Girls in Tech San Francisco Investor Panel #gitsf

We attended Girls in Tech San Francisco Investor Panel this week. It featured Moderator Scott Kupor, Partner Andreessen Horowitz & panelists include Megan Quinn, Partner Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers; Randy Williams, Founder Keirestu Forum; Paul Singh, Partner 500 Startups & Karla Zens, Founder Zip Cup.  Thanks to Girls in Tech for putting on an interesting panel.

Startup Interviews #data2

Martin Hack President, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, Skytree.  Mr. Hack has 20 years of experience, creating game changing technology products, services and strategies. His experience includes the management of product lines with revenues totaling $1.8B/year. He has launched ground-breaking products, driven world wide strategies and helped set de-facto industry standards. As an expert on Trusted Computing, Virtualization and High Performance environments he became a sought-after advisor to many Fortune 500 companies and government organizations including the FBI, CIA and DIA. In his past roles he was involved in all aspects of the product life cycle including engineering, product management, marketing, business development and sales. He also developed and introduced products and services into virtually every commercial and government, channel and market segment.

Martin tells me a bit about Skytree which was bootstrapped for a couple of years. Last year they raised $1.5 from Javelin Venture Partners.  He also gives some tips for raising venture.  He told me that big data is the hottest thing for the last 15 years for venture capital.

Do your homework, do your research!  Is this an investor that is familar with this area?  Do they have some background?  Maybe there is someone in your network that can help you reach out there?

Martin Hack

Hooman Radfar Executive Chairman/CoFounder Clearspring Technologies  Hooman is executive chairman and co-founder of Clearspring responsible for product and service solutions and marketing. Based in McLean, VA he was recently named one of Tech’s Best Entrepreneurs in BusinessWeek and was nominated for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. He is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in Economics and Computer Science. He also holds a Masters of Science from Carnegie Mellon University where he researched Social Networking Theory. He is a popular speaker at major industry events such as ad:tech, OMMA events, SXSW, Digital Hollywood, Digital Media Conference, Web 2.0 Expo and CES.

Hooman tells me a bit about Clearspring Technologies services which includes Add This.  He also talks about how they’ve raised over $7m in venture capital from Novak Biddle, IVP, NEA & a bunch of prominent angels such as Ron Conway, Steve Case, Ted Leonsis & Nigel Morris, CoFounder Capital One (a great group of advisors).  Hooman also offers some tips for raising venture dependent on the stage of your business.

Try to frame your business in the context of a trend where a venture person can understand the opportunity in the context of a larger market is important!  Series A investors need to know that the team is really good & the market is really big because the product & execution often change so much.

Hooman Radfar

He also spoke about what not to do: don’t wear suits when meeting with vcs if you are a developer & feel uncomfortable – you have to sell the assets you have!  Don’t overcompensate on areas where you’re weak, rather than double down on areas where you are strong.

Tell them what you don’t know & how you plan to fill in those gaps!

Hooman Radfar

Chris Van Pelt, Founder/CTO Crowdflower.  Studio artist, computer scientist, Web engineer, and CrowdFlower co-founder, Chris pours his diverse background into his role as Chief Technology Officer (though he prefers Chief Awesome Officer). Of Chris’s work, one former colleague said, “Chris combines deep design insight with crisp, minimalist coding abilities that enables him to produce anything — soup-to-nuts applications — sometimes within minutes. And of course the impossible takes a little longer.” As Chris puts it, “Every project presents an opportunity for innovation.”

Chris spoke about Crowdflower which is a crowd sourcing company which works around micro tasks.  He told me the story around why they created this type of business.  Their revenue model is a plus cost model.


Helen MacKenzie: Focusing on Critical Mass of Capital for Women

Video interview with Helen MacKenzie Founding Managing Director Women’s Venture Capital Fund that invests in gender diverse teams building game-changing companies. Helen has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs to help them drive maximum revenue from their smart ideas. She applies strategic vision and practical financial objectives to innovative ideas – helping entrepreneurs shape their visions into profitable companies. Having accompanied dozens of high-growth companies on the journey from startup through to exit, Helen offers a clear perspective on how to leverage business acumen and strategic partnerships into financial success.

Transcription follows & video below

Its great to see more women in venture capital & I’m so excited about your fund. It’s fabulous Women’s Venture Capital Fund. You just put it right out there, no bars hold. Fantastic, I was so thrilled to see it. So tell me what motivated you guys to actually put it together & call it that name. It’s so in your face, I love it!

We weren’t trying to be in your face with it & we didn’t name it for ourselves as general partners. And we certainly didn’t name it for any of the investors or any other people who might like to be around women entrepreneurs. We named it so that the women who were entrepreneurs or founding companies, it would resonate with them.

Helen MacKenzie

Well it certainly resonated with me, that’s exactly the reaction you got!

Good, good & that’s primarily what we wanted to do. If you look at the statistics that have been published for years & years, there is just a paucity of venture capital that gets invested in companies where even one woman is part of the management team much less cofounding it. And yet if you look at the other side of the ledger you have women who make up more than 51% of the Math Undergrads, a third if not more of the Engineering undergrads as well as the Graduate Students coming out of all the good universities, the middle end universities. Whatever university you went to, women make up critical mass & they are part of those teams that are creating new technologies or repositioning technologies. They have great ideas, their teams have great ideas. So while we are called the Women’s Venture Capital Fund, we really want to be sure that we’re investing in gender diverse teams & in diverse teams. The world is diverse & we want to reflect that in our investing criteria.

Helen MacKenzie

Great, great. I see that you’ve invested in one company. Congratulations & it was women led company. I was really thrilled about that & shared it on social media. How are you finding them? Are there many women coming to you with female led startups?

I think as one of my partners puts it ‘We have an embarassment of riches on that side!’ There are any number of just terrific companies with women involved. They don’t have to be the CEO. They don’t have to even be the founder of it. But they are involved in managing companies & growing companies & they need capital. And let’s face it, capital is hard to access for anybody in any business & women seem to resonate with the fund & the fund name.

Helen MacKenzie

I would imagine it’s sort of like a honey pot. As soon as I see that name I would immediately encourage other female startups to actually go towards you. So I would imagine you wouldn’t even have to do much marketing.

There are a number of great people & organisations that mentor women’s groups. I think you are part of Women2.0  & certainly Astia & Springboard are 2 other very well known names that mentor them. So I think you’ve got some critical mass out there on that side but you don’t have too much critical mass on the capital side. And we wanted to bring critical mass on that side.

Helen MacKenzie

Now I’m very supportive of women venture capitalists because as you know & I know from the research, so many more women are invested in when there’s more women in venture capital. I’ve often asked women venture capitalists what it’s like to be a woman venture capitalist & what are the challenges & what are the problems & how can women do that? How do you see your firm encouraging more women to get on board in the firm itself? Have you got any plans about that?

Inside our firm? I think long range we have generally talked about it. But we are kind of a new fund ourselves & have only made our first investment. So I think perhaps..

Helen MacKenzie

…not scaling just yet?

Well we don’t have our world wide domination plan figured out just yet for the world to know about. I think just like any young company we need to focus, focus on what it is we want our business to do. And right now the best thing we can do is help our first investment & subsequent investments be as successful as they possibly can.

Helen MacKenzie

Fabulous, so you’re going to build that foundation so that it’s nice & strong & then scale?


Helen MacKenzie

That’s great, that’s great. Would you have any tips for women that might be interested in getting into venture capital because it seems to be a bit of a cloudy subject. Many women venture capitalists have said to me that they don’t even know how they ended up falling into the career. And I mean the industry itself is a bit of a cottage industry so there’s no rules about how you can actually graduate yourself into the role.

I think it is similar to the same question as how do you start a startup? There aren’t any rules for that either. You get a great idea & you feel like there’s critical mass & you want to go out after it & do it. And those people who are involved, if you look at the people who are involved in venture capital today, men or women, look at how they all started. I started as a banker, I was a commercial banker, I banked the venture capital industry. I banked all the early stage companies. I banked anybody who was around them. Other people got into the industry because they were with successful startups & they had some financial background & you have to have a little bit, not a lot. Or you have technical background & it’s all about relationships. Everything is about relationships at the end of the day. Do you have those skills that you bring to the table that that particular venture firm needed at that particular point in time? Were all the stars in alignment? So how does any professional end up to be in the profession that they really want to be in & doing what it is that they love to do best. That’s how most venture capitalists end up doing this.

Helen MacKenzie

So maybe, here’s an idea of mine: so maybe just promoting the fun, the interest & the passion that most of the venture capitalists experience, which is what I have heard from most of you that I’ve interviewed, promoting that may also encourage women to find their own path into it. What do you think?

It certainly might.

Helen MacKenzie

That’s fabulous. Thank you so much. I wish you all the best for your firm. I’m totally behind you, anything that I can do for you, I really want to do that.

Thank you very much. We can use all the help we get. It’s a team play!

Helen MacKenzie

It is! Vivek Wadhwa said to me ‘Women have to help each other up here in the Valley!’ I think that’s the truth anywhere but I totally, totally support that idea. I think if you help another woman then it will come back to you in some other way.

Absolutely, it will. What did somebody say “It takes a village!” no matter where you are. We’re all part of the community, large & small so we all need to help each other.

Helen MacKenzie

And I think that’s what I see in women, that we do have that wonderful strength that when we see other women needing support, we usually rush in & help. All the best & thanks again.

Thank you very much.

Helen MacKenzie

David Hornik, August Capital: SandHill Rd is Full of Men & it’s an Interesting Challenge!

Video interview with David Hornik, Partner August Capital.  For more than a decade, David has worked with technology startups throughout the software sector. In 2000, David joined August Capital to invest broadly in information technology companies, with a focus on enterprise application and infrastructure software, as well as consumer facing software and services. Prior to joining August Capital, David was an intellectual property and corporate attorney at Venture Law Group and Perkins Coie. In his legal practice, David represented high tech startups in all aspects of their formation, financing, and operations, including the likes of Yahoo!, Evite (Ticketmaster) and Ofoto (Kodak). Before that, David was a litigator in New York City at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.  You can find David on his blog Venture Blog or on Twitter @davidhornik

Transcript follows & video below

I was wondering what kind of themes you like to invest in? What’s your sweet spot with startups?

As a general matter our theme is people, it’s not about technologies or markets. We invest in great entrepreneurs who have come to an idea in a context of their history. Sometimes that’s an industry in which they’ve worked. Sometimes its a problem that they needed solving. They come to us & say: here’s how we’re thinking about this problem. We think it’s big & we think the way we’re solving it is interesting. And when we think to ourselves that’s true, it is a big problem & it’s a big interesting opportunity & we think that the entrepreneurs are going about it in a smart way, then we might invest. But we’re not a firm that wakes up on the 1st January & says OK we’re focused on big data, we’re going after bio infomatics, we need a mobile ad thinger whoozy. Our approach is, we describe ourselves as systematically opportunistic. We work very hard to see the most interesting opportunities that people can describe & we hope we have the good sense when we see them to say ‘yes that’s it!’

David Hornik

So would it be seed stage or round A or B?

It’s one of those tricky things. On the one hand we’ve invested $500k in a company & we’ve invested $130m in a company. So it’s an incredible range. We tend to invest in early stage ventures. I’ve invested in a number of 3 people with a great idea kinds of companies putting in $2m or $4m. I’ve invested in lots of series A investments where the team is a dozen people, they’re working on something interesting & they need the next $6 or $8m. I think that early is fun & interesting & the world’s your oyster! It’s also risky & challenging. Then we have a later stage fund where we invest in opportunities where the teams are doing great things & they need more money to leverage the skills they already have or the relationships they already have to acquire companies. So we’ve had lots of interesting opportunities there where we say Oh, we’ll invest $20m or $25m & you can buy this other company or we can spin you out of some other place. And we find that exciting as well.

David Hornik

I just love your office & you’re obviously a really creative guy. Do you like to get involved with the startups & if so what’s your boundary around that?

I wrote this blog post. I have a blog called Venture Blog & I wrote this blog post once “Every VC thinks he’s a Marketing Genius” Marketing is one of those things that you can opine on infinitely & if you think “You know what I think you should do!” My view of venture capital is that it is not our job to steer our companies. We’re not in charge. If you’re running the company then something has gone very, very wrong. On the other hand I think there’s lots of things I think we can be helpful with. Sometimes that’s recruiting & sometimes that’s thinking about the broader opportunity, sometimes that’s relationships. I’m happy to do what’s helpful for my companies & sometimes that’s “Hey David can we meet every week & talk about how the company is doing or whatever.” I have had that & very happy to do it. Sometimes it’s ‘I really need you to convince this great engineer to join the company.’ And sometimes it’s “We’re thinking about this particular product or market or whatever, what do you think about it?” I’m thrilled to help any way that you think is useful & I think I am that: I am the support structure for a great team of people that are going to build a big business.

David Hornik

Fabulous. So I wondered if you’ve invested in any female founded companies & what you think about that whole area of startups?

I like to think it’s not an area of startups. Women approach startups the same way as men. They’re founding companies across a range of technologies & a range of opportunities. I do think that there is an interesting challenge that the venture capital market has. I’m not someone who is going to look at you & say: This is a pure meritocracy & if women are disproportionately under invested that that’s their fault. Because the things that lead to investment are really amorphous. It’s about introductions & relationships, it’s about sales & marketing & convincing people & engagement & connection. To the degree that this is about making those deep connections, there’s clearly plenty of folks up & down Sand Hill Road where that’s a harder connection to make with people that are less like them. And Sand Hill Road is full of men! It’s a lot of men so I think it’s an interesting challenge. It’s a challenge that the venture community would be well served to be cognizant of & to try & make progress. Which isn’t to say funding women who are engaged in business you are not interested in, it’s more about understanding how you judge people & businesses & not creating double standards & not having expectations that make it harder for one group of people, whether it’s women or African Americans or Hispanics or whoever. Don’t create hurdles that get in the way of ‘This is a great business!’ Let’s go build it! That said I have backed female entrepreneurs. I look forward to continuing doing it. We recently funded in the second half of last year, 2 of our CEOs are women. We’re excited about that. So I don’t think this is a crisis at August Capital, I just think that people have to be realistic. They have to come in eyes wide open & look for the best athletes who are going to do the most interesting things whatever their background.

David Hornik

So that’s your advice for the venture community, would you have any tips for women who are wanting to raise venture or angel investment? Is there anything that you could say that would encourage them (because obviously that’s the basis of my interviews)?

Sure at the end of the day, it’s always the same. Relationships drive activity in Silicon Valley. Everything is relationship driven. My advice is very much the same that I have given many starting entrepreneur which is that, you need to engage in a meaningful way with the broader ecosystem. The way you come to the venture community is through friends of the venture community. Because ultimately if someone I trust says you should meet with this entrepreneur, I’m not filtering it by are you female or male? I’m filtering it by who made this introduction? So to the degree that there is any differentiation between men & women engaging in that behaviour, then I think that “Be bold, create relationships & get to know people & live & die by the things that you’re doing. I do think that Silicon Valley is a meritocracy in many respects. I think that many people are looking for great opportunities & they’re willing to be convinced that the things you’re doing are exciting. So make those connections, build those relationships & get in front of lots of people. And I think that ultimately you will prevail even though it may take a few more of those relationships, a few more of those connections, a few more walls you have to break through. But boy that’s what entrepreneurs do all day!

David Hornik

What is a Good Pitch?

I wondered if you could tell me what constitutes a good pitch to you when an entrepreneur comes in to pitch their startup? What are the things that you’re looking for that’s going to say hey I’m interested in this startup?

It’s one of those, in some ways, very tough questions to answer. I know it when I see it! But the reality of it is that pitching a business is about selling a vision. It’s about selling a vision in 2 respects. It’s about selling a vision on a person who is well suited to bring this thing to fruition. And then it’s about this thing that I want to bring to fruition is interesting & engaging & will change the world in some meaningful way. The greatest pitches are the ones where you say: “Wow that’s an interesting opportunity I hadn’t thought about & it’s exciting. Secondly, man I really want to back that entrepreneur to go do it because it looks like he or she is just going to kill it!” And I often say that the best judge for me of what was a great pitch is the next morning when I wake up. Because if I wake up thinking about that pitch, thinking about the opportunity then we’re onto something. If I wake up thinking about breakfast or my kids or what meetings I have that day, I’m not going to fund you. It’s because you haven’t captured my imagination in a way that has occupied my brain. But the things I have funded: I finish the meeting & I go wow that’s really interesting. I go into the next meeting & in this background process I’m thinking about the last meeting. Those are the pitches where you just say “Oh OK that’s amazing, I wonder if they thought about this etc.” It’s hard to describe that magic but it’s all about vision & it’s all about passion. And passion can be expressed lots of ways. It doesn’t have to be about me, frenetic passion. I’ve funded founders who are very no nonsense & methodical but you don’t question for a second that the thing they’re doing is what they were born to do. So when you leave with that feeling, that this person was put on this earth to build that search engine for data or to build that price optimisation or whatever, you leave excited & energized & wanting to spend more time with them.

David Hornik

Thank you so much David, I really appreciate your time today.

Sure, thanks for talking.

David Hornik

Advice for European Startups

I know you were recently at Le Web & I wondered if you’ve got any comments for European startups & how the market is fairing over there? (That’s where I originally hailed from.)

Sure it’s the same thing no matter where we are. We have a wealth of riches in Silicon Valley. We have a lot of people that live & breathe this company building stuff. So that’s hard to create in other places. So you kind of have 2 choices: you either come here, fine lots of people do that because there’s lots of money & there’s lots of investors & there’s lots of advisors. And there are people who’ve done all that stuff. Or you have to create that universe & it just means more work. It means that if you come here & meet with a dozen executives to talk about a startup some fraction of them are likely to engage in a conversation about a good idea. I think in Europe that dozen people really needs to be twenty. So it is harder, it’s more work. On the other hand, there’s less competition, there are fewer startups, there are great engineers that are looking for jobs. So understand your unfair competitive advantage, use it to the degree you can & then just…. Startup building to me is amazing because it’s so hard, it’s just stunning to me that anyone manages it. It’s crazy! When it works, it’s the most euphoric, amazing thing but it takes a lot of work & it’s really risky & it’s really hard. So in many places it’s harder & it takes more work but there are things that may make it more satisfying or less risky. So just take advantage of those things while doing what all great entrepreneurs do: just kill yourself to overcome all those barriers that you’re going to be overcoming for a decade to come.

David Hornik

Fabulous that’s very encouraging!

Tereza Nemessanyi: Being CEO of your own Household can Help you Ask for Money

Tereza Nemessanyi is Co-Founder and CEO of Honestly Now, where your friends and smart strangers give you advice on all your burning questions. A seasoned media and tech entrepreneur, she was the first employee of CETV, which IPO’d in 1995. Tereza has worked at senior levels with dozens of companies including PwC, The Walt Disney Company, Unilever and Interpublic. She was named one of Forbes’ “Top Ten Female Entrepreneurs to Watch” (2011), and gained wide acclaim with her Reuters OpEd proposing an “XX Combinator” to overcome the barriers which keep women out of venture-grade tech entrepreneurship. She has an MBA from The Wharton School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania; however, her deepest inspiration comes from her mother, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia who restarted her own career at age 40. She lives in New York with her husband and two young daughters. You can find Tereza on her blog  & HonestlyNow blog  & on Twitter  @TerezaN & @HonestlyNowInc

Transcript follows & video below  This is Part II of interview

I believed in my own idea from the beginning & I was confident in my skills & my experience. But there was a change when I started to have people committing to me & committing to that vision. Whereas earlier, it was a little bit scary for me to go to someone & ask for money just for me, suddenly when I was standing for a group of people who believed in me the equation & the chemistry there was completely different. So going & asking on behalf of my team who are dedicated to this was a completely empowering moment & I’d liken to the lioness with cubs. I’m a mother, once your children or your people need something, they need tools to get done what they need to get done, you don’t hesitate for one minute not only to make the ask, but to turn every single stone that you can to do right by them. It becomes not only a rational question but a totally emotional one in the most positive way. You just will not take no for an answer! I think that’s a great strength that women have, that we just want to see more & more of.

Tereza Nemessanyi

Do you think that this is a common thing because many people have said to me that women have trouble asking for money?

I don’t know. I haven’t asked that question per se. I guess I would compare it more to the side of my life that’s a mother. Because I know lots & lots of women who are essentially the CEO of their own household & are making big decisions every day that have life long implications. And a lot of them used to be shy people. I just see that every mother I know turning it on 100% of the time in that population. I have to imagine that it translates over.

Tereza Nemessanyi

Brilliant, brilliant. Thank you so much for your time today Tereza, I really appreciated your feedback.

Pemo it’s always a pleasure. Thank you for everything you are doing, truly! You are such a gift to every single one of us in this ecosystem. You’re so generous in doing what you’re doing! Really thank you!

Tereza Nemessanyi

Sharon Vosmek, Astia: European Entrepreneurs Not Interested in Playing Small!

Sharon Vosmek has been CEO of Astia since 2007, previously joining as COO in 2004. As CEO of Astia, Sharon has an unwavering passion and a uniquely well-suited background to drive forward the organization’s mission of propelling women’s full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses, fueling innovation and driving economic. Under her guidance, the Astia community of investors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders has grown ten-fold and now spans North America, Europe and India. You can find Sharon @ Astia’s blog  & on Twitter @Vosmek 

Transcript follows & video below

I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about Astia & how it serves the female entrepreneurial community?

Absolutely. Astia is a global organization built on a community of experts focused on the success of women led high growth companies. This is broadly serving the community of high tech, clean tech & life sciences companies. We work with the companies on access to capital, achieving high growth & developing the executive leadership of the women on the founding team.

Sharon Vosmek

Great, fantastic. I wondered if you have access to any stats at the moment about how many female entrepreneurs get investment? Anything up to date in that arena?

Well what’s really interesting is that there’s good news & bad news. The bad news is that women still secure less than 10% of venture capital. It hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years. The good news, the exciting news & the real opportunity for Astia, as I see it, is that there’s great research validating the reasons why we should all care. Number one, research shows that if women had the same access to capital as their male counterparts, we would see 6million jobs created in 5 years, 2 million of those in year one alone. That is our economic jobs recovery that we are all seeking right now. Really exciting numbers.
The other really exciting news is that companies that have women in excecutive leadership roles, along with men, outperform those that don’t for their investors & for their shareholders. So there’s really great & exciting research while we haven’t yet seen the move as it relates to the percentage of venture capital going to women CEOs.

Sharon Vosmek

I know that you have offerings in Europe. Can you tell me a little bit about the European scene & how that’s looking now for women entrepreneurs? I’ve been gone a while now.

Europe’s exciting! I find the entrepreneurial ecosystem there certainly abuzz. And what is the real opportunity for Astia in Europe is that we’re a global community & we have great access to serial entrepreneurs around the world. So when an entrepreneur qualifies for Astia & joins us, they actually join this peer to peer network which is really strong & can break them out of their local, social entrepreneurial norms & help them access really the high growth, global entrepreneurial opportunity. What I find about the European entrepreneurs is that they’re ready for that! They’re not interested in playing small. They’re very interested in playing big & I think that a platform like Astia really then enables that to go quickly.

Sharon Vosmek

I know that the numbers of female entrepreneurs in Europe are smaller than in the States (even though they’re small here). So I’m just wondering, are you seeing any movement in that area? Are more women starting to get on board as entrepreneurs?

Fantastic question & interesting globally is a front of mine. I’m actually going to participate in the APEC Conference (Asia Pacific Economic Conference) talking about women in the economy because globally women are almost half the entrepreneurs. Where we are not is in high growth entrepreneurship & that’s certainly true here in the US & in Europe. And really why it matters in high growth is what I talked about with job creation. In the last 30 years all new jobs were created by enterprises less than 5 years old. So we should want women playing in this space. It’s really about getting innovation to market & job creation & wealth creation for those women.
But you’re right the numbers aren’t much better here than they are in Europe. And actually it’s not tracked so it’s a bit of data that is not tracked that we desperately need.

Sharon Vosmek

Yes I guess it’s a bit disparate because so many different countries are involved in Europe?

What I’m excited about though is that I think that the message is getting out. We certainly are seeing at Astia anecdotally an increase in people reaching out to find out about us, finding how they can become involved as entrepreneurs. So we’re seeing an increase in our pipeline even if we don’t know if that’s true in the broader market.

Sharon Vosmek

Fabulous, well as you know I’ve always been a very strong fan of Astia & your work. I’m hoping that you continue on for a long time to come. Or hopefully maybe not?

We actually have a pretty big goal in front of us. What we’ve committed to as part of a collaboration with 50 other organizations globally, excuse me 60 now, is we see the opportunity to mainstream the Astia message & really bake in an understanding of why it matters. We see that within the decade we won’t need to exist as an organization. What we believe is that women are half of the MBAs, half of the college graduates, more than half of college graduates & approaching half of the Phd’s. There is an abundant pipeline of talented women at the ready. If we show them the path & the opportunity & give them access to the networks, that’s all it takes for them to succeed in this space. And then Astia gets to go away!

Sharon Vosmek

Fantastic! Thank you so much for your time today, Sharon. It’s been brilliant getting this feedback, particularly the stats. It’s really exciting news!

Thank you Pemo & keep doing these, they are great.

Sharon Vosmek

Thank you

This interview was reposted in TheNextWomen & in Forbes ‘Four Rules for High-Growth Women Entrepreneurs’ & on Astia’s Blog Astia Notes

Rachel Sheinbein, CMEA: Women’s Collaborative Style can Succeed in Venture Capital

Rachel Sheinbein Principal Energy and Materials team CMEA Capital. She is a board member for Solaria, Danotek Motion, and Arcadia Biosciences and an observer for Reel Solar and Contour Energy. Before CMEA, Rachel was a consultant for start-ups in the areas of bio-plastics, solar and water. For 9 years prior, Rachel worked at Intel, in wastewater systems, Environmental Health & Safety, and Supply Chain Strategy. Rachel is the President of the board of Expanding Your Horizons Network, a non-profit that encourages girls in math, science, engineering and technology. In addition, Rachel volunteers in various roles for Astia, the California Clean Tech Open and ImagineH2O. Rachel holds a Chemical Engineering degree with a concentration in Environmental Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Rachel was also a sponsored fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she received an MBA and a Masters in Civil and Environmental Engineering, with a focus on operations and supply chain. You can find Rachel @ CMEA blog & on Twitter: @RachelSheinbein

Transcript follows & video below

I was wondering what themes & sweet spots you have when you’re investing in startups?

Ok well I am part of the Energy Materials Team here at CMEA. We have a Life Science & IT practice as well but I focus on Energy & Materials. I have a broad range of investment areas. I started my career in water & waste water treatment so that’s an area that I’m still interested in. I’m on the board of a solar company named Solaria ;a company in the wind, components for wind Danotek  & a biotech company called Arcadia BioSciences  I’m also involved with batteries, I look at storage a lot. We’re very interested in grid scale storage as well as the same areas we’re in. We’re still looking at solar, still looking at wind & also doing some things with waste water. So all of that range!

Rachel Sheinbein

It’s so great, it’s really helping the environment then. It’s a great cause.

Yeah I started my early career as a chemical engineer. I was interested in environmental efforts & worked mostly at Intel but I was in their waste water treatment than in their energy & environmental group. We were tracking global warming gases & all these types of emissions in 2000 & did not know then that it would turn into this whole industry build out. Obviously at that time we were just a cost center, not something that people thought they were going to make money on. But that has really been a big shift over the years & it’s great to be back again with that focus.

Rachel Sheinbein

Pioneering that stuff, that’s great. Would you have any advice for women entrepreneurs or female startups who are wanting to get in or are involved in these industries? What advice would you give them as regards getting venture capital?

Yes so I think a couple of things. One, I would definitely take advantage of any kind of networking opportunities. A lot of this is meeting people in more informal environments & getting feedback. I think Astia . (I don’t know if I mentioned that I’m CoChair of the Clean Tech Committee for Astia?) They have a really phenomenal program. Obviously I’m clean tech open from a business plan perspective & getting that in shape especially, if this is your first time in the industry or as an entrepreneur & going through some of that can be really helpful. Then there’s other Astia-like programs focused on women but many of them are more IT & Tech related whereas Astia is building the actual Clean Tech focus. Also get involved if you are in Solar, there are a lot of solar networking groups, depending where you’re located maybe in the other sectors as well.

So the networking piece is the big piece, you feel, that could leverage a female entrepreneur into sourcing or raising venture?

Yes obviously there’s a couple of parallels for venture capitalists as well as the entrepreneurs that I’m working with. There’s some themes & I’m actually working on a blog on this: What does an entrepreneur look like in the energy space or energy materials? That may be a little bit different than in IT? For instance, in IT we have a lot of technical leaders that continue to innovate. But in Energy, what I’m seeing more of is people that have some kind of commercialization experience. So a lot of them are still technical so that helps in credibility depending on what kind of business you’re running. The technical piece is really useful in our industry but then on top of it is: How do you Work with customers? How do you have, not just integrity, but credibility, because you’re really dealing with an incumbent industry? I’m writing that out in more detail. It’s something that I’m noticing a trend among our successful companies.

Rachel Sheinbein

And being a woman venture capitalist, would you have any advice for any women that are interested in becoming a venture capitalist or getting into the venture industry?

Yes I try to think a lot in this job: Why is there a dearth of women? Because a lot of what we do is stereotypically a women field such as we’re hiring the CEOs & sometimes dealing with firing which is associated with HR. This is often where women are in a company but for some reason we’re not. And facilitating relationships, that’s a lot of what we do once we invest. Relationships to get into deals. They’re not skills that should be gender biased per se. But what I’ve noticed is especially in Energy Materials, most of the investors in the space have a technical background & technical degree. We know the stats on that, they’re low & as you know I’m on the Board of Expanding your Horizons, a non profit that encourages girls in science, technology, engineering & math. So we are losing girls up front. That program targets 6th & 9th grade & we’re all over the country, about 25,000 girls go a year. But what we’ve seen, for instance Biology PHds 60% are now being awarded to women is about the numbers that I saw last. Unfortunately Computer Science which goes into the IT field we’ve been coming down. We’re now in the teens again. Electrical Engineering & Chemical Engineering the numbers are even more abysmal. So that starts with this pipeline problem.
Then I would say it’s a little bit about the network: people pull from who they know & they pull often former entrepreneurs. Who are those entrepreneurs? They’re men! I’ve seen entrepreneurs who are successful, all of a sudden get 2 or 3 recruiting calls from vcs. If there aren’t women to pull from & to run these companies? Often on our boards we’re pulling former CEOs for independent seats. That’s a pull of men as well. In some degree it’s a matter of awareness & maybe a little bit wanting to seek out that diverse opinion. I think some boards & some leaders are seeing the importance. There are some good stats, Cindy Padnos has said companies are more profitable with women on their board. There’s some movement. But I think Venture, we have to work on the pipeline & then we also have to work on getting into the network & then also promoting women once they’re in there to really support that & give them the confidence.

Rachel Sheinbein

I think that’s right. I’ve heard that to pull women in, you have to be consciously searching that out because it hasn’t been part of the routine or part of the focus. Just changing the awareness!

Right with my background, I never planned to go into venture. Someone called me up & said you should apply & I thought ‘Really, I’m not in investment, I have an operations & manufacturing background with an MBA?’ I had the credentials but I just didn’t see myself. One of the things that I really credit, which Sheryl Sandberg is doing right now is really thinking about some self awareness in our own head of what we’re doing to hold ourselves back in a way. It’s just an awareness problem! “Oh I did that. I wouldn’t have applied because I thought I wasn’t qualified. Why am I telling myself that?” I’m not putting it wholely on that, as I think there are whole bigger issues, systemic issues but that’s another piece that we can overcome & address. In this job I have great autonomy to do the deals I want to do to make my company successful. I’m the only one holding myself back if I don’t go out & do that!

Rachel Sheinbein

What would you say are the real challenges in being a female venture capitalist?

I’ve never been more aware of my gender in my career! I was a chemical engineer working in the subfab or under the factory at Intel with all male technicians. But for some reason in this, it’s finance related or a bunch of really smart ambitious people, it’s become much more evident to me, the bit about my gender. One thing is there is a bravado & competition among vcs, getting into deals or having the connections or relationships. I came out of Intel, a very intense environment but very collaborative. I always felt that you’re rewarded for win/win: everyone can win! (Well maybe I naively felt that way?) But here I’ve noticed there is more of a lone wolf mentality, a little bit of celebrity, personality branding. But I have to say that I’ve been rewarded for sticking to my personal style & way of doing things. I always feel if someone has great skill set in finance, why wouldn’t I have them help me with due diligence. Or if someone did IP & ran an IP related company their whole career for due diligence why wouldn’t I bring them in for that? So my style can work too, even though it might be different than what is typical in this industry. I don’t think there is one way of being successful! If we knew that only these type of people are successful, then we would all not be doing that, we’d be following exactly what they’re doing.

Rachel Sheinbein

Nnena Ukuku, Black Founders: Diversity is Not Just About Gender & Race

Nnena Ukuku is one of 4 CoFounders of Black Founders.  Black Founders exists to equip and connect African American Technology Entrepreneurs.  BF started at the end of March 2011 and has gained a following across the nation. The Founders of Black Founders are Monique Woodward, Chris Bennett, Hadiyah Mujhad and Nnena Ukuku. Nnena Ukuku is a local attorney who works with early stage start up companies. She is passionate about her clients and also seeing entrepreneurs thrive.  You can find Nnena on Twitter @nukuku & Black Founders @blackfounders

Transcript follows & video below

I believe you are a cofounder of the Black Founders?

I am.  I am one of 4 CoFounders for Black Founders.

Nnena Ukuku

Fantastic.  Could you tell me a bit about the organization & why it was formed?

Black Founders exists to equip & connect black entrepreneurs.  What a lot of us found was that when we went to different parties or different organizations, we would look around & we didn’t see anyone who looked like us. We would meet somebody who was black & involved in technology & we’d ask do you know this person? Do you know that person? We slowly started realizing that there was a lack of connection between the different black entrepreneurs that are here in San Francisco. What that can sometimes do, it can sort of creates a bit of (not just disconnect) but that people become a little less sure that perhaps they can succeed in Silicon Valley?  Or is there anyone else out there that looks like me? Is there any sort of support for me?  Based on a lot of our interactions we decided to form Black Founders because we not only wanted to connect black entrepreneurs with each other.  But we also wanted to equip them so that they could create successful businesses that thrived.  We didn’t want to just increase the number of black technology companies.  That’s of no use.  But black technology companies that are solid, that are strong & add benefit to society that’s what we wanted to create.

Nnena Ukuku

So making them much more functional & supported?  That’s brilliant, isn’t it.  And could you tell me, obviously my interest is toward investment & venture & I have noticed that there’s only one or two that I know of anyway of black venture capitalists or angels.  So I just wondered are you linked to the investment community in any way?  Are there any investors that are supporting your organization?

Actually there are a few investors that are supporting our organization. One of them is Charles Hudson A wonderful, wonderful man.  He is a fabulous man.  We met with him one early morning before he decided to head off to work.  He just sat us down & talked about well here are the connectors in Silicon Valley.  Here are the other people of color who are also venture capitalists who you might not be aware of, things of that nature.  What we’ve also found is that there are some older venture capitalists who are not located in San Francisco but are located in Southern California & some people on the East Coast. We’ve had some of them express a little bit of interest & try to connect with us as well too.

Nnena Ukuku

So would part of your remit be in supporting black founders in getting invested?

Yes supporting black founders in getting invested & supporting black entrepreneurs who maybe want to basically start more speaking engagements.  We view the black entrepreneur not just as someone who is actually starting a company but we want to provide a support to where people can even get to a point where they are an angel that are highly sought for some of the different competitions that are going on around town.  It’s not enough to just have a company unfortunately in this space.  We need more faces everywhere.

Nnena Ukuku

Yes exactly, I found the same thing with women.

Exactly the exact same thing with women!  Where are the women that understand the value that a woman brings to a company?

Nnena Ukuku

So really you need to increase the number of women entrepreneurs but you also need to increase the numbers of women venture capitalists & angels.

Exactly, exactly.  And what they do is they help to provide perspective for some of the other companies that they might invest in that they might not have had otherwise.  So later on this year we’re going to have a speaking event where we want to have a panel of people that are diverse.  But diversity is not just race or gender. We also want to have people who are maybe an older white male that has a family that is also in a startup.

Nnena Ukuku

Or an older white female?

Or an older white female. Exactly, do you want to be on the panel? We can talk about that. What we want to focus is not the idea of diversity for diversitys sake. Are you losing profits because you have a narrow vision of the world.  That’s the benefit that a female vc & a female entrepreneur or a black or fill in the blank person has. They get a broader picture of what’s out there.

Nnena Ukuku

I so support your cause, it’s fantastic. I think that I did mention that every vcs office I’ve gone into, the only women that I see are the ones on the admin side of things.  And I never see black men or black women unfortunately. So your cause is great & I just think that this is really going to bridge the connections for everyone so that people are aware of the potential in the black community along with the female community.

Absolutely agree.

Nnena Ukuku

Wonderful stuff!  Would you have any advice for a black founder, a black female founder who is thinking of jumping in & swimming in the entrepreneurial sea/ocean?

It is very hard to succeed on your own. So my biggest piece of advice for a black female entrepreneur is 1) get plugged into the community.  Meet women, meet people who look like you. Meet people who do not look like you. But start connecting with the community because those people will be able to make introductions for you later on as your product grows. Those are the people that will invest in your product because they believe in you. And those are the people that will pick you up when you have the really low days & you will wonder will your product actually find a market. If you want to be able to avoid some of those pitfalls you need to become connected with the community.

Nnena Ukuku

So building community & gaining support from that?

Gaining support because that community can not only give you education but they can also carry you when you need it.

Nnena Ukuku
  • Great & I would imagine that you would have some great services?  They should plug into you obviously, your organization?

Yes definitely plug into Black Founders.

Nnena Ukuku

Do you have meetups or anything like that?

We do, we do, we have meetups We have some that are purely social so that people can connect with each other: happy hours.  We’re going to have a couple of parties later on this summer, things of that nature. But then we have other programs where we want to equip you. So we’re starting to work on what we call Founder Labs or Founder Talks which allows you as a founder to start working on your speaking skills.  And to start working on how to pitch & not only working on how to pitch, but say someone picks up the phone & they want us to connect them with someone who is maybe knowledgeable in a subject? Now we can refer you & you’ve had the experience of speaking. We also have a couple of other events that will also protect you in dealing with some of your legal matters & also help you as far as learning how to strengthen your coding skills things of that nature. We want to make sure that you’re a strong entrepreneur overall.

Nnena Ukuku

Fabulous & also at the meetups you meet some fabulous people I would imagine?

Yes you definitely meet fabulous people. Of course you know you will!

Nnena Ukuku

Thank you so much for your time today & I’m looking forward to participating in some of the events.

You’ll be on our panel.

Nnena Ukuku

Definitely, I’ll be the older white female!

There you go!

Nnena Ukuku

Dave McClure, 500Startups: Sexuality is a Bias Issue in Funding

Dave McClure is a greedy venture capitalist & founding partner at 500 Startups, an internet startup seed fund and incubator program in Mountain View, CA. He likes to hang out with entrepreneurs, and occasionally help or invest in their startups if they are foolish enough to let him.  Dave has been geeking out in Silicon Valley for over twenty years, and has worked with companies such as PayPal, Mint, Founders Fund, Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, Twilio, Simply Hired, O’Reilly Media, Intel, & Microsoft. Years ago he used to do real work like coding or marketing or running conferences, but these days he mostly does useless stuff like sending lots of email, blogging, and hanging out on Facebook and Twitter. Dave also likes to play ultimate frisbee when his knees don’t hurt.  You can find Dave @his blog Master of 500 Hats & on Twitter @davemcclure

Female Founders: Jennifer & Elizabeth are CoFounders of Launchbit. Jennifer Chin: Jennifer is a graphic and web designer, who in the last 15 years has developed graphics and frontend user interfaces for startups, athletes, universities, orchestras, and of course for her own sites. She holds a B.A. in Chemistry and Physics from Harvard and a Ph.D from MIT in Materials Science. Elizabeth Yin: Elizabeth is an internet marketer and backend programmer, who has done marketing for startups and was a marketing manager at Google. Prior to becoming a marketer, she wrote code for startups during the dot com era and holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford and an MBA from MIT Sloan.You can find them on their blog & on Twitter

Prerna Gupta: As Chief Executive Officer of, Prerna brings extensive experience in social media product management and viral marketing to the Khush team. She previously founded Yaari, an Indian dating site which grew to over 2 million members. Prerna studied Economics and Computer Science at Stanford University and worked on marketing strategy at Monitor Group and early-stage deal sourcing at Summit Partners before making the move to entrepreneurship. Her favorite instrument is her voice. You can find Prerna on her blog & on Twitter @prernagupta

Transcript follows & video below This is Part II of the interview

View the first part of this interview here

So the big question obviously with my interviews is: How have you found the investing scene & investors towards you as females? You’ve been in the valley obviously your whole life, have you noticed any bias or do you notice that it’s tougher for you girls to actually pitch for funding?

You know it’s really hard to say. I really only have a couple of experiences in fund raising. First time around was with my failed startup & everybody said no! I think there were people who would have said yes without any hesitation if we actually had a market & an interesting business. Second time around we’ve done things very differently. We actually haven’t actively raised money but people have actually come to us with offers. So it’s different this time around! So now we have more of a choice. I haven’t actually noticed a comparison. It’s not like I have a twin who is a male that I can compare notes with or anything.


You’ve got nothing to compare it to.

Did you have any different experiences? You guys were in Boston for a little bit & comparing the market environment there versus here? Or at least some reactions?

Dave McClure

Yes tell us about that.

Yeah so we heard a lot of entrepreneurs in Boston say that it was a lot harder out there. I actually know a number of entrepreneurs who have moved here for that reason. But we personally have not experienced that.


OK, OK & as regards women entrepreneurs in Boston. Would they be finding it tougher? I know Fred Destin said when I interviewed him that they’d had a big conference a few days before & there was one woman there from Krush (her website). But there was only one woman in the whole audience of 50 or 60 people.

There are definitely fewer but it’s hard to say percentage wise because I think the startup scene is a lot smaller out there. But there are more times when I’m there, that I’m the only woman at an event.


OK, ok so you notice it more there?



Although strangely I think we funded 3 startups out of Boston & all of them have women on their team.

Dave McClure

Oh interesting, it’s taking advantage of the situation

It’s so weird again! I think it was our mentors there who funneled those across. One of whom is also a woman.

Dave McClure

Great ok.

I personally think that it’s changing really rapidly. I do think in the traditional vc space there is some bias. I don’t think it’s intentional. I don’t think that these are jerks that are sexist & they watch a woman come into the office & they decide right away that they’re not going to fund her. I think a lot of it is what Dave was saying earlier, which is that you fund what you know. It’s a human tendency to look for heuristics. Their brains very quickly look for generalizations that they can make to indicate whether a person is going to be successful or not. When they’ve seen people year after year fit a certain pattern: a certain age, they’re white, they’re male, they dress a certain way, they have certain mannerisms: facial expressions or things that they say, their tone of voice. These things indicate success to them. When a woman comes in, maybe speaking more softly or with different body language, I think it’s just harder. You don’t have those same indicators that say ok this person is going to be successful, the market is going to consider this person important. And there’s some validity to it actually, because it’s not just the vcs that think that. All the business partners & everyone else in the market also use those same heuristics. I think that’s the reason that it happens implicitly. But it’s changing! The way that it’s changes is that as more women come into the market, as more women try & prove themselves, as some visionary investors give those women chances (Laughter), it changes! Everyone’s heuristics change & it’s happening very rapidly right now.


Yes I would say definitely last year & this year has been the peak. It just feels like a big shift is happening, doesn’t it? And we’re in the middle of that?

Yeah, you can definitely feel it!


And obviously we have path finders like Dave here.

Ahh I would still say that I’ve just had the good fortune of investing in a couple of women CEOs early: Rashmi Sinha @ Slideshare  probably 3 or 4 years ago. Victoria Ransom @Wildfire  a couple of years ago. Both of them made a lot & both of them are doing really well. So it was much easier to continue doing more of that having those as successful examples.

Dave McClure

Tell me what was your experience as regards raising funding? Have you experienced part of these biases or challenges for yourself?

Prerna: In a way I’ve had a similar experience to you guys. This is my second startup. My first one failed. I had a ton of vc meetings for the first one & we weren’t able to raise vc money. We did raise angel money for the first one & I did feel a lot of times in some of those meetings some of that bias. Some of it was obviously: the company failed so maybe there was some validity also that had nothing to do with the fact that I was a woman.

Dave: Those assholes were right! (Laughter)

Prerna: So for the second startup, it’s going a lot better. We haven’t raised vc money. We’ve had a few vc meetings but we were never really interested in raising venture.

Dave: Sorry just to clarify I’m a vc, you have raised vc money…

Prerna: I still think that Dave is an angel.

Dave: Those damn vcs. Shit you’re invested without me figuring it out. (Laughter)

Prerna: I feel that angels & angel types tend to be much more open in general. But I think it’s changing & I don’t perceive any barrier for our company when we’re ready to go out & raise some money, even with all of our red flags.

Dave: I think it’s not easy doing a startup, raising money. All of this is low probability for everyone. I really think it’s much more based on just seeing role models & examples in front of you that do it . For either the investor or the entrepreneur having someone that you have personal experience with who’s been successful, either raising money or getting a business off the ground, just makes it a lot easier for you to envision yourself doing it. Particularly if they’re the same shape, size & color as you makes it a lot easier to envision yourself doing it.

And you’ve got some mentors on board who are women, I gather?

Yeah that has been intentional.

Dave McClure

So that must be quite helpful as regards them connecting with younger women?

It’s still a minority, probably around 15 to 20% of our mentors are women. Some of them are founders also but some of them are vcs who are women & other successful business owners who are women & people with operational expertise either in engineering or online . Yes so construction of the mentor group is probably a lot more mentionable than the portfolio in terms of gender & diversity & language.

Dave McClure

OK so here’s the big question for you girls. How is it working with Dave? (Laughter) Don’t hold back! Give us a bit of honesty here.

I think it’s apparent even just from this interview. Dave is really open, he’s really honest! I don’t notice any difference. I’m not reminded all the time that I’m a female entrepreneur. I just feel like I’m an entrepreneur. The fact that I’m a woman is not really an important part of my identity as an entrepreneur. I think that’s the key thing, I think that’s really important.


And so you’d recommend another female entrepreneur to pitch to Dave?

Absolutely. (Laughter)


If she had a good business?


Dave McClure

And there was a win:win for him?

On the risk of tarnishing my image: I think it’s impossible to completely ignore the human sexuality issues & other sensitive issues in all contexts.

Dave McClure

Thank you for talking about that.

So Prerna being a very attractive entrepreneur is not something that I’ve ignored completely. I think you always have to fight biases one way or another when you’re making investments. Sometimes its a positive & sometimes its a negative but it does enter into the equation. I think if I believe in what I’m doing as a venture capitalist, you take risk in all forms & match it. That’s part of the equation. So that’s really the best thing in investing in couples or music or other parts of the world. We do because we think there are successful entrepreneurs everywhere, all shapes, sizes, colors, wotever. Occasionally we think, when other people don’t think that’s true, we also even want to do that more. Both philosophically that’s true & from a very selfish investment point of view it’s also true.

Dave McClure

Fantastic, thank you.

One thing that I just want to say about this whole issue of sexuality which I think is really important.


I’m so glad someone’s brought it up!

I think that this is one issue that definitely affects women from a really early age. The reason we don’t have more women in technology & as a result more women in entrepreneurship is because there’s this tension. And again it’s a human tension, individuals are not bad people, they’re not doing it on purpose. I think when you’re a woman being attractive is one of the most important things you can do as a woman, as a human female. For whatever reason, being intelligent & being powerful, these things are at odds with being sexually attractive for a woman. We are very sensitive to this at a young age. I think if you have to choose between the two, a lot of women go towards being attractive. That is one thing that I hope will change. It’s something that we’re fighting against with evolution. But I think we are capable of changing that with more role models & understanding that you can be more than just one thing. You can be a human being & there are different parts of that. If you’re a woman & you want to be sexually attractive, it’s ok to do that & also to try & be successful & powerful.


And so you think that that may be one of the reasons that’s holding women entrepreneurs back?

Prerna: I do & I don’t think it’s explicit. I think it just happens very early on.

Dave: It may also even be a bias on the entrepreneur’s side & investors who not invest in women where there’s a concern that tension may arise?

That that may become an issue? It is interesting because no other investor or founder has spoken about this issue. So thanks Dave for bringing it up! Although it’s the most obvious issue? So it’s just interesting that everyone has skirted around that. I appreciate that. I was wondering how it is for you guys working with Dave? Can you give us some feedback?

I would agree with everything you’ve said. One thing about the gender thing is that Dave has a reputation for cussing.


Oh has he, I haven’t heard that??? (sarcasm)

Elizabeth: But he cusses less at the women than at the men. I haven’t done any analytics about this but… that would be my guess.

Dave: That’s new information.

So he holds back a bit?

Elizabeth: I would guess that, I don’t know?

Prerna: We just get more respect!

Elizabeth: Or maybe we need less cussing?

Yeah maybe you’re just much better than the guys?

Dave: I’ve gotta do some navel gazing on that one. (Laughter) I know I’ve written a couple of posts that really don’t make me seem like the most ardent defender of women’s rights. One in particular where Rashmi came to my defense, but a bunch of other people were ripping on me for it.

Elizabeth: I don’t think I’ve seen that one, I’ll have to look at that one.

Dave: Yeah something about nuts & faces which I won’t get into now.

Well look thanks so much all of you for your time today, really appreciate it. Really appreciate your feedback, also for that very pertinent piece about sexuality which obviously is a core issue in this. So thanks to all of you.

Thank you.

Dave McClure

Alison Davis: Difference in Female & Male Brains Reflect Funding Issues

Video interview with Alison Davis Chairman & CEO at Fifth Era Financial .  She is also Board Director at City National Bank & at GameFly.  Alison is also Chairman for Women Initiative For Self Employment. She was also till recently Managing Partner and GP at Belvedere Capital Partners for over 6 years. She received an MBA from Stanford University Graduate School & Harvard Business School. You can find Alison on Twitter @adavis5552

Transcript follows & video below

I wondered if you could tell me about the initiatives that you’ve been involved with in helping women entrepreneurs?

Well I have experience from different angles. For the last 7 years I’ve been running a private equity firm that invests in financial services businesses. You know the leadership, the CEO is critical to the investment community in terms of making outsize returns. You’re really backing a person & a team. So I’ve had experience there backing female CEOs versus male CEOs. I’m also a member of Keiretsu Forum, so I’m an angel investor myself. So I see all the entrepreneurs coming through & have chosen to invest in several myself. This is not my day job but my non-profit passion at the moment is an organization called Women’s Initiative for Self Employment . I’m the Chairman of the Governing Board for that. We’re America’s biggest Micro Enterprise Development Agency. We do 3 things: we train women to start their own businesses, low income women. We make them a loan to help fund their own business. Then we provide them with an ongoing mentoring network system. So it’s like a 3 legged stool: the mini MBA program, the loan & then the ongoing mentoring. We’ve met with phenomenal success. Our entire client base is low income women & it’s phenomenally inspiring to see what these women can do when they have all the tools. I think women can be incredible entrepreneurs but they tend to be more risk averse. So sometimes they’re not willing to jump in but if you have a female entrepreneur with a passion, there’s no stopping them. Especially if they have the tools, the training & the support network & the resources.

Alison Davis

The numbers are quite low, I think 3 to 5% (Illuminate Ventures mentions) of women that actually raise venture capital. I think it’s a little bit higher for angel investment. Do you have any ideas about why that would be, why women are such a small percentage? When really, I agree with you, absolutely creative, smart, fantastic women that I know of, who are entrepreneurs.

If you look at the number of small businesses in the country, small business creation that is driving our economy, a much higher percentage of small businesses are started & run by women. It’s much closer to 50/50. I think what happens is that when women are starting a business, they’re thinking how do I get to $100k, $150k, $200k cause then I can put my kids in school, I can buy the groceries, I can be comfortable, I can have a car. They’re not sitting there thinking how can I make $100m & be the CEO of facebook. So women start businesses because they have a passion they want to pursue. I don’t think they’re shooting for the big payout. They’re tend to be less focused on being an entrepreneur for the big money. Self sufficiency is important because then they can look after their families & then pursuing a passion & doing something they love. I think that’s why you see the percentages go down. But I have a lot of female networks, and there are plenty of women looking for venture capital who say they just don’t get funded. So I think there’s a bit of that going on as well.

Alison Davis

What’s the feedback from those people about why they’ve had difficulty getting funded?

This is my view, I think some of them just don’t have the networks they don’t know someone who knows someone at Sequoia, as much. But often their business plan they’re not thinking big enough. Their pictures are maybe not focused so much on outsize returns on investment. Then the thoughts of having a venture partner, there are probably women that could do with funding, their businesses could be better & stronger & more successful, I think if they had a strong venture partner. But it’s a little scary to have some powerful investor sitting at the table with you. So I think some of them are just nervous about what it would mean & to seek it & would rather raise more advance money from people they know well.

Alison Davis

Why do you think there’s fear around that? What’s your understanding of that fear in women?

Many things, maybe a loss of control, maybe a lack of knowledge about the venture industry? There are very few women in the venture capital industry. So if you had more women in the industry, probably they would be able to articulate the benefits of venture capital funding to women entrepreneurs.

Alison Davis

Yes that’s why I’ve been doing this project. Just to make it much more accessible, For women to see that there are human beings involved in the venture industry & many, even male venture capitalists, who really appreciate women entrepreneurs & what they bring to the table. One of the things that I’ve had feedback on is that women don’t like to ask for money. Do you have any thoughts about that?

I do & there’s a lot of research to support that. Women don’t like to ask for increase in salaries. One of the reasons that women are paid less than men, is that women are reluctant to go ask for it. That’s a common theme.

Alison Davis

Why do you think that is? Why would we be reluctant to ask for money? I can identify that myself, that I had to fight that when I was sourcing venture.

I don’t know whether you’ve read those books The Female Brain and the Male Brain .  They’re excellent books by a Harvard Medical School Professor who is now at UCSF. They’re worth reading & provide a bit of perspective on the female brain & how it has evolved through adulthood. The chemicals that are flooding women’s brains versus men’s brains. I think for men, the accumulation of power & resources, it’s something that comes much more naturally to them. If you’re a man with power, money & resources then you’re able to protect your family & your clan & keep your community safe. So men through millenial development are more oriented if there’s an opportunity to be more powerful or to get more resources. They say money is power, they’re very oriented to go get it! It makes them more able to perform their role of being protector & to compete. Whereas women are just geared very differently & our brain chemistry is from birth onwards more about community & nurturing & relationships. You do find that women can go & ask for money if it’s not about them. If the messaging is we need this money to put your children through school, then they can get up the confidence to go & ask for it because it’s principle based, it’s doing something that’s not about them, it’s for someone else. When I had women reporting to me over the years, I would tell them, it’s about fairness & equity. You should go & ask for that bonus & that increase because it’s about fairness & also you have your family to look after. If you get a bigger bonus you can write a bigger check for the non-profits you care about or help more people with it. I think women can get their minds around asking for money when they can come to terms with the message that seems right to them.

Alison Davis

That really makes sense. I had one entrepreneur early on in the project who said what made her step up to the plate was that she had finally got a team around her that were dependent on her to get the money. That encouraged her to then go & do the pitching. She said when it was just her, she could think of every reason why not.

Patricia Nakache, Trinity Ventures: Investing in the Woman’s Web

Video interview with Patricia Nakache, General Partner Trinity Venture.   Since joining Trinity Ventures in 1999, Patricia has focused on funding companies launching innovative online consumer and business services. She is particularly interested in the impact of social media and mobile on the next generation of Internet services. Prior to Trinity Ventures, Patricia worked at McKinsey & Company helping enterprises in technology, financial services and retailing address their strategic and operational issues. Previously, she also contributed to Fortune magazine and other publications on management best practices in technology companies. Patricia is a member of the Stanford Business School Trust Investment Committee. You can find Patricia on Twitter @pnakache

Transcript follows & video below

Which themes do you like to invest, what is your sweet spot?

Yeah you know one theme that I’ve been spending a lot of time on over the last couple of years is what I call the Woman’s Web. So leveraging the fact that women now spend much more time on social networks than men, are spending more time online. In fact in terms of socio economic activity, the web is starting to reflect the real world offline. So I’ve invested in a bunch of companies along that theme which is a marketplace for care services, child care, elder care & pet care. Last year I invested in a company called Thredup which is an online exchange for secondhand kid’s clothing, it’s all based on flat rate ratios because its in boxes. Last year I invested in Beachmint which is a subscription service for jewelery $29.99 a month, pick a piece of personalized jewelery. So that’s the theme that I’ve been pursuing & really feel like the wind’s at its back. Just related to that, have also been spending time in the social web in general.

Patricia Nakache

It is interesting how women are really taking up the web. I remember when Farmville really hit the scene, they said that there were more women playing that game on facebook than men.

Absolutely. That’s one of the things that I find so exciting about this theme of the Woman’s Web, is that when you look at Zynga or you look at Gilt or you look at Groupon , the 3 big themes on the web, their success is largely driven by women. So the female consumer is a really important consumer. I think figuring out what her needs are & building products & services around those needs, I think there’s gold in those hills!

Patricia Nakache

And the best people to do that is women, to work that out really!

I do think that women have a more intuitive sense for those needs. But I would say in all fairness, when I look at a company like Thredup that I mentioned, founded by 3 men. Actually until recently none of them had children. The founder & CEO has a child now. I wouldn’t say exclusively that it’s the domain of women but there is an advantage.

Patricia Nakache

What do you look for in women entrepreneurs & startups that indicate interest to you in investing in their businesses?

I’m not sure that I look for anything different than I would for male entrepreneurs. I mean clearly have they identified a big needy problem that represents a significant market opportunity. Do they have relevant domain expertise to go about tacking that problem? Have they built a great team or surrounded themselves with great people? Have they developed an innovative solution for approaching the problem & does that involve some technology that is defensible? Then finally have they demonstrated any traction yet? It’s mainly the same criteria that I would use in talking to male entrepreneurs.

Patricia Nakache

So that’s great there’s no bias at all is what I’m hearing.

For me, I don’t think so!

Patricia Nakache

What can women entrepreneurs/startups do to increase their chances in sourcing venture?

I think the number one thing is networking. The reason I say that is that we are much more likely to invest in an entrepreneur that we have some history with or have gottent to know over a period of time, rather than an entrepreneur that we meet for the first time a week before they’re expecting term sheets. That’s not to say that we don’t do that but we’re much more likely if we’ve had an option to get to know that entrepreneur, see how they perform over time or if somebody we know has the relationship with the entrepreneur (somebody that we know & trust). I think it can be one step removed. But it just comes down to, I think an entrepreneur should think about fund raising not just in the moment when they need to fund raise but over a long term relationship building process. Just getting to know a lot of people, particularly in & around the venture world so that there’s almost more leads. By the time they really do want to fund raise, they’re in that window they’ve got a bunch of warm leads of people they can go talk to that they know at some level.

Patricia Nakache

I think from the other side, from an entrepreneur’s side definitely would change their level of confidence & their ability to pitch as well, I would imagine?

I think that’s right, because I think that meeting people in a more informal setting allows you to surface a lot of the objections & understand where an investor might be coming from in their position & be prepared. Frankly it’s good feedback, right? If you’re incorporating in your business what metrics you should be tracking, what investors care about. I think in those informal settings, you may be more likely to get really frank feedback than in that moment of the pitch? Maybe? I’m not saying that it’s always true, but I think that it’s possible that would be the case.

Patricia Nakache

Sounds very fertile soil, I would imagine?

Yes, yes.

Patricia Nakache

What sort of challenges do women face if they become a venture capitalist?

I think some of the challenges are similar to what women face in any profession. There’s a style challenge: how do you be assertive without being perceived as a bitch? How can you be warm without appearing soft hearted? Finding that stylistic sweet spot that everybody is comfortable with & you can appear assertive in a board setting & not have negative repercussions. Then also how do you show warmth without being perceived as too feminine. So I think that that’s true in other professions as well. It’s not unique to venture capital. The other thing, given that networking is super important both for entrepreneurs & venture capitalists, one of the challenges is that some networking venues are more or less comfortable for women. Finding ways to network effectively that are comfortable for you as a woman venture capitalist, I think are important.

Patricia Nakache

What needs to happen for venture companies to employ more women venture capitalists?

I think that’s a chicken & egg question. To answer that question, to start with where do women venture capitalists come from? Where do any venture capitalists come from? Typically these days they are recruited out of startups, successful startups. Or they’re a senior executive in a large technology company. Those are the 2 major places they come from these days. So I think to have more women venture capitalists, you have to have more women who’ve been successful entrepreneurs. Or women who’ve been senior executives in technology companies. So that is one mode. Then I think some venture firms have more of a tradition of nurturing, more of an apprenticeship model where they’ll take bright people with a small amount of experience in a startup or some experience in a large technology company. Then will nurture that & train them. Trinity for example we do both. We hire people who’ve been successful CEOs out of industry. then we also hire people right out of business school & then we promote them from within. We do both models. So I think to have more women venture capitalists, we need more women who are in those senior positions in technologies. Or they could actually be at more junior levels in startups but then there would probably be more of an apprenticeship model.

Patricia Nakache

OK & it probably starts even further back because apparently figures have dropped 30% in the last 10 years of women studying technology subjects. Organizations like Anitaborg & NCWIT are trying to encourage young girls to study technology.

Yeah I totally agree. You’ve got to take the pole back to it’s root, yeah.

Patricia Nakache

Nancy Pfund, DBL Investors: Female Venture Capitalists Dont Drink the Kool-Aid

Video interview with Nancy Pfund, DBL Investors. Nancy is a Managing Partner of DBL Investors. She currently sponsors or sits on the board of directors of a number of private companies, including SolarCity, Solaria, Brightsource Energy and Pandora. Nancy also worked closely with exited portfolio company Tesla Motors. Previously, Nancy was a Managing Director at JPMorgan.

Transcript follows & video below

Which themes do you like to invest, what is your sweet spot?

Well, being a venture capital firm that’s oriented towards both strong financial return & social return, we gravitate towards sectors like clean tech, healthcare, IT. Where its very easy (well it’s not easy, it’s a lot of hard work) but we can fulfill our mission of both great returns for our investors but having a social impact.

Nancy Pfund

Fantastic, & that’s something to really feel passionate about too!

Absolutely, it’s a lot of fun & it’s good to see the impact of your work.

Nancy Pfund

Yes, making a difference, yeah. What do you look for in women entrepreneurs & startups that indicate interest to you in investing in their businesses?

Well let me just start by saying that I would love to have more women entrepreneurs, more women venture capitalists & its great that you’re helping to facilitate that. Having said that whether you’re a woman or a man we look for the same things. We’re looking for a great idea, passionate work ethic, curiosity, the desire to change the world, to change a business segment, to transform it, to turn something upside down because really the odds are against small businesses from displacing big incumbents. So you have to have a little bit of pizzazz & moxy to feel that you can pull that off. At the same time you have to back that up with just canny analysis, attracting good people, having the vision, dotting the i’s & crossing the t’s.

Nancy Pfund

Brilliant, so no bias here heh? What can women entrepreneurs/startups do to increase their chances in sourcing venture?

It’s an interesting question because I think one of the issues for women entrepreneurs is that some of the networks may not be as available to them. Certainly historically they may not have been part of the venture capital club as it was in its first days. The good news is that it’s changed dramatically over the past decade or so & it’s very open. I mean we see people from all over the world approaching venture capital & being able to get funding if their idea has merit & if their personal qualities are right based on what I said before. Having said that it’s important for entrepreneurs & women entrepreneurs especially to recognize that it is a network where we don’t know everyone in our industry but it’s very collaborative. So getting into the network & getting to know some of the people or the vendors that we use, the professional service firms that we use like the accountants or the lawyers. You really have to work it as an ecosystem rather than a one shot ‘I’m going after this person & that’s it!’.

Nancy Pfund

That’s a great overview, thank you. What sort of challenges do women face if they become a venture capitalist? I’m sure you’ve got some stories?

First of all it’s a very challenging field. It’s not for the faint of heart! It has immense rewards on all levels but it’s very difficult. You have to be comfortable with the fact that some of your efforts will fail because no-one has 100% perfect track record. I think for women really it’s not the kind of job that is as predictable & confining to a work place. It kind of takes over your life in a way. I think you have to have a mentality & a life style that’s accepting of that rather than resenting that. There are women & men that like that & then there are women & men that don’t. They want to have their work & then they want to have the rest of their life. I would just say that if you’re in the latter category it’s not going to be a happy job for you.

Nancy Pfund

Right ok so to be aware of that?

Yeah. Of course it is dominated by men in the industry. The numbers speak to that. So you just have to not care about that.

Nancy Pfund

You have to be comfortable working with men?

Yeah & the men in this field are very supportive of women in the field. It’s just that the ratio is different.

Nancy Pfund

What needs to happen for venture firms to employ more women venture capitalists?

I think you need to see more women in senior positions. It’s like any field the more you get women going up the ladder, you’re going to see more nurturing of women coming in. It’s not enough just to have a lot of women associates in a firm. You’ve got to have women partners & managing partners because that’s where you really get the flexibility & the authority to start thinking about what your firm is going to look like & making a difference in your hiring decisions.

Nancy Pfund

What do you think needs to happen for firms to promote more women from associates to partners?

It’s like any sales process, you’ve got to get the funnel, you’ve got to get people started in, perhaps get more women come in later in their careers when they’ve run a business. A lot of entrepreneurs-in-residence do that, most of them are men. But if we could sort of pepper the senior ranks with more women, at the same time that we encourage more women to train, then you’d get more of a balance. The more inputs, the more results you’re going to have.

Nancy Pfund

Fantastic. What qualities & experience are necessary to be a woman venture capitalist?

Patience, curiosity, a thick skin, ability to navigate through very changing often difficult circumstances & keep level headed & keep a team together & be responsive. A lot of times you start off in a business & you have to change because the world changes around you or your original thesis needed a lot of tweaking. So it’s important to be optimistic & use your intuition but also being really, really dedicated to testing & retesting & database query & making sure that you’re not drinking the kool-aid!
It sounds like women venture capitalists have to be pretty much well rounded & pretty much super stars really in a way because you’re covering so much! I always like to say in this profession ADD is a benefit!

Nancy Pfund

That’s brilliant!

Because you are dealing with a lot of businesses & a lot of management teams, a lot of exogenous factors.  Something is blowing up, while something is doing terrific.  You have to be nimble, you have to like that kind of environment.  A lot of people don’t & that’s why it’s a bit of a self selecting pool. It all comes down to the people & having that love of invention, of entrepreneurship.  I mean we get to work with really cool people that are making the world a better place! So that makes all of the hassle worthwhile.

Nancy Pfund

Cydni Tetro, Women Tech Council: Contribute to Female Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Increases Success Fund Raising

Cydni Tetro is Managing Director and Founder at Women Tech Council. She is also Managing Director and Founder at Clover Strategy Group. Cydni is the CMO for FamilyLink where she is responsible for revenue, marketing and product velocity. Prior to FamilyLink, Tetro was the CMO at NextPage where she helped introduce a breakthrough solution for Enterprise Information Risk management and sell a product division to Fast Search which was then acquired by Microsoft. Tetro co-founded the Women Tech Council in May 2007 an organization that now has almost 2000 people involved. Prior to NextPage she worked at Novell driving the product management for Novell’s directory services. She also co-founded a social media distribution company called Rocky Mountain Voices in 2006. In 2008, she was recognized as one of the 30 Women to Watch. For the last six years, she has been recognized as a vSpring Capital Top 100 Venture Entrepreneurs (v|100) and was a finalist in the 2008 American Business Association Best Women Entrepreneur. She also serves as an Advisory Board Member for the BYU eBusiness Center and the National Society for New Communications and sits on the board for MountainWest Capital Network, Utah Student 25, the nomination committee for the Wayne Brown Institute and the Community Alliance. Cydni holds a master’s degree in business administration and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from BYU. You can find Cydni on Twitter @cydtetro

Transcript follows & video below

Could you briefly tell me about the Women Tech Council & how it supports Women in Tech?

We started the Women Tech Council about 3 years ago. We sat down & said OK we’ve got 6600 Tech companies that are sitting here along the Wallsatch front. The majority of the people in the industry aren’t women but we started to find the women to be able to come together, to network, to mentor, to create some visibility. We actually did our initial testing & said you know we’re just going to go out & talk to a whole bunch of vcs, a whole bunch of executives, a whole bunch of senior women & see what kind of interest there is. So we did that, we held a couple of advisory sessions & took all that info, formed basically an organization. Six months later we launched & that was in October 2007. Since then we’re up to a community of about 4400 people. It actually includes in our community both men & women. In the Women Tech Council, we’ve really just grown it organically. We do physical events. We’ve got an online community. It’s really around this initiative of creating value for women in technology, bring relationships that they would never have otherwise, creating visibility for women in different ways. We launched a couple of years ago the Women Tech Awards which is this platform that lets us create awards programs. Because we found that if I’m a really great technology & business person chances of me getting recognition are significant. But if I’m an engineer that’s been coding for 40 years & I’ve worked on fuel things that are going to Afghanistan or patents in technology that are used for the stock exchange, chances are that I don’t get recognition because that’s not the normal path of those awards. We’ve created this whole program where we can highlight emerging women in technology, technology innovators, highly technical people, even service providers & give really this well rounded view into women. It’s been an amazing program that we’ve done over the last 3 years.

Cydni Tetro

Wow good work you guys, that sounds fantastic! Could you give me some figures about the percentages of women in technology compared to men?

I’ll tell you some of the numbers that I was thinking about, when I was thinking about this interview. The numbers of women in technology have actually declined over the last 15 years. We actually had more women in maths & sciences back in the early ’90s than we do today. I think it’s a tragedy partially because women add such a different perspective when you’re sitting inside a board room than when you just have a group that looks all the same. I think the root of it is girls (& this has always been a problem) don’t view maths & science as exciting as it is. So we’re seeing fewer girls go into those programs in college which means we end up with a lot fewer of them in the workforce. I believe that the general number is 18% to 20% of the technical workforce are women.

Cydni Tetro

Right ok & that is concerning that the figures have dropped rather than increase. I would have naturally thought that they would increase.

Yeah & even as part of the Women Tech we have an education sub committee that is specifically focused on, even we’ve partnered in some places that take us into the junior high arena (because we know if we can get them in junior high & have them think about how cool it is to be into computers & maths & science, they’ll go into it in high school & they’ll jump into it in college). So we try to actually hit all 3 of those sectors. Still there’s lots of awareness to be done because it’s not perceived as the cool job to be in technology when you’re younger.

Cydni Tetro

What do you see that needs to change to facilitate more women entering into & staying in technological careers?

Yes there’s both sides, what helps get women into that & what helps them stay. I think there’s significant advantages for women in technology. For me I was looking in college at all those various degrees & I went with computer science. One of those reasons was that it gave me a skill coming out of college but I also knew that it would give me this career flexibility. I think you’ve seen this also in your career where depending on whatever life stages you’re at or what you want to do, you get this ability to say I’m going to work from home sometimes or I’m going to be in the office or I’m going to travel around. If I go into other types of degrees, like if I decide to be a nurse, I’ve got to go do my 12 hour shift, you get limited flexibility. I think we need much better visibility, not only about what these types of careers afford, but what those types of careers can be. Because I think especially when you’re younger, & even early on, there are so many jobs in the world that noone ever talks about. You get this exposure once you get into industry of saying Oh Wait. Like for me I did a computer science degree but I do not have a passion for engineering or being a programmer. But once you get into industry there are thousands of jobs that are really exciting that don’t require you to sit behind a desk every day & program, that are valuable. I think we don’t create enough exposure for all the different opportunities you have if you have a technical foundation.

Cydni Tetro

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?

That’s a good question. I’ve never actually seen a study related to that. I’ve seen a couple of studies from a couple of my friends who are professors that even validate what you already know, women getting venture is much harder than men. But I definitely know having been in front of lots of vcs & done lots of pitching that technical background gives you a ton of credibility because you understand the language, you understand the process. Especially if you can add the business components to that you know how the whole thing will be perceived. You know how to tell the story. You understand the financing components so I think because so much of a technical degree is critical problem solving that that also helps you to facilitate when you go to raise funds for a venture.

Cydni Tetro

I’ve heard from the vcs that they have much more faith & trust & confidence if a woman is technical!

Interesting, interesting.

Cydni Tetro

Have you noted bias or lack of openness from many venture capitalists as regards women entrepreneurs? I gather not only your own experiences but you may have heard many stories from your members?

Yeah it’s one of those topics that we talk about often because we’re all about seeing women succeed & creating that level playing field. And just making it part of who we are, right. Part of what in the Women Tech Council, we focus less on the women component & just on all these nice things that make us successful. But there are those stories out there, there are definitely biases that happen & it’s a tragedy but it does. Just an interesting point when I was thinking through this question. One of my friends actually ran a study on a business plan from a University. He created the exact same business plan & one of the business plans he put a male name & on the other a female name. Then he sent it out for funding. The plan that had the name of a man on it got funded 80% more than the female plan.

Cydni Tetro

Interesting I’ve heard about a similar study that a woman venture capitalist did & she did the same thing & similar results. It’s a bit scary & shaky to hear that though isn’t it?

It is, because part of me doesn’t really believe that that’s there, right? And you just go wait it’s this level playing field. You’ve got smart, capable people sitting in front of you, it just doesn’t matter.

Cydni Tetro

Yeah & I guess what it exposes is something very deeply ingrained & possibly unconscious in some respects.

I believe that to be true. I’ve been in a number of meetings where you could clearly tell, that even if a question got answered, that I was the one that asked, that I was the one that was going to answer, that eye contact didn’t come to me, because I’m the female in the room. I’ve had those experiences. To me it’s not a big deal but there’s definitely meetings that you sit in & you’re like wait that’s not supposed to happen? You’re supposed to have the conversation with me!

Cydni Tetro

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 that may take this position.

I definitely believe that that’s out there because at the end of the day you’re building this story about your career, your brand & who you are & you want it all positive. So you’re very, very careful about how you talk about things, about how you position those. I think it comes because what you don’t want is any back lash on you from creating any negative stories, which those are generally perceived as. So you just play the game of saying in general that hasn’t been my experience. By & large in general my experience hasn’t been that either. I haven’t ever really felt like my career has been limited by being a female. I’ve had point experiences where you say that shouldn’t have happened or that’s really frustrating but it really doesn’t define my career.

Cydni Tetro

Would partly that be because you haven’t let it define your career?

I absolutely believe that’s part of it. I believe that the core of that is your attitude about it. You can either watch for those problems & let it define you or you can just say it just doesn’t matter!

Cydni Tetro

We need more people like you, Cydni.

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?

You know I really believe in that statement, I believe in it not just for helping other women, but when you have opportunities to give back to communities, it always comes back to you tenfold. I believe it’s also one of the most valuable ways to build connections that help you as you go through your career. So for me even with things like the Women Tech Council because all of us are volunteers from the day we started it through all of the board that exists today. We do it because we’re passionate about giving back to the community & we’ve seen so many amazing things happen. Just as an example, the first year that we did the Women Tech Awards, we kind of ran it like the Ernst & Young, where we do 15 finalists & then we award some recipients. My judges were interviewing & one of my judges ran the women’s center for a bank. One of the finalists, she’d been in industry a long time, but had just branched out & started her own company so she didn’t have a year’s worth of tax returns to secure a loan. They finished her interview & were having this conversation & the banker said, hey give me 2 weeks & let me see if I can help you. So in 2 weeks this lady ends up having a loan so she can go move the company to a new office so that she can expand. She grows to 30 employees which she’s got now, she gets a new location & those are all relationships that wouldn’t have happened without us. Those are things that I view as giving back, those connections are not our glory but we help facilitate them & we’re willing to spend our time creating really cool experiences that are meaningful & making a difference in the lives of people building businesses & in technology. Just personally, I’m a huge believer in that, it comes back to you. You should never expect anything in return but it’s a vital component of being part of a business community.

Cydni Tetro

I bet your daughters & her girl friends will thank you down the line.

I hope so, my daughter is only 3 but I’ve got her on the iphone & the ipad so I’m training her on that.

Cydni Tetro

Good work, good work!

  • What can women entrepreneurs/startups do to increase their chances in sourcing venture?

I think there’s a ton of it that comes down to building strong networks of people. Because I think the stronger networks you have, it builds more credibility with you. I actually have found, kind of related to the last topic we were talking about, that women who are willing to spend some amount of time giving back to communities tend to have higher success rates in venture. Because they’re seen as these well rounded individuals where they’re giving time in certain places, they’re leading specific initiatives. They have business skills outside of the venture that they’re giving. So people see them in all sorts of fashions, so when you sit in front of an angel group or venture firm they get exposed to all these experiences that you’ve had because they start talking to people. And they say Oh yes I worked with so & so at this & it just creates these lasting connections that you can’t create if you’re just in a bubble. I think that dramatically helps women! It’s all just part of this ecosystem you have to build if you really want to play in the entrepreneurial community.

Cydni Tetro

Wow that’s a really good point. I don’t think anyone has brought that up to date, so I really appreciate it. I so appreciate you offering your time, I know you’re really busy & giving us this feedback. I really do look forward to hear what’s happening at the Women Tech Council.

Thank you for even doing this series. Interestingly over the next couple of years, this year when we did the Women Tech Awards 30% came from out of the region. We even had some internationals! So as we look over the next couple of years, we see lots of needs as we drop into communities in Silicon Valley, in New York City, in Austin & in Seattle so hopefully we can even leverage you & some of your partnerships as we do that because it would be great.

Cydni Tetro

Definitely, just let me know if there is anything I can do to support you.

You’re signed up!

Cydni Tetro

Thanks again very much.

Neil Rimer, Index Ventures: Diversity is Always a Benefit

Video interview with Neil Rimer.  Neil  is a co-founder and Partner of Index Ventures. In 1992, Neil started the venture capital activity of Index’s predecessor firm, later co-founding Index Ventures and raising the firm’s first fund in 1996. Neil’s current investment focus is on innovative solutions for energy and environmental problems.  Index portfolio companies with women ceos or foundees:Astley Clarke, Notonthehighstreet, AlertMe, Foodily, doubleTwist, 7TM, GoTryItOn, Editd (co-founder), Mobissimo, Net-a-Porter, Songkick (co-founder), Seedcamp, GenMab. In 2009, Index were honored by Astia with a Diversified Portfolio Award – The firm with the greatest percentage of investments in woman CEOs or founders.  You can find Neil on Twitter @narimer

Transcript follows & video below

What is your sweet spot, in what kinds of businesses do you like to invest?

We are really early stage investors. I think we’ve been most excited about getting involved with the entrepreneurs at the earliest stage possible. Really help them form the idea & help them recruit the nucleus that will create the management team. So we really invest as early as we feel comfortable.

Neil Rimer

Fantastic & is there any particular theme that you guys are interested in than others?

I think we’re really interested in opportunities to disrupt big segments of the economy leveraging technology & innovative business models. It doesn’t have to be entirely newly invented technology. It could be adopting or applying technology that’s been around for a little while but coming up with a novel approach or novel business model that allows you to put a combination together that is disruptive.

Neil Rimer

So there’s no particular industry that you guys focus on? It’s just that piece, the early stage & the disruption that you like?

No I think that’s really a philosophy & we look at any industry providing that it’s large & that there’s a plan that could result in building a big company that would be valued highly.

Neil Rimer

And make lots of money?

I never thought I’d say this out loud but I actually even find the insurance industry interesting these days.

Neil Rimer

Oh fantastic, ok, so there’s lots of possibilities out there.

If that’s possible then anything is possible.

Neil Rimer

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

We don’t really keep those statistic, although we probably should. We have funded a fair number of businesses that have been started by women or women teams over the years. I don’t know if that’s because we do a fair amount of investing in Europe. But we’ve probably funded a dozen or so, possibly more businesses that have been started by women. In terms of whether or not that’s a higher hit rate based on ones that are pitched by men or pitched by women. I’d have to assume that it’s a higher hit rate because we don’t see that many businesses pitched by women. Because we’ve done that many, probably means on balance it is a higher hit rate.

Neil Rimer

Have you noted differences with women entrepreneurs in how they pitch & build businesses? (We’re getting into that area of generalization & I know it’s a bit touchy?)

I frankly think that the variability among women is as great as the variability between men & women. I don’t think I’ve seen any particular bias one way or another.

Neil Rimer

That’s brilliant! I have been told that venture capitalists fund people similar to them, white, male etc. What is your take on this & if this is happening how can women startups find an opening in this culture?

I think the venture capital industry is fairly large at this point. There’s a lot of different people you could be talking about or talking to. But I don’t think the good investors try to fund people who are like them. In fact if what you say is true, then I don’t know who’s funding all of the guys from South East Asia who are going to Silicon Valley & starting businesses. They certainly don’t fit the mold that you talked about. I think strong investors will look at somebody’s background, their track record, their vision & their ability to lead a team & carry out the vision & really don’t pay much attention to whether they come from the same background. In fact I think diversity is always a benefit so that’s going to bring additional strengths to the company. It will help them draw on a broader pool to build their team. It will give them access to a broader network to sell their product into & ultimately to exit their business. I don’t see how restricting the scope of people you fund can help in any way.

Neil Rimer

Aileen Lee, Kleiner Perkins, recently wrote a post on Techcrunch about the market of women & how huge that market is. I would imagine as you said with diversity, having women on the team is definitely going to mean you’re going to have an insight into that market.

Well you know sometimes people forget that half of the customer base out there is women. In fact it’s more than half, because many products the purchasing decisions are essentially made by women. So you may want to understand that. You may want to have some people on your team who understand that segment market.

Neil Rimer

Thank you, thank you that’s great encouragement. Do you think that networking with Venture Capitalists is harder for women entrepreneurs in Europe?

I don’t think so.

Neil Rimer

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

I think the biggest problem & probably the only problem is that there aren’t enough women in technical & engineering & scientific tracks. I think that given that we invest in lots of technology companies, many of the founders & members of the founding team come from that background. If it’s predominantly a male source then by the sheer numbers we’re going to see more male entrepreneurs. So we end up funding more of them. Really it’s a supply problem. I don’t see any obstacle to women getting in front of us with their great idea.

Neil Rimer

Great so really a lot of people do say that it starts really young as in children & encouraging girls to study technical subjects.

That’s right!

Neil Rimer

Do you think that women need to have their business developed before they can achieve funding?

Yeah but I don’t know why that would apply more to women than men. There are some businesses & in some cases some entrepreneurs where you would only be comfortable if they have significant prior experience. There are some instances where you’re willing to back a couple of kids out of university or out of a graduate program with no prior experience but a lot of vision & a lot of promise & belief that they’re scalable. And I don’t that see that’s any different for men or women.

Neil Rimer

It’s really obvious that you’ve got no bias Neil, because even the question was a curly one for you. Thank you. Often advice for sourcing venture is equated with dating, implying that there is a matching that needs to happen with entrepreneur & investor. Have you noticed a general psychological profile of venture capitalists and also of entrepreneurs that promotes the attraction & synergy between them to develop a great startup?

Yes so I think that confidence is the fundamental currency of these decisions & it really cuts both ways. I think the entrepreneur has to have a lot of confidence in the investor that they’re letting into their company & that they’re ultimately forming a very important partnership with. And the investor has to feel that way about the entrepreneur. That’s again like dating or like a marriage. You have to be able to look at each other & feel like no matter what comes, you’re going to be able to face it. You may have arguments & you may have disagreements but one of you will end up convincing the other, or you both will be in agreement to begin with, what the right thing to do is. You’ll face whatever challenges & this is somebody that you’d like to go into battle with. I think again that applies for any entrepreneur. I don’t think it’s any different for men or for women. But I do think that that is probably the single thing for any entrepreneur to convince an experienced investor. Lots of people can come in with interesting ideas, big markets, nice demos but the real question is, given that I know that things will not go as planned (& that’s really a given), is this someone that you’re willing to get into that kind of trouble with. Are you confident that you will be able to get through those challenges & prevail in a very productive way. Actually are you going to enjoy doing that because life is short & you prefer to do this with teams that you’re going to enjoy spending lots & lots of time with. That’s a key fundamental question. I think chemistry has a lot to do with that. The approach that somebody takes in a conversation, how straightforward they are & whether or not they are the type that shares risk & talks about risk & says ‘Hey this is the biggest challenge that I’m facing, I have a couple of ideas about how I might deal with it but what are your ideas?’ Rather than a different approach would be to dress everything up & conceal risk & hope that the investor only figures out that that risk exists when it’s too late & they’re down the path.

Neil Rimer

Authenticity & building trust is what I’m hearing are very important & that there’s a human connection between the investor & the entrepreneur.


Neil Rimer

Very good thank you. In the dance with an entrepreneur both in the decision making process of funding a startup & then in working with those startups what are the necessary qualities that make a good venture capitalist. Some of the talents mentioned: Would you trust your gut instincts & feelings that happen within the relationship with the entrepreneur as signs about what’s happening in the business, in the startup? Or would you ‘manage by influence or persuasion?

Again I think you want to have the kind of dialogue & relationship that you would have in a personal relationship. This may be very different than what you hear from some other folks. There’s kind of no room for formality or politics or protocol I think in a discussion between partners. We don’t see ourselves as anything other than just another partner in a business. This is the kind of the stuff that gets in the way at the larger companies & the incumbents that our companies are trying to run circles around. So if we get caught up in the same kind of stuff, we’re not going to do very well. We really need to have just a really direct, open discussion. There should be nothing that you can’t say to each other. You can criticize the business as much as you need to to make a point, if that’s genuine & it shouldn’t be seen as an attack on somebody’s value as a person & it shouldn’t affect the relationship. In the same way that 2 brothers or 2 sisters can really say anything to each other if there’s that kind of underlying trust & respect & love that protects them & allows them to just communicate very effectively. I think you really need to aspire to that same kind of channel between partners in a business, whether they’re founders or founder & investor.

Neil Rimer

Yes because you’re working so closely together for a long time, correct?


Neil Rimer

My pleasure thanks for giving me the opportunity.

Neil Rimer

Thank you so much Neil, it’s been really, really valuable to hear your feedback about this issue & I really appreciate that you’ve taken the time out of your busy schedule.