great general partners at top firms in our industry. Grace is one of the best emerging stars that I have seen in my career. We are thrilled to continue to nurture and build our own bench at Canvas.

Leading investments & partnering with founders

In April 2021, Grace led the Series A investment in Robocorp, the first cloud-native, open-source automation stack and orchestration platform to power robotic process automation (RPA). With the investment, she joined the board alongside lead seed investor Peter Fenton of Benchmark Capital. 

"Working with Grace has been seamless right from the beginning” says Antti Karjalainen, co-founder and CEO of Robocorp. “She spent a year getting to know us, wrote a wonderful RPA whitepaper, and sourced new hires before Canvas had even invested. Grace has always been ready to pitch in and help, whether it's in hiring and interviewing candidates or going through our go-to-market strategy. It has been great to team up with an investor who's just as focused and dedicated to growing the company as the founding team is."

Grace also sourced Canvas’s investment in Vendia, a blockchain-based platform enabling unalterable data sharing at scale co-founded by Tim Wagner, the founder of AWS Lambda, and Shruthi Rao an AWS Managed Blockchain leader, after impressing the team with her analysis of the data and ML landscape. 

“Grace is that ideal investor that a SaaS founder needs,” says Rao. “She turns into an operator when the need arises and jumps in to help us founders with anything from recruiting, intros and interviewing, to helping us create messaging and financial models.” 

Other deals Grace played a key role in include Flowspace in the warehousing fulfillment space, Skyflow in the data privacy space, and Airvet in the pet telehealth space.

Cultivating leaders in the “Autonomy Economy”

Grace’s investment thesis centers around companies engaging in what she dubs the “autonomy economy” or the set of interrelated activities, platforms, and incentives that promote autonomous ideals of self-reliance, self-advocacy, and self-actualization. ​​Companies that thrive in the autonomy economy are those that leverage technology focused on improving the individual experience often manifested in the form of greater individual efficiency or agency. 

Grace is focused on B2B software companies such as: API-first companies making legacy processes simpler and more efficient; data and ML-first companies especially those with vertical applications in the fintech and healthtech ecosystems hyper-personalizing user experiences; and decentralized applications built atop Web3 supporting self-governance. 

Please join us in congratulating Grace as she steps into her new role as Principal on the Canvas investment team. 

You can follow Grace on Twitter @graceisford, connect with her on LinkedIn, and check out some of her articles on Medium on the API economy, being a data leader, and investing in the age of Covid. 

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