Grace Isford

Grace Isford

Principal
The best entrepreneurs are humble, ambitious visionaries. They are voracious learners determined to achieve—and exceed—their goals.

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. 

The types of companies within the Autonomy Economy that Grace is passionate about include: 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.

Before Canvas, Grace worked on the LP side, at the Stanford Management Company, and on the operating side, in product at edtech startup Handshake. Both experiences led her to venture, where she is most motivated by helping entrepreneurs make their visions a reality.

Outside of work, Grace is passionate about increasing female representation in the venture and tech industry - she served as Co-President of Stanford Women in Business (Stanford’s largest pre-professional organization for women), currently serves as All Raise Cohort Captain, and was encouraged to join female-founded Canvas Ventures and break into venture after seeing Rebecca Lynn speak on a panel when she was still a student at Stanford.

Grace also serves on the board of Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), Stanford’s entrepreneurship program which stems from her participation in the Mayfield Fellowship program both as a fellow and teaching assistant.

Biography

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. 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.

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. 

The types of companies within the Autonomy Economy that Grace is passionate about include: 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.

Before Canvas, Grace worked on the LP side, at the Stanford Management Company, and on the operating side, in product at edtech startup Handshake. Both experiences led her to venture, where she is most motivated by helping entrepreneurs make their visions a reality.

Outside of work, Grace is passionate about increasing female representation in the venture and tech industry - she served as Co-President of Stanford Women in Business (Stanford’s largest pre-professional organization for women), currently serves as All Raise Cohort Captain, and was encouraged to join female-founded Canvas Ventures and break into venture after seeing Rebecca Lynn speak on a panel when she was still a student at Stanford.

Grace also serves on the board of Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), Stanford’s entrepreneurship program which stems from her participation in the Mayfield Fellowship program both as a fellow and teaching assistant.

Notable investments

Focus areas

While Grace works across the verticals Canvas invests in, she is particularly interested in B2B software companies including API, data, and ML-first companies, in addition to decentralized applications built atop Web3.

Personal interests

Favorite book

Mindset by Carol Dweck. She believes in the growth mindset, thriving on challenges and viewing them as areas of opportunity for personal growth.

Motivation

Fun fact

Grace lived in Tokyo, Japan during her childhood and aspires to re-learn the Japanese language.

What founders say

Grace is the bar for the ideal investor that a SaaS founder needs. Vendia and I have personally come to realize the fruits of working with Grace in just a few months. 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. At the same time, Grace has this uncanny ability to detach from details and founder emotions and advise based on the market dynamics. If we were to do it all over again, we would pick Grace 100% of the time.
Shruthi Rao
|
Co-Founder and CBO
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Vendia
Working with Grace has been really seamless right from the beginning. 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.
Antti Karjalainen
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Co-Founder and CEO
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Robocorp
We have been fortunate to work with Grace and the Canvas team over the last 3 years. Her advice has been instrumental in scaling our business — whether it be helping us attract top talent to our company or helping us refine our go-to-market strategy. As an investor, Grace is willing to dig into the details while at the same time pushing us to think bigger — both great attributes when your goal is to transform a massive industry
Ben Eachus
|
Co-Founder and CEO
|
Flowspace

Investments

None