Masha Drokova has had a busy year, tapping into her PR network and sourcing limited partners (LPs) to back her first venture capital firm. Today, the 28-year-old angel investor announced the launch of Day One Ventures, an early-stage VC firm that funds startups and spearheads their PR and marketing campaigns.
The San Francisco-based firm will focus on eight areas: AI, AR/VR, quantum, financial tech (including blockchain), education tech, health care, marketplaces, and self-driving cars. It plans on investing between $100,000 and $1 million in each startup.
Although Drokova declined to comment on the firm’s target fund size, The Wall Street Journal reported her saying last May that it will not be more than $50 million.
So far, Day One Ventures has invested in 14 startups, including Lvl5, a Y Combinator alumnus founded by former Tesla and iRobot engineers; DigitalGenius, provider of machine learning technology for customer service; and Piper, an education tech startup that manufactures a DIY computer kit for kids, which was endorsed by Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak.
Drokova claims she is providing more than a simple check, explaining that the added value for her portfolio companies is to have all-hands PR support at their disposal, for no extra equity.
As the sole general partner of the VC firm, Drokova brings her background in PR and investing to the table. She previously helped startups like Gett, Houzz, HotelTonight, and Acronis as a PR specialist, and she also worked for Runa Capital, where she sourced ClassPass during the startup’s seed round. As an angel investor, Drokova has invested in 11 companies over the past two years.
Drokova and her five employees are currently testing the investing/PR hybrid model, with plans to replicate it for different types of expertise, such as legal and recruiting.
The young Russian transplant has come a long way since her days as a member of Nashi, which means “ours” in Russian. In 2005, Drokova joined the movement at age 15, believing it was a means to rebuild post-Soviet Russia. But others viewed it as a devoted group of Putin proxies who were there to counter the leader’s opposition. Drokova met with Putin several times and was featured in a documentary called Putin’s Kiss.
Drokova now lives full-time in the U.S. and focuses her energy on her new firm. She is currently in Davos, Switzerland, where she is participating in a panel on investing at the World Economic Forum’s annual conference.