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The fight to raise venture capital for "vice" products

Girl blowing out smoke in the shape of dollar signs
Photo: Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Raising venture capital for a "vice" product used to be almost impossible, due to specific restrictions in limited partnership agreements. And many of those anti-vice clauses persist, even with the mainstreaming of cannabis.

The big picture: Dockery's big pitch is that the relative lack of competition — and of federal legalization, in the case of cannabis — means that many valuations are artificially depressed. The fund already has invested in a handful of startups, including Recess (CBD-infused drink), Indose (cannabis vaporizer), and Bev (canned rosé wine).

There's an entire fund devoted to the cause:

  • Vice Ventures is led by Catharine Dockery, a former Walmart digital brands executive who before that led private investments for Bonobos founder Andy Dunn.
  • Target sectors include cannabis, alcohol, sextech and gambling.
  • It just raised $25 million for its debut fund, all from individual investors (including Marc Andreessen and Bradley Tusk).
  • Dockery says it was difficult to get family offices to invest, often due to conservative older family members.

Dockery also said few other niche areas of interest:

  • Psychedelics: Vice won't fund clinical trial-stage companies ("I'm not a doctor"), instead waiting until products hit market.
  • Esports: "They're highly addictive."
  • Tobacco: "We'll be investing in harm reduction products."