Brad Feld his book ‘Startup Life’ with his wife Amy Batchelor

Brad Feld, Managing Director Foundry Group talking about the book he wrote with his wife Amy Batchelor ‘Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur‘.  He gave some great advice to all entrepreneurs in relationships.

He also gave me some feedback on the changes in the Venture Industry.

Brad also bought a home in Kansas City & has given a startup free housing with Google Fibre.  He spoke to me about the project & how the startup Handprint won the competition. He is looking forward to what they will do whilst living there for a year.

Having fun with VCs & Foundry Group

Jason Mendelson & his partners @Foundry Group posted a great song “I’m a VC” to promote their book Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist.  This song is really catchy but also really hysterical.  The book is fabulous too!

I interviewed Jason & here are some excerpts from his interviews

& Brad Feld his partner @Foundry Group

This post was reposted by TheNextWomen A Monday Morning Giggle: Jason Mendelson As You’ve Never Seen Him Before

Siún Ní Raghallaigh: Pitch like a Professional

Video Interview with Siún Ní Raghallaigh, CEO TunePresto, Ireland.   In 2003, Siún co-founded Abaltat, a software company that developed a radical new application that composes original royalty-free background music to match a video. After becoming a Regional InterTrade Ireland Seedcorn Competition winner in 2004, the company was successful in attracting funding and started development in 2005. Since then, the original concept has turned into a range of commercial products. An online version of the music maker has just launched as Tunepresto .  You can find Siún on Twitter @SiunNI & TunePresto @tunepresto

Transcript follows & video below

Could you tell me briefly about your past history in sourcing venture capital?

Yeah ok I suppose I could go back to my television production days because I was having many ventures to set up every time I did a production. So you’re going out & you’re pitching basic concept & you’re raising money from different funders & you’re putting together co-production deals. When I founded this company TunePresto & we set about to raise funding for this, it didn’t scare me. I was used to pitching & I was used to rejection.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

So you were pretty much a professional when you started then?

Yeah but it was a whole new world all the same because you have different people. Basically that’s what it’s about, it’s about people & it’s about networking.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

Brilliant that’s fantastic! What personal lessons being a woman have you taken out of your successes &/or failures in that regard?

Yeah, probably just have as ‘hard a neck’ as the men.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

Ok and of course in Ireland they call it a ‘hard neck’ but for the rest of the world it would be something like a thick skin, correct?

Correct, that too! And just perseverance, stamina. I think whether you’re male or female it’s the same. If you really, really believe in what it is that you’re doing & of course you’re going to get rejections. But you should learn from it, why it was rejected & adjust your pitch & move on.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

Very good! What attitudes towards you being female have you noted from venture capitalists when you have been sourcing venture?

Not being a man, I don’t know how they’re treated. I don’t think it matters. I think it’s just if your idea is good, your pitch is good & they believe in you & you have enough passion for whatever it is you’re doing. You have to get that across. It’s a sales job! I haven’t noticed anything different that I would imagine. Talking to men who’ve raised money, I don’t think it’s anything different.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

Great well that’s really good news. What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need specifically for sourcing venture?

I think it helps to be confident. I don’t want to generalize either, because there’s tons & tons of confident women. Sometimes when you’re starting out whether you’re male or female, it takes a while to build up that confidence. And sticking with what you’re saying so people will question you. That’s what it’s about, it’s a two way process. But believe in what you’re saying & of course it should be able to stand up to scrutiny.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

Fantastic! In your opinion what percentage of women would qualify then as regards having these qualities? Could they be developed? If so what are your ideas about how this could happen because the amount of women who do achieve funding in comparison to men is very low? This is really a question about how we can start to change that.

Yeah you’re right, the statistics are there, there are less that achieve funding. But that’s because there are less women that set up businesses. That’s another statistic. So maybe if we looked at it in the proportionality of that, maybe it wouldn’t be as bad. I think the question should probably be, how do we encourage more women to get into entrepreneurial roles to set up business, to bring forward the ideas. And I think that is something that can be taught, yeah!

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

Brilliant, & of course we have to backtrack & maybe even backtrack even further. Some of the people in the valley say we need to get more girls into technical studies. I guess it goes back even further.

And it goes back even further than that because it’s a social problem. It’s how society is structured & how we are educated. Do we make a distinction between the male & female education system? Are girls getting equal opportunity to boys at the primary level, at the secondary level & so on.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

Do you think that the challenges that women entrepreneurs/startups have historically faced, mean that we will always be under represented sourcing venture?

No, I think that even in the past 10 years, you can see, probably not my generation but the next generation. My generation in Ireland anyway we weren’t as confident in terms of women, weren’t as encouraged in that way but now everybody is encouraged regardless of sex. I think it is changing, I can see it changing. I can only imagine that it’s going to get better.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

You are a non-technical CoFounder, do you believe that it is easier for technical women founders to achieve venture funding than non-technical? If so what are your reasons for this?

I think raising funding is about the people, the team, the idea of course & the belief in the people that you’re pitching to in your ability to execute the idea. So I think that there is a level of confidence that funders will get if they see that there’s a good strong technical base & theres equally a good strong managerial base that can execute the whole idea to get into a business. So I think that whether its a male or a female that has the technical ability, I don’t think it matters.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

Ok so as long as you’ve got a technical cofounder on your team or someone on your team that can execute as far as delivering the service, you think that it shouldn’t hold you back?

Yeah & that you & that person, me perhaps the CEO & the CTO have a common vision & you can see that we work well together. That’s the type of message that the potential funders want to see coming across in the pitch.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

Could you list some of the advantages of gender diversity in a startup? Are there any disadvantages?

I think a mix of gender is the way. I think if you walk into a startup & it’s all men, it’s very one sided. Equally if you walk into a startup where it’s all women, it’s very one sided. So basically men & women are different, it’s probably proven in lots of studies or whatever. Women tend to be very practical about getting things done. I think it’s all about balance. I don’t think it’s good for it to be all male or to be all female.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

And of course a startup needs to represent the community that it’s targeting & there are men & women in the community so I guess that it would help you?

Most definitely.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

That’s great, thank you so much for your time today. I know that you’ve just launched your service & you’ve been incredibly busy. I really appreciate it & I wish you all the best.

Thanks very much.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh

This post was reposted in TheNextWomen

Wendy Lea, GetSatisfaction: Challenges with Venture Funding

Video Interview with Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction. Get Satisfaction is a community-based platform that helps companies engage their customers through open and transparent conversations that increase customer satisfaction, product insight and enhance customer loyalty. Wendy founded The Chatham Group, where she currently serves as an angel investor, strategic advisor and board member for a long list of startup companies. Wendy chairs the board for The Forum of Women Entrepreneurs & Executives (FWE&E.org) and serves on the board of Silicon Valley Social Venture Capital (SV2.org). She was recently recognized as a Top 100 Woman of Influence in Silicon Valley. You can find Wendy at her site Wendy Lea & Twitter @wendyslea

Transcript follows & video below. This is Part I. You can view Part II here.

Could you tell me briefly about your past history in sourcing venture capital?
So prior to Get Satisfaction, my experience has been as a board member working alongside CEOs. Oftentimes I was the non-executive board member, the only non-vc around the table. When it came time for a new round then I would be asked or I would offer to go with the CEO on initial meetings to set up a new round. That piece of work is very different, supporting a CEO is very different than raising money as a CEO. So you must have a great love of startups then?

You know I do. Having been an entrepreneur myself, owned my own business, started & founded my own business with 4 other partners. In that case though we were bootstrapped, we didn’t use outside capital. It was a services business & we basically took mortgages out on our house, that’s how we did it. Because of the services component the need for capital was different. It wasn’t less, it was just different. We built a business from zero to $50million in about 6 to 7 years & we only had a line of credit. We were acquired by a big public company. So I had a view of entrepreneurship through that financing lens. Basically I would call that self financing & customer funding, nothing wrong with that, none. As a result of having that exit, I had the opportunity to learn some new things. One of the things I learned was about venture backed startups. It was very new to me. In fact I remember the very first venture capitalist I ever met was Brad Feld, then at Mobius, now at Foundry. I remember asking him so what do you do really? This was only in 2000, so this was a decade ago. But to think I had gotten that far in business & had been acquired by Siebel Systems. That was so cool, we owned 100% of the business & I had to ask him what do you do? It was kind of funny. I laugh about it now. But it is very different raising money as a CEO. In this case, with Get Satisfaction, I joined them in March 2009. When I joined there was $500,000 in the bank & we had 9 people, 3 founders. They had been unable to raise a proper A. They had raised from First Round Capital & OATV $2.5M & they’d gotten incredible traction with that. So good on them, because it was good timing, good site, incredible traction outside & all good things. But then when they’d tried to raise summer 2008 & all of 2008 (remember that bad year?) they were not able to do it because they had no business model. They were trying to raise on momentum, not on financials because that’s how all their friends had done it, so why not them? Then of course the near economic collapse certainly stopped that. So long story short they did a final little tin cup around, $500k, new angels, so there’s a lot of angels on our shoulders (which we’re very grateful for). I came in on that money & as soon as I came in, I had to figure out how to go raise money.

Wendy Lea

You had obviously learnt a lot about venture from the start, when you asked Brad & being a board member, but were you hesitant about becoming a CEO & having to source venture?

Good question, you know I think I was so completely in love with the business & the business model of Get Satisfaction, I denied, did not allow pragmatically this thing about raising money to get in my psyche. Honestly, if I had known what I know now, I probably would have been more hesitant. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have done it but I would have done it with a lot more realism. Because it was really challenging.

Wendy Lea

And it takes up so much energy & focus when really you should be running the company.

Yes this is true!

Wendy Lea

Well good on you & probably great that you were in a bubble & didn’t even think about that dimension of it so Get Satisfaction got you & you got Get Satisfaction?

I think so.

Wendy Lea

What personal lessons being a woman have you taken out of your successes &/or failures in that regard?

The first lesson is that all of the vcs that I was introduced to, and we were in a very good position in that way in that our seed investors First Round Capital & OATV have an incredible network & their job is to do seed funding & then hand off their babies to Sand Hill Road or other larger funds. The biggest lesson is learning how to qualify them: the size of the fund, where they are in their funds is it $150 or $200 or $500 or 1B because that has to do with the kinds of returns that they expect. It’s not that I didn’t think about it but I wasn’t conscious with the strategy of that data & therfore I think I invested too much time meeting & greeting because I was fascinated by it. Given my age & my experience, these are interesting people & I’m like ‘Oh cool, I meeting …. from ….. That’s cool & he’s interesting, we know the same people.’ I think if I were to do it over again, my number one lesson would be to look at the relationships that our seed guys had, to apply a more efficient & strenuous lens on that total market, meaning the vcs. Then decide which of those would be the most likely, based not just on what they had invested in in the past (that would be one criteria). But also the size of their fund, also the way they make decisions, where they were in their particular fund (the one they were investing out of). Again, it all sounds very basic now but that’s a big lesson.

Wendy Lea

I can understand that that would be an important piece when you come out of a bootstrapped company.

That’s right! So that’s kind of the left brain, more strategy. The second lesson would be just to realize that this is not a marketing pitch. It’s not a sales pitch! It’s an investment pitch! I’ve been in sales & marketing all my life, all my adult life. There’s a part of the positioning of the business that is sales & marketing oriented but at the end of the day the vcs job is to bring home a return within a certain payback period for their Limiteds. I think I was not as clear & definitive about that part of my deck as I could have been. Because the business was early, we didn’t have a lot of data & the business hadn’t been monetizing that long, as an investor you had to really think, well where is this going? That would be the second thing, just more investment oriented data.

Wendy Lea

As a woman, were there any particular lessons that you took away with you (more on the gender side of things?)

I’ve thought about that, a lot of people have asked me about that. I don’t think its just a gender thing. In my case there were 3 dimensions of me that I’m really proud of but also worked against me compared to other entrepreneurs. There are 3: being a woman; over fifty; from the South & not having a MBA. It is what it is, right. But in Silicon Valley? And by the way not being a technologist. So I’m not from Google or ebay. I’m not from MIT or Stanford relative to technology, I’m just not. I’m commercial. So I didn’t have that, which is important to these guys especially with this kind of business. This is a disruptive model. It’s an online model, but still that was important & I see that now. Then there’s financially independent so what’s going to motivate this woman? Think about that. So she’s had a hit & an exit & now at this stage & age (& I don’t feel old) but it’s just the reality,right. Why, why would you go do that? So I think they were kind of fascinated & enamored with that, do you know what I mean? Also just my background, I’m running an online business but I’m an enterprise software girl, so I’m jumping tracks, although it’s in my field of CRM. I think for me, I never felt that well you’re a woman & therefore its been hard, I honestly never felt that, ever, not one time. But I did allow myself to feel less than whole sometimes when I added up all those features, those dimensions. I thought eww compared to the other folk they see, that they had invested in before. Remember I wasn’t standing there, having brought in a win to another vc. The win I got was on my own back. Yet the vcs, all of them that we met, I’m talking the top tier on Sand Hill Road & San Francisco & in New York, they were deeply respectful of that, that we were bootstrapped & that we got this wonderful exit. Therefore we made a lot of money but the fact that we hadn’t made that working through a venture capitalist situation. It’s just different.

Wendy Lea

It’s a different model?  I guess what I’m hearing is that this challenged you in ways but it didn’t challenge you as a gender issue.

No I couldn’t say that.

Wendy Lea

What attitudes towards you being female have you noted from venture capitalists when you have been sourcing venture?

Not really. These are really smart, skilled folks. They have a job to do. They have Limited Partners to prove their value to. I respected their jobs immediately & I think they respected mine. I’m so fortunate, I’m representing an incredible business. It’s incredibly disruptive. For them it wasn’t really about me being a female. It was about this business at this stage in this economy. I’m guaranteeing you now, we’re off to the races, business is on fire. We’ve raised money too but it was just early. Not in terms of business overall but for this particular business it was early.

Wendy Lea

So you’re quite remarkable really, in that you didn’t tick all the usual boxes when you were going to pitch for venture. You said that at times you felt less than whole. Could I ask what antidote you used in that respect to support yourself.

It’s a good question, it was really tough! The specific time period was June through December 2009. It was a lonely, dark time. What did I do to kind of replenish myself & to keep from going goofy or getting down (cause I couldn’t afford that)?

Wendy Lea

Because you had to build your confidence, didn’t you?

I had a couple of very, very close advisor friends. One that had worked for me before & he’d raised a bunch of money after we worked together. Just wicked smart & completely loving & open & knew me well. So when he would see me kind of get into a funky spot, a spot of doubt he would help. Many times at 6:30am, he lives in Portland, he would call & say ‘How are you?’ I would say terrible. I actually had a term sheet pulled, which made it even worse. So I got one pretty quickly from a very major firm & then for a range of reasons, they changed their minds. It was never executed but it was delivered.

Wendy Lea

That would have been a crisis of confidence?

Oh man, I went through a lot of jump through hoops before I got the physical term sheet through email. Then the weekend before the final signatures & references & all of that & then they chose not to do it. It was very distressing to me personally, professionally & to the company. That was the darkest moment relative to the financing! But you know you reach out to your friends. I have a sweet dog & I walk him around the block. No one from my family would understand, it would make no sense to them. They thought I’d lost my mind for doing this in the first place. ‘Why don’t you just go to Bali & hang out? What are you doing?’ So friends, I have a wonderful lot of friends at Watermark.org & Astia. Chris Shipley would help me. Diane Green, the founder of VMWare,we would ride bikes & she would say ‘Ok, don’t lose your cool!’ A lot of good female friends, a lot of good advisors who’d been through the business & just my own understanding the value & power of solitude, very restorative.

Wendy Lea

Yes, that can be very healing! It is, I totally agree with you on that! Thank you so much for sharing that personal stuff.

Natalia Oberti, Pipeline Fund: Building Community for Female Entrepreneurs PtII

Video Interview with Natalia Oberti Noguera, CEO Pipeline Fund Pipeline Fund is a social venture fund that trains women philanthropists into angel investors through education, mentoring, and practice. She is also the creator of #womaninnovator a media campaign to increase the visibility of women changemakers and mainstream their stories. As Chapter Leader of New York Women Social Entrepreneurs (NYWSE), Natalia launched the network in January 2008 and has grown the community from six women to over 1,200. Her background includes work experience in the nonprofit and social entrepreneurship sectors.  Natalia holds a BA from Yale in Comparative Literature & Economics, and an MSc in International Health Care Management from Bocconi University. Natalia serves on the founding board of Fast Forward Fund, a youth-to-youth social venture fund, and you can find her on Twitter @nakisnakis

Transcript follows & video below.  This is Part II of the interview. You can view Part I here

Do you think that the challenges that women entrepreneurs/startups have historically faced, mean that we will always be under represented sourcing angel investment?

To that point, I would like to say No! I am a systems thinker & what I’m excited about, especially with Pipeline Fund is that we are dealing with something that is about changing our culture. And that we are making this effort in community because it can’t happen in silos. So that would be the first part.
Another thing that I’ve been noticing & the reason I think its important that we also address the other side of the equation. Not just the entrepreneurs but also the investors, because if we don’t there will be a bottleneck effect that will occur. There’s a lot of support that’s coming up for women entrepreneurs in the form of incubators for example. If the investment culture is not adapting quickly enough to take advantage of the investment opportunities that come with these women entrepreneurs. So by creating for example Pipeline Fund & Pipeline Fund Fellowship we are first of all increasing the number of investors that are out there so that in order to match them with ideas that might resonate with them. That is part of it. The other one is that also with Pipeline Fund we’re seeding a fund whose focus is women led for profit social ventures.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Could you list some of the advantages of gender diversity in a startup? I have received a lot of feedback in these interviews & also figures that if a startup has women & men that they in fact produce better results. I just wondered what you’ve perceived are the advantages & disadvantages, if any?

Sure & I did have a chance to see some of your work & you also mentioned age diversity. I think it’s important that we talk about the advantages that come from having a diverse team in terms of age, in terms of gender, in terms of race, diversity in general. To me diversity of teams: we already see the advantages with all the people who are in favor of it & just companies in general. So for me there are all these huge companies that in terms of talking about systems & institutions, they’re realizing now that the lack of diversity means lack of innovation, lack of all these advantages & they’re trying hard to integrate & incorporate systems that will permit an increase in diversity in these huge companies. So for us startups, we have the opportunity in a much easier way to take advantage of what diversity means. What it means to me in terms of advantages obviously why do we need different perspectives? There is a reason for that.
In terms of the importance of gender diversity or any sort of diversity in a startup, the same as within a company, the actual team can reflect the potential market. What is at least for me, super interesting in having a team that reflects the market is that one can get closer to the potential of current consumer use of one’s product or one’s service.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Yes it’s much more successful, yeah.

Because then in some ways it’s an internal focus group that one can have. One is actually closer to whatever trends or whatever else is happening in the market. So that would be the other component. I think it’s also not to just talk about the advantages, it’s also important to respond to some criticism. I do know from my own experience is that one of the criticisms that people have regarding diversity is that woa… if you have a diverse team it’s so time consuming! Obviously if one is coming from different perspectives & then it’s not the group think of yes we’re all going to A or we’re all going to B because there’s going to be someone who says Z, there’s going to be someone who says a number: no I want 2. For me personally I do believe that whatever additional time that get’s invested in the pre-work is time that gets saved after. Yes it might be a shorter length to get, for example, a product out, if it’s coming from a team that’s not diverse. There might be issues that would need to be corrected that won’t have been potentially accounted for if another voice had been in the mix. One of the recent examples that was very provocative was what if Apple had more women in the team that decided to name the ipad the ipad. Now people have forgotten about the ipad and how controversial that was, which was great for Apple, yet that hullabaloo might have been prevented if there might have been more diversity in the marketing business development team in the first place.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

And it is a truer representation of the outer world if there is diversity because that is the way our world, our planet works, so you’re right it has incredible advantages. The same disadvantages that we experience in ordinary life.  But that’s fantastic. Thank you so much for all that information. You’ve certainly got me thinking, I really appreciate your perspective on things. Thank you again Natalia.

Thank you Pemo, it was a delight.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Natalia Oberti, Pipeline Fund: Building Community for Female Entrepreneurs

Video Interview with Natalia Oberti Noguera, CEO Pipeline Fund Pipeline Fund is a social venture fund that trains women philanthropists into angel investors through education, mentoring, and practice. She is also the creator of #womaninnovator , a media campaign to increase the visibility of women changemakers and mainstream their stories. As Chapter Leader of New York Women Social Entrepreneurs (NYWSE), Natalia launched the network in January 2008 and has grown the community from six women to over 1,200. Her background includes work experience in the nonprofit and social entrepreneurship sectors.  Natalia holds a BA from Yale in Comparative Literature & Economics, and an MSc in International Health Care Management from Bocconi University. Natalia serves on the founding board of Fast Forward Fund, a youth-to-youth social venture fund, and you can find her on Twitter @nakisnakis

Transcript follows & video below.  This is Part I of the interview. You can view Part II here

Could you briefly tell me about Pipeline Fund & what your aims are for that project?

Sure so, Pipeline Fund is a social venture fund & we are committed to women led triple bottom line for profit startups. What we mean when we say triple bottom line is that the business models have to have a focus on financial performance, social impact & environmental responsbility. Along with that we are also launching Pipeline Fund Fellowship & what we’re doing with Pipeline Fund Fellowship is that we’re training women to become angel investors. We have 3 main components. The first one is Education, so obviously we’re going to be having workshops on due diligence, valuation & term sheets. We’re also going to be doing mentoring. So we’re matching the women to experienced angel investors to serve as role models. Because I’m the first one to know that sometimes a story you hear from someone for example Esther Dyson’s top 3 things that she does when she does due diligence or Brad Feld’s best mistake that he ever committed. Those are the stories that really resonate when we are about to do something so I believe in mentoring. The third component is practice. It’s not enough to just learn it’s also important to do. So we’re going to be having the angel investor trainees applying all that they’ve learnt to select a woman led social venture to invest in at the end of the program. So anyone who is applying to the Pipeline Fund Fellowship has to commit $5,000 for a collective of $50,000 that will be invested in a social venture startup that is woman led at the end of the training.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Really impressive, Natalia. Could you just briefly tell me what was the inspiration for you to set this up?

Sure there were 2 main inspirations, Pemo. And there were 2 opportunities & market needs that I saw. The first one is in January 2008 I had the opportunity to launch New York Women’s Social Entrepreneurs, which is a network of women of social entrepreneurs & intrapreneurs. Through that experience I witnessed how there was a lack of community that was connecting women entrepreneurs with the larger vc investment community. So that was the first point. Then the second point was through this experience of seeing particularly the social entrepreneur sector, I realized that there was funding opportunity the sweet spot for for profit social ventures. The reason that I’m specifying for profit social ventures was that there are a lot of funding opportunities for non profit social ventures in the form of grants, fellowships etc. Putting those two together I realized first of all it would be great to have more women becoming investors. I have my background, Pemo, I have my Masters in Organizational Psychology so several of the courses that have really resonated with me are courses on group dynamics for example. So that is one of the reasons that for me seeing that yes in order to change the culture of the investment community we need to get more involved in coed activities. Not just let’s get more women on board, it’s also let’s get people to collaborate.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Fantastic, brilliant, very inspiring.

Have you ever had to source angel investment yourself?

So we are in the process of funding the Pipeline Fund and we are planning to seed the fund through vc individuals & possibly foundations as well.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

What personal lessons being a woman have you taken out of your successes &/or failures in that regard?

So the experience that I’ve had has also been in terms of coaching of other women entrepreneurs. Now I’m going about it first person. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn through observing being Chapter Leader of New York Women Social Entrepreneurs (NYWSE). And the 2 main things that I’ll share are that first of all as women we need to get more comfortable with risk taking. And the other one is that we need to become comfortable being experts, owning our expertise, our thought leadership. When we feel more comfortable with risk taking & when we feel more comfortable being thought leaders & knowing that we have an expertise then the 2 main things that we hear so much especially in the blogosphere, then self promoting becomes easier & pitching becomes easier.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Very good, fantastic that’s so clear! What attitudes towards you being female have you noted from the angel investment community?

So in terms of launching Pipeline Fund & the Pipeline Fund Fellowship, I’ve had extreme support. It’s been very, very supportive which has actually been a delight how it is this inflexion point that all things are coming together. Interesting Pemo we’re also coming at it from a different angle which is social venture. There’s something else that I’m repositioning in the investment community in general is really repositioning for profit social ventures as an investment opportunity and as an investment vehicle. Not just as a philanthropic way of doing business so that’s also another attitude that we’re working with.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Brilliant, brilliant. What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need specifically for sourcing angel investment? You’ve mentioned risk taking & self promotion.

I think that the other one is just practice & this goes back to how important it is to just do it. Allyson Kapin, she’s  @WomenWhoTech on Twitter , she put an article on Fast Company about why are there so few women who are getting invested in & also why are there so few women who are pitching. When I read that article, what really struck me was that not only I think her statistic was 9.4% of startups that were funded by angel investors in 2009 were women. It was also I believe around 21% of entrepreneurs who were pitching were women. So its not just that not many women entrepreneurs are being invested in, its also we need to get more women entrepreneurs to pitch in the first place. Just even if its becoming comfortable with it & then thinking whatever comes out of it is a lesson learned, viewing it as positive & really feeling much more comfortable with just practicing & doing it.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Do you think there’s any reasons that you’ve perceived what has stopped the numbers of women pitching? So this is a bone of contention?

It’s a funny story, but it’s the typical story of perfectionism. It’s a typical story that a woman entrepreneur gets called to go in for a pitch. She’s 80% ready, she calls she says ‘Wait actually can I please reschedule I still need to dot all the i’s I need to cross all the t’s?’ And then the typical story of the guy entrepreneur getting called, he’s 40% ready, he doesn’t even have a business plan, doesn’t even know what his business model is, he says ‘Yes I’ll be right over!’ But what I think what we really need to share with particularly to women entrepreneurs is that there is just as much value coming from the feedback that one will get, just the process of iteration. That getting that feedback even if they’re only 80% ready that will really help them hone in. Whether they get it or not the first time, it will help them to do the second one in a way that even if they were 100% ready they wouldn’t have that jump of learning from even having had that first try.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

That’s a great image that you’ve just spoken about & I guess it brings together both the lack of risk taking & also the confidence piece that women have struggled with. Thank you very much for that, it’s really good. In your opinion what percentage of women would qualify then as regards having these qualities? Could they be developed? If so what are your ideas about how this could happen? And I guess the Pipeline Fund is part of your solution?

Yes, yes! I think that there’s not a percentage, not enough women. If we can get more women out, that would be part of the answer. The other 2 initiatives that I would love to share with you. One of them I actually created called #womaninnovator which is a media campaign to increase the visibility of women change makers & mainstream their stories. This came out of my frustration from seeing all the lists from all the top media being top 40 top 25. And the issue is no longer that there are no examples, the examples are there. It’s just they’re not connecting the sources to people who are doing the stories. They’re probably going to their traditional sources & those sources are saying ‘Well Mike Jeff is doing something really great!’ Its very much about helping get these stories oute. What’s interesting about that is what we do is create a video series. We ask women, first of all they tell us what they’re up to & to define what woman innovator means to them. Then the 3rd question has actually become very transformative individually is ‘How are you a woman innovator?’ That is a moment, a space in time where we are providing in a way the opportunity for women to own their expertise, to own their definition of being the term woman innovator. So that’s something that has been really exciting. The other initiative, if you haven’t heard of it is actually the OpEd Project . The OpEd Project was started by Katie Orenstein & her whole take was that 80% of OpEd’s were written by white, old men & what do we need to do to fix that problem? We need to teach women how to pitch. She usually has workshops & she realized there would be women with JDs, PHds, MBAs, MPAs & it was so much to going back to owning one’s expertise. Then realizing just becoming comfortable saying ‘I’m Natalia & I’m an expert in community building.’ for example. Getting more women comfortable with saying what are you an expert in? Then when you are actually in a position at a cocktail party or at a business meeting that you can stand up & you can say this is what I’m good at & this is where I can add value.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Very good & that’s part of the reason why I’ve been doing these interviews really is to raise awareness. You said that the people are there & it is true. It is so interesting to get more awareness & get people, particularly men, aware of the problems or the challenges that we have faced. That’s great!

Demian Entrekin: Gender Not Problem Sourcing Venture PtII

Video Interview with Demian Entrekin, Founder Innotas , an industry leading provider of PPM for IT. As founder and CEO from 1999 to 2006, he oversaw company vision, marketing, product development, sales and services for the company. After reaching cash flow positive and then raising venture capital in 2006, he took over the CTO role until 2008. Prior to Innotas, Demian co-founded Convoy Corporation and was Chief Architect of its product lines. In that role, he helped the company lead the middleware market with an annual growth rate of 670 percent. Convoy was acquired by New Era Networks in 1999. A recognized thought leader in Project Portfolio Management (PPM), Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and Software as a Service (SaaS), Demian has published numerous papers on PPM and his blog (PPM Today) explores current issues related to successful PPM implementation. You can find Demian Twitter  @dentrekin & his blog


Transcript follows & video below.  This is Part II of the interview. You can view Part I here

In your opinion what percentage of women would qualify then as regards having these qualities which I gather is self awareness if I summarize what you’ve just said? Could they be developed? If so what are your ideas about how this could happen?

I guess I left out also the importance of courage or fearlessness or whatever word you want to use, willingness to step out into the unknown. And say ‘It’s a big problem, I’m not sure I can solve it but I’ll try!’ So I think that’s another big piece of it. Some of the experiences I’ve had with women entrepreneurs or women in small businesses is that they were some of the keys to success in the company. Or when a certain person arrived who happened to be a woman was really good at selling a particular kind of solution.
Yes absolutely it can be developed. And being willing to go out & find mentors can be really powerful. People that will be honest & tell you ‘I’ve been down this road. I can tell by talking to you for 10minutes that you’re probably pretty good at this, you’re probably pretty weak at this. And I’ll help you close the gap. But can you have that conversation? Can you talk to a mentor who’s been down the road, had wins & losses? Have them tell you ‘Here’s where you’re soft what are you going to do about it?’ So I think Astia can really help with that kind of work.

Demian Entrekin

Do you believe that it is easier for technical women founders to achieve venture funding than non-technical? If so what are your reasons for this?

I don’t know if it’s true, it would surprise me. I would think that successful sales executives regardless of their background, would be the most likely able to be successful in investment. Because they know how to take products to market & get paid. The cynical part of me would say, well the reason venture folks like technical founders is because they can get a fully based product & an unsophisticated leader. Slowly but quickly they can take over the company & put their own sales leader in. It gets back to that self awareness issue & understanding what they’re trying to do. So if I was to be cynical I might say that that might be, if that’s true what’s happening? It might be an investor that’s very product oriented in the early stages, so being a little bit more fair about it. The investor may be very product oriented, they figure they can build a sales & marketing team if theres a viable product there.

Demian Entrekin

And it has come from seed stage venture capitalists that I’ve heard this. So I wondered what you’ve noted from the venture capitalists working as an entrepreneur with them, how you’ve been managed or not?

I guess I would say, that a lot of it has to do with the stage of the business. Yeah I’ve seen 2 real ways of engaging entrepreneurs & investors. One is yes you put your pitch together, you work your network, try & set up a meeting & as quickly & as cogently as you can make your case & see if that case clicks. It’s gotta happen pretty fast. I’d say you’ve got 2 minutes. You have 20 seconds to engage interest & 2 minutes to secure the interest. The rest after that is substantiation. You don’t have an hour. The other I’ve seen is the Executive In Residence. I don’t know if this is the same thing? But a lot of folks will bring on a successful entrepreneur type person & maybe go after a particular problem. ‘We want to do something in the mobile health care space whatever & here’s a guy who’s got some healthcare tech background, maybe he’ll help us look at some companies & evaluate some opportunities? Then we’ll build something, fund something, or plant him somewhere?’ That’s much more of a joint project where they know the entrepreneur, where they’ve done a project with him before. Sort of repeat business. I see a fair amount of repeat business. Once an entrepreneur has delivered the goods for the investor, the investor wants to ride that horse again. That often leads to the Executive in Residence approach. So taking those 2 structural things aside, I’m sure every single investor has their own style. Some may say ‘Hey you know let’s keep talking about this. Let’s see if we can’t work on this together a little bit.’ I haven’t experienced that yet. I’ve done a lot of pitches! It’s more: Can you resonate with the person you’re talking to really fast? I explored an Executive in Residence & the fit wasn’t there.

Demian Entrekin

And after the pitch, once the deals been signed & you’re working with that vc, how have you found that you’ve been managed by the vc?

Well the bigger question for me is Are you looking to create a competitive situation with your project? So is the goal to say I want to get 3 vcs bidding on my project? Then essentially I’m trying to get better terms & conditions in valuation or maybe just it’s I’m trying to find what the right fit is. And that’s purely determined on the strength of your case & how well it fits with the current market conditions. If its a hot market or if the table is hot? Most venture players are craps players. They walk into the casino & they go to the hot table. That’s maybe uncharitable, but I think of them as craps players not chess players. They want to find the hot table & put the bets down. So if the conditions are right. I think they just want to play where their odds of low risk & high return are better & they put want to play multiple chips down. But if you’re an entrepreneur who’s got a hot idea then you’re probably going to want to shop it. Unless you have some special relationship where I’ve worked with so & so before, they’re going to give me favorable terms, I don’t need the noise. I’ve seen that as well.
If it’s true that cash for business is fuel & the needle maybe getting toward empty & they’re standing in front of the gas station with their arms crossed.

Demian Entrekin

So they have more power in that situation?

Well yeah sure they’re the gatekeepers of the cash. And they know it! And your job as an entrepreneur is to say ‘No I’m not selling you, you’re selling me!’ Your job as the entrepreneur is to say ‘I’m the one who has value!’ ‘Why is your money better than their money?’ That’s their job! Easier said than done! My stock is worth a lot more than your cash! What’s cash worth today? What’s the interest rate below a percent now? So the job of the entrepreneur is to shift the tables.

Demian Entrekin

So similar to what I’d advise my coaching clients when they’re going for a job, to interview the employer to find out whether that’s a good fit for them?

But be aware though of how strong your position really is.

Demian Entrekin

Yeah. I guess the language of business is revenue & profit. If you can speak that language to some degree it makes it’s own case. The farther back you are from that, the closer you get to concept, the more you really do have to rely on salesmanship & charm & personal appeal or whatever.

Demian Entrekin

Thank you so much Damien, that’s been really helpful & I’ve had a few insights out of talking to you. Thank you.

Demian Entrekin: Gender not Problem Sourcing Venture

Video Interview with Demian Entrekin, Founder Innotas.  Demian is the Founder of Innotas , an industry leading provider of PPM for IT. As founder and CEO from 1999 to 2006, Demian oversaw company vision, marketing, product development, sales and services for the company. After reaching cash flow positive and then raising venture capital in 2006, he took over the CTO role until 2008. Prior to Innotas, Demian co-founded Convoy Corporation and was Chief Architect of its product lines. In that role, he helped the company lead the middleware market with an annual growth rate of 670 percent. Convoy was acquired by New Era Networks in 1999. A recognized thought leader in Project Portfolio Management (PPM), Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and Software as a Service (SaaS), Demian has published numerous papers on PPM and his blog (PPM Today) explores current issues related to successful PPM implementation. You can find Demian on Twitter @dentrekin &  his blog

Transcript follows & video below.  This is Part I of the interview. You can view Part II here

Could you tell me briefly about your past history in sourcing venture capital?

Started really in about 1995 with the first startup company that I was apart of. It was actually a joint project with my father. He was coming to the end of a project he was doing. I was writing code on Sunday night at 11:30pm in Santa Clara wondering ‘How the heck did this happen to me, there’s gotta be a better way?’ So we agreed to start a company which was started right around 1992 or so.

Demian Entrekin

So would your father have been a mentor obviously in your process of becoming an entrepreneur?

Sure in a lot of ways, maybe I’m misunderstanding, but I saw us as kind of co-conspirators really. He for his reasons, me for my reasons trying to write our own path rather than being stuck in the path we were handed if you will. Then right around 1995 we thought we had something that was venture worthy. We thought it was! It was kind of a learning process to actually have those conversations with venture. Luckily we had a few relationships that were able to open up some doors. In retrospect, as that company came to its conclusion, I look back on it & realize we really had no idea what we were doing. No idea how to conduct the conversation, no idea how to even really build the product we were proposing to build. It was just a time I think where we fortunate enough that there was enough optimism that folks were willing to say ‘Well it seems that some lessons were learned. You have this new idea we’ll reinvest & see if you can make a go of that!’ And that one ended up working. We raised the money, we had to throw away what we had built because frankly it was never going fly. And I like to say that it had 4 or 5 fatal flaws, any one of which would have killed it! But anyway that company eventually had a successful liquidity event right around 1998. So we all thought we knew what we were doing at that point. We felt pretty smart. Little did we know that that was sort of like Chapter 1!

Demian Entrekin

in the venture episode?

Just building a company. So for me building a company is really the challenge & dealing with the venture folks is just part of the plan. Assuming you have a business that matches what the venture folks are trying to do. A lot of businesses just don’t have that match. And frankly when we first started that company, we didn’t either. None of us really knew it frankly. We were fortunate enough to kind of discover something along the way.
The second company we self-funded at the beginning, that was right around 1999-2000 which ended up being software as a service SAS application project portfolio management. Now it’s more focused on IT governance. That company is called Innotas. They’re in the market today, doing really well. But we self funded that to the point where it really became clear that 1) if we didn’t get a lot more capital we were going to miss a window. (We had survived the tech recession which was long & painful & very costly to the founders & angel investors.) So it was a combination of the time was now & we were kind of running out of fuel. We raised venture again 2005. We were a little bit smarter about it this time I think, certainly not masters of it. The venture guys do venture all day long, that’s all they do. The entrepreneurs it’s very much a part time job. So you have to know you’re going into the room without the deal making skills that they have. That’s worked out fairly well. That company has been able to use the capital reasonably efficiently & growing very well.

Demian Entrekin

And you sold that company? Will there be an exit with that?

You know most likely there will be some kind of liquidity event. That’s what the investors are after right? They have their limited partners who have a certain expectation of a return. So certainly I would imagine there will be some kind of liquidity event in the foreseeable future. I’m not actively involved in the company day to day.

Demian Entrekin

How much did you raise for that last company?

We did a couple of rounds. The first was about $5.5 million. Then a couple of subsequent rounds, I’m not sure of what the total amount is right now, but it’s around $10 million I would say.

Demian Entrekin

As an entrepreneur, this has been a conversation on the web recently, I wondered how it’s been for you raising a family? With all the work demands & pressures that we have as entrepreneurs, it’s almost like a 24 hour job really. I just wondered how you’ve managed to balance that, if you have any work life balance?

Yes to me I think it’s really important to spend time with my kids & my family as much as I can. A lot of times you know the thinking you’re doing is not sitting at a desk. I think time away from it is actually really good as well. That said it is a bit of a consuming experience & it often takes a long time & there’s a lot of financial uncertainty for the family often. We’ve certainly been up & down on the financial sine wave, the personal financial sine wave. So you also need a partner who is going to be able to ride the risk wave with you.

Demian Entrekin

And supportive?

Yeah & kind of understanding that that’s the life you’re living & help to make it work. I’m pretty lucky that I have that.

Demian Entrekin

Sounds like you’re blessed.

Also in our case I run the business of the company & in many ways I don’t do much else, you know. I don’t even do our taxes. My wife takes care of keeping the business of keeping our family afloat. So that really helps a lot, I don’t have to think about work stuff all day long & then go home & figure out how we’re going to refinance the house with the new rates. That would just be frankly kind of miserable.

Demian Entrekin

So that’s a remarkable experience that you’ve managed to have the right ingredients & the right people to actually maintain some sort of balance. That’s fantastic & a great success story!

A smart, tolerant wife, is I guess what I would say.

Demian Entrekin

I note that you volunteer to support female entrepreneurs pitching for venture capital. (Hurrah for you!) Have you noticed differences in the way women pitch or build businesses?

Not really I haven’t noticed a big difference. Other than the actual feminine presence of them in the room. But no & I don’t know if you were going to cover this a little bit? I think that the discrepancy with men versus women is a historical fact that doesn’t need to be discussed. In some businesses more than others, perhaps in some sectors more than others. In fact I was reading an article recently about there was a fair number of women in sort of bio/life science whereas in IT it’s a pretty small number. So that’s the historical fact but I think that if a woman is going to pitch & raise money & try & build a business, the issue is really just about their business skills. I think it’s really all that matters! So if a person knows how to sell, if a person knows how to build a product, if a person knows how to manage finance, if a person knows how to create a vision, if a person knows how to inspire other people, if a person knows how to get people to come together & solve really hard problems? Those are the skills that matter, those are going to come through, if you have them or not. In my experience with women in business & men in business is that gender really doesn’t seem to be a part of the puzzle. What matters is can they solve those problems? Can they perform those complicated duties?

Demian Entrekin

And all those skills that you mentioned are skills that an entrepreneur needs to have to actually even start on that journey?

Yes & an expectation that this may take a while. And this is where things get really kind of hard, especially on the family side of things & the cash flow side of things. So I don’t know if I’m answering your question? But I would say I think that the successful entrepreneurs don’t think about ‘Oh I’m a female entrepreneur! I’m a male entrepreneur!’ They think ‘Here’s the business, here’s the opportunity, here’s the risk, here’s the cost!’ I’ve read recently & I’ve seen it, when I see people present this way, it kind of makes me cringe, that women do better in collaborative environments. I think once you open the door by saying that women do better at x, you’re in trouble.

Demian Entrekin

And your explanation for that?

Because it suggests that now maybe there are areas which they don’t do as well. See now you’ve opened this door for all of these generalizations. Oh so if women are good at collaborative environments then men aren’t, well that’s not true. Or if women are good in collaborative environments, they’re not good in hierarchical environments, well that’s clearly not true. And then it also opens the question if women are better at this, then men are better at that. So I think that that’s a real danger zone & I guess I would avoid that path completely.

Demian Entrekin

Very good that’s a great point, actually.

But the empirical fact is still in front of us right, 2% of women in IT, running IT. So what’s that? I really don’t know. I just think that the solution to that is not about gender, it’s about solving a problem.

Demian Entrekin

Through the experience of supporting female entrepreneurs as you have been doing, have you noted any obstacles for women sourcing venture? Is it this historical fact, do you think, because they say that between 5 to 8% of women are actually achieving venture funding?

Raising venture is hard for anybody. There’s a really small number that gets funded. I haven’t looked recently but I wanted to say 2% get funded & probably 10% of those have some kind of successful outcome. So it’s hard anyway & it could just be that they’re not being encouraged. I haven’t done the research. I’ve been so busy building companies that I haven’t focused on the sort of statistics of it. How many pitches do women give versus men? What’s their progression through the stages to funding?

Demian Entrekin

So there’s nothing that you noticed overtly in your experience with venture capitalists & entrepreneurs that you would say may be an obstacle?

So let’s talk about some of the women VCs I’ve talked to & I know several. The ones that I’ve talked to don’t care if the entrepreneur is a man or woman. They want an opportunity. They want something that’s going to have a return for their fund & for them. They want to be successful too. So I haven’t experienced an overt difference at that level. That game is about low risk, high reward. If they say high risk, low reward, they’re not telling you the truth. Investors are looking for low risk high reward.

Demian Entrekin

Yes I know, they mask it or cloak it a little when they talk about it.

Some do. Some are pretty open about it.

Demian Entrekin

What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need specifically for sourcing venture?

One I would say, don’t make it about the fact that you’re a woman. That’s irrelevant. I would completely say ‘Who cares?’

Demian Entrekin

Forget about gender.

I would say both for men & women, for me, a real keen understanding of your strengths & weaknesses.

Demian Entrekin

OK, just as a human being?

You need to know what you’re good at. And you can’t be delusional about what you’re good at. Having been delusional about what I was good at in the past & being smacked about the head by the market.

Demian Entrekin

That’s very open of you.

Well you know the market is a quick & brutal teacher. So I would say a really keen sense of what you’re good at. People talk about building a really good team & we invest in teams or we invest in markets or we invest in products. Some of that stuff is true & some of it is just blanket positioning. But from an entrepreneur’s standpoint, my view is the more you aware of what you’re good at. So again maybe you’re good at selling & marketing? Maybe you’re great at managing cash? Maybe you really understand exquisitely product development life cycle? Each one of those is going to have it’s own strengths & weaknesses that you need to be aware of. So you come in with a really strong sales background, a venture is going to say ‘Mmm ok this person knows how to sell. Can they bring the skills to the table to build a product that will scale. Do they even know if they have enough talent they have is the right talent because they don’t have enough experience to know?’ If you come from the product side, there’s going to be a question about: can that person sell? Anyway so I’d say that the awareness of your strengths & weaknesses. I gave a presentation to Astia I guess 2 years ago maybe about risk management. I said that 50 CEOs or fledgling CEOs in the room & I said ‘The single biggest weakness in your company is you. You are the biggest weakness! If you are really bad at managing cash & you don’t know it, you are in trouble right now.

Demian Entrekin

Point taken & it sounds like that’s good advice for just being human in the world too?

Certainly for starting a business because the lights are bright!

Demian Entrekin

Yep, you’re on the front lines then & everything is going to be magnified then. Thank you.

Lucy Sanders, NCWIT: Advancing Technical Women

Video Interview with Lucy Sanders, NCWIT.   Lucy is CEO and CoFounder of the National Center for Women & Information Technology  and also serves as Executive-in-Residence for the ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  She has an extensive industry background, having worked in R&D and executive positions at AT&T Bell Labs, Lucent Bell Labs, and Avaya Labs for over 20 years, where she specialized in systems-level software and solutions (multi-media communication and customer relationship management.) In 1996, Lucy was awarded the Bell Labs Fellow Award, the highest technical accomplishment bestowed at the company, and she has six patents in the communications technology area.  You can find NCWIT on Twitter @NCWIT

Transcript follows & video below

Could you briefly explain what NCWIT does & how it serves women & technology?

NCWIT stands for the National Center for Women in Technology. It’s quite a mouthful, an acronym. We’re a fairly young organization. We’re a little over 6 years old & we were founded by several organizations as well as the National Science Foundation to look thoughtfully & purposefully at women’s declining participation in computing. So this is a problem, as you know & perhaps some of the listeners know, girls are not taking computing in high school in large numbers. They’re not enrolled in secondary programs. They leave the technical workforce at a staggering rate by mid career & they start less than 5% of all IT companies. So we have an issue & NCWIT was founded to look into that issue. We are an organization of organizations so we have over 250 organizations & non profits at our side across the country. We do research & statistics & we also have large national awareness campaigns to make sure that people understand this issue & how alarming it is not only for acrity purposes, I think we all know that’s important, but for innovation. I think we should all be concerned that women are not helping to invent in any large numbers, the technology upon which our world depends. That’s sometimes a shocking observation.

Lucy Sanders

Yes & on that point, has your organization identified what are the main reasons that are holding women or girls back from studying technical subjects?

Well you know like a lot of complex problems there’s no one right answer, right? So there are a number of things & let’s just say this, I think young people, both boys & girls are not exposed to computing in any real rigorous way in K12. We have a growing problem in terms of instruction here in the US: if it’s even offered in a high school, if it counts towards graduation? So it’s really hard to interest more girls into computing when it’s really not being taught much across the United States. We also have a curriculum problem when we do teach it. And I’m a computer scientist so I say this with great love in my heart, we need to make it more relevant & more exciting to young people today & make sure that they see the whole creativity of study in this area. And by the time women either choose an academic or corporate career or perhaps an entrepreneurial career, by & large they are in a minority, not just a small minority but a very small minority. So our research scientists would say that’s when odd cultural things take effect.

Lucy Sanders

And so I gather then this is your mission to encourage women & young girls to find this more exciting area?

Well that’s part of it. Our mission divides into, we have a curricula mission, we have an awareness mission, we have a research & statistics mission & quite frankly we have a capacity building mission with corporations & universities working with them on how they can change their culture so that those who are not in the majority sort of group if you will, are particularly innovative & contributing.

Lucy Sanders

Could you give me some figures about the percentages of women in technology compared to men?

Yes we have quite a few & I can refer people to the NCWIT website. But off the top of my head, they may not be exactly right to the digit, but this is what I carry around in my head. If you look at high school, girls taking computer science advance placement test it’s roughly 16 or 17% of those test takers are girls. So that is I think, if I remember my college board statistics correctly, that’s probably the worst gender gap of any AP test that they offer. If you look at post secondary degrees for years across the nation, especially the research institutions, you’re going to see about 12 to 13% of those degrees going to women. Then the work force as a whole, the IT work force is roughly 22 to 25% women. And then let me just say this, that I think that those statistics tell part of the story but there are others that I would like to share with you. The first being that women leave the technology work force at about 56% by mid career. So that’s a pretty staggering figure when we do get them out there, the attrition rate is pretty high. And contrary to popular belief, a large number of them are not staying home to raise children. It doesn’t mean that they’re not having children. And also in terms of the innovation role, so let’s take the work force separately for a moment & kind of dig into the creative innovation roles in computing. So for example who has inventions, who’s patenting, who’s in the lead architect roles? And by the way I think on CNN today they said Software Architect is the top job in America. I’m sad to say that we don’t have many women there. Who are indeed Vice Presidents, who are the Architects, who are the people who are doing the lead creative work & women are roughly in those positions at about 5%. Those are pretty shocking numbers! One last thing that got National Science Foundations’s attention was that women’s participation has been declining since the mid 80’s.

Lucy Sanders

Yes I noticed that in that Techcrunch article today ‘Men and Women Entrepreneurs: Not That Different’ , they were mentioning that, it’s very sad! I guess you’ve got your mission cut out for you then?

Well you know I will say that I see light at the end of the tunnel. We have a lot of good hearted people who are trying hard in their organizations to do something.

Lucy Sanders

Many say that it helps a woman entrepreneur’s position if she is technical when sourcing venture capital. Do you know any percentages on that compared to non technical women entrepreneurs?

I think what I have is only supposition on my part. First of all, I have a bias that being technical helps everybody. First I’m a computer scientist so there you go! We should be in charge of everything, you know why not? So I would suppose that being technical, if you’re starting a technical company & there are only one or two of you taking that company down the road, it would probably be helpful. But here in Boulder we have a lot of entrepreneurial activity & down in Silicon Valley a while too & somewhat in Boston too. I see a whole bunch of people starting tech companies that aren’t technical. And most of them are men. So I think there probably is an advantage? I don’t have any data one way or the other.

Lucy Sanders

Certainly I was a nontechnical founder when I had my business & I think the passion & love for technology carried me through. But obviously if you have a technical cofounder that helps with vcs, I think. Have you found that some successful women deny that there are any challenges or obstacles for women entrepreneurs? If they have achieved success they don’t want to note that there is anything broken in the system or that there ever was a glass ceiling. I ask this question because I have heard that both some women CEO’s & women venture capitalists take this position.

Well you know I wouldn’t be surprised, I’m not surprised to hear you say that! I think that it’s not uncommon & often times when you’ve really struggled one way or the other, you may deny that there is an issue. But you know I don’t really think it’s a conversation worth having, if you will. Because we know the data, show that women are not starting technical companies, there’s no question. And you know facts are friends, right? Well why is that? I don’t think we know & here’s the stuff that you might find interesting. We set out to do some early research in this area of women & tech entrepreneurship. Because we’ve heard all the anecdotes, just like everybody that’s looking at this. They’ve heard the anecdotes, they’ve seen many panels where people are disagreeing & they’re sort of binary, they’re either off or on. So we went & did a literature review & really searched the whole body of knowledge, officially you know! A researcher did all of this with the search words of ‘entrepreneur, women, technology’ whatever, right! They found 3 total research papers.

Lucy Sanders

Wow, that’s astounding!

So the data are not there, if you will. (I’m trying to use data in plural because now I’m at a University, but my natural tendency is to say data in singular!) So the data is not there & so what people have are opinions. And are they valuable, sure but are they contextualized, yes! They’re contextualized to their personal path, to their personal challenges, to their personal benefits, right! And so I’ve heard some people say: ‘It wasn’t hard for me!’ And perhaps if you looked at their support system or whatever else they had, they had some natural advantages? I’ve also heard some women say ‘Well those mean vcs, they didn’t give me any money!’ But heck maybe I wouldn’t give them any money either? So I just feel like we need to dig in, accept the data & we need to see what we can do if we care about this issue.

Lucy Sanders

Well that’s a very thoughtful response, thank you very much! In a recent interview with Cindy Gallop, IfWeRanTheWorld, she quoted Madeline Albright: ‘There’s a special place reserved in Hell for women who do not help other women.’ Could you elaborate ways that women entrepreneurs can support each other?

Oh well sure & you know I think that I’m going to broaden this a bit to women supporting technical women or encouraging girls to be technical. We know from research perspective in populations where one group is significantly over represented that encouragement, simple acts of well deserved encouragement. (So I am not advocating being fake here, right!) Well deserved encouragement helps bring more women into these areas. So for example encouraging your girl to take a computing class & helping to mentor her. Understanding that at least in high school, she may be the only one in her class or her school who is taking such a class. And also this research paper that was just mentioned in the TechCrunch article ‘Men and Women Entrepreneurs: Not That Different’ The most significant finding is that there is very little difference between male & female tech entrepreneurs. The one difference that was even statistically significant was that women were more likely to become entrepreneurs than men if they were asked in or they were encouraged.

Lucy Sanders

Wow, yes I saw that & it was brilliant. Thank you so much that’s really helpful. What is your advice for women entrepreneurs sourcing venture capital from your experience?

Well you know we do see a number of women tech entrepreneurs because of the work that we do & I’m on a few advisory boards for venture funds helping to source technical ideas & so forth. I think there’s common wisdom that applies. First of all you really need to have a great idea. You have to be able to pitch your idea. You have to have a great sense of how it’s going to make money. What’s the exit strategy for the vc? You really have to be tight on all of that. And to go get some coaching. There are a number of good groups out there that can help you. There are a lot of well hearted vcs & entrepreneurs. It’s a great network where you can reach out & get advice & get introductions & so forth. I think for women its especially necessary to be on top of that game & have it exactly right before you go pitch to vcs. The other thing I think is probably true, although I personally have never pitched to a vc, is that you don’t want to go too soon. You need to understand the steps of capitalization. When can you bootstrap? When should you really be going after angel investing?  What about friends & family? What about an NSF SBIR grant You know we have a podcast series where we talk to women who have started IT companies & they have started their companies in so many different ways.

Lucy Sanders

Thank you so much for your time today Lucy. I know that you’re incredibly busy & you’ve got a lot on your plate. So I do appreciate it that you have given this time to this project.

My pleasure & thanks for your interest & everybody who watches this, thanks for your interest in these issues which are very, very important to future innovation.

Lucy Sanders

Brad Feld, Foundry Group: The Startup Visa

Video interview with Brad Feld, Managing Director, Foundry Group.   Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over twenty years. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStars & CEO NCWIT.  He can find him at his blog Feld Thoughts & on Twitter @bfeld

Transcript follows & video below.  This is Part III of the interview.  You can view Part I and Part II here

Brad you have been at the forefront of promoting the ‘Startup Visa’, as someone who battled with the venture industry in Europe, I say good work you!  In Europe it is much more difficult to gain venture funding, for both men & women who often feel shut out of the possibilities in the venture game.  This is such a great cause & I support you wholeheartedly!  Could you give a quick update as to the progress of this visa? Startup Visa Interviews at O’Reilly Gov 2.0

Sure, the Startup Visa is the same phenomena that we’re talking about with women.  The reason I got excited about the notion of a startup visa was I thought it was absolutely stupid, not just mediumly dumb, not just short sighted, just stupid that in the United States we would make it difficult for somebody who wanted to be an entrepreneur who was a foreigner to come start their company in the US. It just never made sense to me.  There’s a whole long litany of reasons around immigration & around stuff that makes no sense apart from the job perspective.  Because of course entrepreneurs are creating companies that didn’t previously exist which generates jobs that didn’t previously exist.  But its the same thread & for me personally I think that anybody that wants to start a company should be able to.  It’s already hard enough to create a company & be successful, you should eliminate as much of the barriers as you possibly can. Where the Startup Visa is at, we started talking about it a little bit more than a year ago.  There are 2 active Bills, one in the House & one in the Senate. They’re both still in Committee. That means in the US Government (for foreign viewers) is that the Bills are actually real Bills that have gotten past the initial vetting process but they still haven’t gotten to the point where anybody takes a vote on them.  So they’re still far away from becoming law. Because of the Election cycle & the dynamics of how politics is working in the US right now, because the Startup Visa touches on a visa, it gets wrapped  into the entire immigration debate which is a very contentious, very wide ranging debate, very polarized. I think our general sense at this stage, especially since we have elections coming up, nothing’s going to happen between now & the elections. It will be a 2011 issue. Our hope is that sometime in 2011, immigration reform starts to become  something that’s focused on a more important & obviously from a jobs perspective, an entrepreneurial perspective, we hope that the Startup Visa will start to pick up some speed from that.

Brad Feld

Brilliant, thanks again for putting this forward & for all your support for it and for european entrepreneurs! I would like to thank you again for your time today, Brad, I really appreciate your feedback.  You’re really a star out there in the community, in the entrepreneurial community.  I’ve learnt so much for years actually from your blog  & do appreciate you giving me this time.

I really appreciate it.  One thing I’d end on & something that has come from the work we’ve done at NCWIT is that it’s not really a right or wrong issue around women in technology argument which is what a lot of people make it out to be.  Essentially men & women own all the cultural dynamics & we’ve created it & the biases have emerged societally. I think in 2010 there’s no question that women who enter into technology cultures will have a harder time of it. There’s a bias against it right now.  You know ‘hard’ is just what it is, it’s just more difficult. We can all learn from that & part of what we need to learn from that is how to lower the bias so that there isn’t artificial bias in the process.

Brad Feld

I read a post on TheFunded.com earlier today where someone was saying, you need to be an explorer to be an entrepreneur & generally it’s men that are the explorers. I hasten to actually refute that, because I think there’s a lot of us women who have incredible explorer focus.  And I think that we can all do it together, like you said.

I totally agree & statements like that just make my head hurt right. What a ridiculous bias, men are traditionally explorers!  It’s just a dumb statement!

It’s back in the cave man time!

The only thing you can do is call it out & say there’s nothing. Yes of course women behave differently & do things differently than men but so do I from my partner Jason who sits in the next office to me.  We’re all different & we should embrace those differences.  Thank you for bringing this topic to life with the interviews you’ve been doing, I appreciate that as well.

Brad Feld

Brad Feld, Foundry Group: Solving Venture Bias Part II

Video interview with Brad Feld, Managing Director, Foundry Group.   Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over twenty years. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStars & CEO NCWIT.  He can find him at his blog Feld Thoughts & on Twitter @bfeld  Foundry Group is a great bunch of venture capitalists.

Transcript follows & video below.  This is Part II of the interview.  You can view Part I and Part III here.

You have been very vocal on your blog Feld Thoughts about the lack of women in tech & have been Chairman for National Center for Women & Information Technology as you mentioned.  Could you summarize what needs to happen to encourage more women to become involved with technology?

I think there is a couple of different, very specific things that can be done. The first which is the one I was riffing on before, is this notion of role models.  I think there are numerous role models for male entrepreneurs.  I think there are less female role models.  The successful female entrepreneurs of any age, the more visibility they have, the more they’re celebrated for their success the better!  The second is that it is important for us to drive out a lot of the preconceived notions at different points in time.  So for example, if you look younger in age pipeline sort of in junior high or high school, historically there’s been a lot of parental bias against girls going into computer science. There’s a variety of factors but having people understand that the thing that’s driving that doesn’t make any sense or importance. For example, until recently a lot of parents had the perception that computer science was a very isolated activity. You sit in front of your computer & program all day & have no communication & collaboration.  So there’s this encouragement to young girls to do things that are more collaborative.  That doesn’t make any sense.  That’s not really how software is built & how products are built.  Sure there’s plenty of time spent concentrating in front of a computer but that’s no different than many other professional activities.  And in fact the process of developing software today is in many cases & in certainly the best organizations, very collaborative & requires very good communication skills & it can have very robust interaction. So the anecdote that computers are geeky is silly.  If you look at it today kids of all ages, 5 or 6 on, 7 or 8 on, have computers around them all the time & there’s no real functional difference in use.  So then the idea that girls can’t be as effective in developing software than boys.  But getting rid of those biases early is important. There’s some specific things that will take some time so for example the AP computer science classes really are not a very effective computer science class.  It basically teaches you how to program in java – not a particularly stimulating activity.  If you look at the curriculum, it’s a math centric, sort of a theory centric curriculum versus one that really teaches you how to develop software versus learn a programming language. There are multiple aspects of that.  So making that work better & more effective, I think is important.

Then you obviously have all this stuff that works up into the workforce both in large companies & small companies. Really breaking down the biases as well as the preconceived notion that people are better, males are better at one thing, women are better at something else.  I’ll give you a counter example, there’s a bias that women are better teachers in K312 than men.  That’s not a constructive bias either, there may be more women that are K312 teachers than men but the whole idea that they’re better versus there being a homogeneous mix is actually not helpful.  So you mess up organizational culture by having these biases & the best thing people can do over time is just drive them out of organizations.

Brad Feld

What do you see as the obstacles for inclusion of more women entrepreneurs in achieving funding?

I think the obstacles are essentially around the range of stuff we are talking about.  It’s a self fulfilling prophecy both positive & negative, the more women entrepreneurs there are, the more successful women entrepreneurs there will be, the easier it will be for that bias to be driven out of the system or the more that bias will get driven out of the system. And subsequently the more women entrepreneurs will be funded. It’s not just a be funded phenomena, its engage in the process?  You asked me at the beginning what percentage of companies are women & its a small percentage.  And its not because we’re looking for male oriented businesses or we are explicitly looking for female entrepreneurs oriented businesses.  In fact we are looking for businesses that appeal to us, & if you remember Jason’s talk on Foundry Group, we’re looking for specific companies who fit with our themes.  We don’t care whether an entrepreneur is male, female, young, old & frankly if they were from Mars or from Pluto & they were working on something interesting to us, that would be fine.  So we’re not focused on the gender, age, ethnicity of the person but interestingly that population is such that it is very skewed male. I think what women do to help each other is important.  I think that’s true of all aspects of society, if there’s a bias in the system the people that are in the minority should work together to overcome the bias. And more importantly the people that are in the majority should be very tuned into the bias & should work hard to try to eliminate the bias, not necessarily by modifying their specific decisions but by eliminating the bias from their decisions.

Brad Feld

What tips would you offer women entrepreneurs who are considering sourcing venture capital?

I’d tell them not to be bashful in any way, shape or form. The great female entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with come in all shapes & sizes, all different personality types, all different skill bases. The common trait that they all have is that none of them are afraid of being an entrepreneur.  None of them are bashful about it.  In the same way that the successful male entrepreneurs are not afraid of being entrepreneurs & are not bashful.  The women that I encounter that are hesitant, that are uncomfortable with being an entrepreneur, that aren’t sure whether they want to be an entrepreneur, its the same character trait as when a guy comes up to me & says ‘I’m thinking of being an entrepreneur but I need to make this amount of money & I need to have this kind of stability.’  My response is ‘don’t, you’re not an entrepreneur!  It’s ok there’s nothing wrong with it just don’t be something that doesn’t map to you.’  So I don’t think its a unique problem again in the context for women.  I think the successful ones are all confident, aggressive, thoughtful, energetic but again on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, on the product to sales spectrum, on any of those dynamics, on the education spectrum, they’re all over the place within that sample. I just encourage women to be themselves & to be articulate about what they care about, be passionate about it & go for it!

Brad Feld

Brad Feld, Foundry Group: Solving Venture Bias

Video interview with Brad Feld, Managing Director, Foundry Group.   Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over twenty years. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStars & CEO NCWIT.  You can find him at his blog Feld Thoughts & on Twitter @bfeld I interviewed Brad Feld a few weeks ago after having a ball interviewing his partner Jason Mendelson.  They are both really generous in sharing their perspectives & also both have great senses of humor.  To reinforce that the picture above is currently from their website Foundry Group in a Halloween frame of mind, loads of fun!

Transcript follows & video below.  This is Part I of the interview.  You can view Part II and Part III here.

What percentage of women startups do you get pitches for?  And what percentage have you funded?

I don’t know the exact percentage because I don’t track it.  But my guess its probably in the 5 to 10% range.  My guess the percentage of startups that we fund by women is roughly the same.  We’ve never looked at it from the standpoint gender evaluation perspective.  So we don’t look at it we’re trying to have a certain percentage of the company’s that we fund be women led or certain percentage not be.  It’s just kind of the data that happens.

Brad Feld

Have you noted differences with women entrepreneurs in how they pitch & build businesses?

I don’t know.  I spent a lot of time thinking about it in the context of the work we’ve done for NCWIT which is an organization I’m Chairman of.  Women & men have different characteristics but men have different characteristics between each other & women do too.  So to segregate purely by gender is a little simplistic. If you just look at a particular entrepreneur independent of gender, you have some entrepreneurs who are very extroverted & very customer & sales focused.  You have some entrepreneurs who are very introverted & very product focused.  They’re just different characteristics & different strengths & weaknesses & we fund them both. I don’t know that they are specific characteristics that matter that much?  I would say that a lot of the entrepreneurial teams that have a good blend of gender tend to be more effective than entrepreneurial teams that are male dominated. I think this is true across all technology & product is that there are different perspectives that different people bring to the table. Having a completely homogeneous gender bias introduces a bias whether you want to or not. It doesn’t mean that you have to have a completely heterogeneous base where its 50% male & 50% female.  But having a mixture often brings out lots of different ideas & different behavior & personality styles that are quite useful.

Brad Feld

I recently interviewed Cindy Gallop, IfWeRanTheWorld, where she said:  ‘So many, many people are realizing that as Paco Underhill said recently to Ad Age ‘If you want business success then you have to find mass acceptance with women.’   More & more people are realizing what a powerful economic force women are as purchasers. Also the things that women bring to the table in terms of business & different approaches & perspectives on business are increasingly valuable & increasingly valued.’  Do you think that within the vc community that the awareness of these opportunities through women both as purchasers & founders is there?  How can we enlighten the vc community about this opportunity?

I don’t have a good answer to that from a generalized perspective.  I think that one of the things that I’ve really struggled with, in the context of the research we’ve done with NCWIT, is that an awful lot of assertions around women in technology & women in computer science & entrepreneurial women are anecdotal generalizations rather than data driven conclusions. I actually think in any socio-economic gender functional dynamic if you’re building off pure anecdotes you get into some trouble.  I think the anecdotes that you build on top of other anecdotes just reinforce the bad ones.  This is one of those places, I think that most reasonably well educated, somewhat enlightened humans recognize that gender bias is not a productive thing. That women for example in the economy, in business & the world have equal stature & equal impact as men do.  Whether or not there’s an actual understanding of that put into practice of that by the venture community, I have no idea to respond to that as a generalization. I would tell you that people who are focused on or negatively biased towards a particular gender, specifically in the context of technology being male gender biased, those people are fools! It’s not helpful, it doesn’t add anything!

Brad Feld

It’s not good business!

It’s dumb!

Brad Feld

Cindy also spoke about being an ‘older woman’ entrepreneur: “So separate from the general belief in the tech sector, like many other sectors, that older means set in your ways, incapable of learning new things, less forward thinking, more worried about things to do with family & lifestyle than younger or more unencumbered people. All of that I would argue is tripled when you combine older with female. Older women being the sector that society particularly discounts & so that’s just an additional obstacle. And a misguided one!”  Do you think that older women are particularly sidelined in the venture game?  What would support the venture industry becoming more aware of the strengths & possibilities that ‘older women’ founders could offer?

I want to be thoughtful here, because there’s an ageism dynamic, not just a gender based one, but between young entrepreneurs that are male & older entrepreneurs.  The fresh & new versus the inexperience compared to someone who’s been through the drill a while but then have a routinized or a certain way of viewing things. I think these are generational.  I’m in my mid 40’s & I think that somebody who is today 5 years old, when they’re 20 will never know a world without always being connected to the internet & to the web.  So their view of how the world works is very different than my view of how the world works from when I was 5 to when I was 20 & how that propelled me forward. And you see that in multiple generations &  I don’t care how you segment it but that’s gender indifferent.  So then you get to the second order of fact ‘Is it harder for a particular age or gender of entrepreneur, to either first get successful, get attention & then secondarily be successful?  I think that there’s lots of things that cause lots of problems across the whole spectrum.  So there are certain characteristics of biases against women entrepreneurs, theres a particular set of biases against women entrepreneurs that are older but then there are plenty of examples of very successful women entrepreneurs at all ages. I think what I’ve kinda cycled back to & I use this example quite often I challenge people especially in the software industry is to have more visible female heroes that are successful female entrepreneurs.  The more visible those female entrepreneurs are the more new entrepreneurs of any age, whether younger or older, will have more role models to be able to follow after.

Brad Feld