Standd, a Washington D.C. startup that builds software to help lawyers and investors review deals, won the top investment prize at a new competition created by Seattle firm First Row Partners.
The inaugural Ensemble Fund launched earlier this year, aiming to help educate startup investors while providing capital and advice to early stage startups.
First Row spent six weeks reviewing 125 applications and ultimately handed the winning investment award to Standd, a Techstars Seattle grad founded last year that uses AI-fueled technology to streamline the deal review process.
“I think First Row has really set the bar for helping folks bridge the gap between angel and VC investing,” said Jen Haller, chief of staff at Ascend, who participated as an individual investor.
Minda Brusse, founding partner at First Row, said she was surprised and delighted at the momentum coming out of the new program, which included 17 investors, half of which were women. Most were high net worth individuals or representatives of small family offices.
“So many of them are asking us to run it again because of the relationship building, organized and facilitated learning experience, and curated investor group,” Brusse said.
Standd will receive more than $160,000 as part of the winning investment prize. The company is led by CEO Julie Saltman, a former lawyer and adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center. She co-founded Standd with Joell Stocchero and Stephen Solka.
“Their team put a lot of thought into making this process transparent and helpful for founders – and that thoughtfulness paid off,” Saltman said of First Row. “Especially as a company working in the diligence space, we gained quite a few insights from working closely with our diligence team.”
Founded in 2019 by Brusse and Yoko Okano, First Row Partners invests in pre-seed tech companies primarily in data and software. Brusse told GeekWire that the connections and relationships coming out of the Ensemble program will have “long-term impacts.”
Ensemble is also designed to fill a gap in the Seattle startup ecosystem as other angel groups consolidate, and at a time when venture capital dollars are harder to find.
“Seattle’s ecosystem was the nexus for building new connections across the U.S. for various investment groups, founders and investors,” Brusse said of the program in a post on LinkedIn.
The program is also providing funding to three other finalists: Chicago-based Zenblen, San Francisco-based Nowadays, and Seattle-area startup ZILA BioWorks.