May 14, 2015 · 3 minutes

About 25 years ago, Jennifer Scott Fonstad and Theresia Gouw met while working together on a case team for analyst Bain & Company. And while their careers and lives have been at times intertwined in Silicon Valley, it wasn't until last year that they jumped into a full partnership and built their own venture capital firm.

Today, Fonstad's and Gouw's Aspect Ventures officially announced its $150 million first fund to help companies in the seed and Series A stages in the enterprise and consumer mobile space.

What brought the two together to create one of the largest female-led venture capital firms? A passion for building companies at a phase when more and more VCs are backing down.

After Bain & Co., the two went to business school and seemingly were on different career paths. Fonstad went the VC route, joining Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Gouw did the startup thing, helping found digital right management and payments software company Release Software. As it happened, DFJ took part in the seed round for release and Fonstad and Gouw reconnected often at the company's board meetings. The Gouw decided that she too wanted to get involved in the venture game.

"When she decided to join the dark side, she called me up and we chatted about the different options and she ended up joining Accel," said Fonstad. "And after that, we began a 15 year collaboration, growing our firms and our teams, and also getting together often and sharing advice," she said.

After years of hits — and the occasional miss — at their respective firms both started thinking about what might be next in their careers. They reconnected and started a dialogue, and realized they both saw an opportunity in a growing trend in the VC industry, which eventually led to the formation of Aspect.

"As DFJ became more of a larger and larger fund, I was really pulled back to my roots of staying close to companies at the early stage phase," Fonstad said. "And Theresia and I thought there was a real opportunity to focus on Series A."

The idea of a Series A crunch — with no money available for companies after the seed stage — has been discussed tirelessly. In actuality, there is a growing chasm between firms that seem to be willing to throw money at any idea that comes along and VCs who only want to get involved in late stage investments, when companies have gone through their growing pains. In Aspect, Gouw and Fonstad not only want to fill the Series A void, but also partake in the often messy growth phase of its portfolio companies as they evolve from Ramen stage startups to full-fledged business operations.

"There are quite a lot of dollars available these days through VCs, angel networks, and organizations like Kickstarter and AngelList for company formation," Fonstad said. "And, there is quite a lot of capital available for later stage groups from funds like Accel and DFJ that have larger amounts of capital available."

Aspect hopes to be an antidote for the current en vogue venture capital model in which a large number of angel and seed funds are investing in as many early stage companies as they can, try to get as much ownership as possible in a seed rounds, and then taper off when it comes time for follow-ons or growth level investing. "That was the model that Theresia and I felt uncomfortable with," said Fonstad. "We felt that we really wanted to work with companies through their follow-on financing and continue working with them through the different stages of their growth."

With its new $150 million fund and two experienced Silicon Valley stalwarts at the helm, Aspect seems well-positioned to be able to do more than just provide financial backing for its companies — a group that includes Vida, Exabeam, BaubleBar, Birchbox, and the The Muse, which just announced a $10 million Aspect-led round yesterday.

As Fonstad explained, she and Gouw are very comfortable wading into the challenges of helping growth stage companies.

"That's what we've done over our careers the last couple of decades, which we felt was our strength," Fonstad said.

[illustration by Hallie Bateman]