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

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. Nortman’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

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