Manu Kumar, Chief Firestarter K9 Ventures #launch

We bumped into Manu Kumar, K9 Ventures @Launch 2014. He was there to watch the demo for Coin as he was one of the earliest investors. He contributes greatly with a hands on approach with all startups in which he invests. As he said he invests ‘frighteningly’ early!  Check out his blog for really helpful info about startups & investment

Richard Titus,CEO prompt.ly #GLAZED

I interviewed Richard Titus, CEO prompt.ly @GLAZED Conference.  He spoke about London where he comes from originally & his startup prompt.ly.  It is focused scheduling & is targeting to individuals.  He spoke about being a serial entrepreneur & about getting investment.  He is just about to close his Seed Round & about to start Series A.  He spoke about being an angel investor in London, UK & his investments. He also mentioned the difficulties in raising capital in the UK & how the ecosystem works there.

Attracting Angel Investors &/or Venture Capital #foundingmomsf

Last week I gave a talk to the Founding Moms’ Exchange in San Francisco about raising investment for female entrepreneurs.  It was a great crowd of mompreneurs & we had a fabulous conversation about the issues.

Here’s the first part of the talk!

“There’s no question that there is a gender gap when it comes to businesses attracting funding. Pemo Theodore has spent the past two years interviewing angel investors and venture capitalists to find out why women-owned businesses are so often left out, and more importantly, what we can do about it. Anne Raimondi, Co-Founder & CEO of One Jackson will join us to provide her recent real-world experience raising VC. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to learn how to perfect your pitch!”

Anne Raimondi, CoFounder OneJackson joined us for the 2nd part of the talk.  Excuse the lack of centering of the camera – my videographer was not present to ensure it was centered. Anne’s career has been focused on fast-growth consumer and consumer technology companies including Gymboree and BlueNile, where she was a member of the founding team. At eBay, Anne launched eBay Stores and headed marketing, mechandising and all seller features, and she was head of product and user experience at Zazzle. She served as VP of Product & Marketing for Insider Pages (sold to Citysearch / IAC) and VP of Marketing for SurveyMonkey before starting One Jackson. A mother of three, Anne received her BA & MBA from Standford University. When she’s not working or at swim meets, Anne serves as a parent volunteer Art Vistas docent helping to teach art in public schools.

Here’s the second part of the talk:

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?

Yes

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

Helping Women Raise Venture

The free ebook “Why are Women Funded Less than Men? a crowdsourced conversation” available @Scribd, as with the year long video interview project from which it arises is an attempt to bring human faces & voices to the issue of the lack of female entrepreneurs that are successful raising venture or angel capital & also the lack of women venture capitalists & angel investors in comparison with men. There are a few organizations that have done some research & provided data which is the backdrop some of which I have included in the book. You can download the ebook for free on Scribd

I spent 5 years in London trying to raise funding for my online matchmaking business & in the end had to admit failure. My story is only one of many. Very early on in that journey I had committed to help women source venture, when I was successful. As it turned out I have been doing just that for the last year, not because I was successful but because I failed. Possibly if I had been successful I would never have had the time to accomplish a project like this. I have been video interviewing venture capitalists, angel investors & women founders on the shortfall in funding for women. My goal has been to listen to as many people as I could from both sides of the table, so I could hopefully determine where all these conversations intersected.

Whilst I have been doing these interviews, many people have said to me that no problem exists & that women can be as easily funded as men if they have a great idea, team, plan & advisors. However the statistics, some of which have been mentioned at the beginning of this book, show another story. The percentages of women in technology, female entrepreneurs & female venture capitalists are extremely low compared to men. The reasons are multifold & complex and cannot be answered or resolved quickly or easily.  Many wonderful people & organizations are working to change the ratio & I am sure that this situation will slowly shift due to their efforts. When I started this project a year ago, the conversation & debate was hot & heavy & continues to carry a lot of emotional response from both genders. So I surmise that it is timely to showcase these conversations about the lack of women being funded compared to men, to shed further light & awareness on the subject.

Some of the questions that were addressed Is there a Problem? Is there Overt Discrimination? Does Bias Keep Women Disadvantaged for Investment? Are there Advantages of Diversity? Should we Generalize about Gender? Are there differences between Men & Women? How does the Female Market Impact Investment? What do Female Entrepreneurs have Going for Them? Other issues: Risk & Failure, Thinking Big, Children, Sex & Power & Helping Other Women.

Just when you thought you couldn’t go back in the water or get funded, “Why are Women Funded Less than Men” the free ebook is available @Scribd. With a cast of thousands, well a lot anyway, 120 embedded video conversations with 26 venture capitalists, 19 female founders & 7 others – a truly crowd sourced conversation.This was reposted on i7 Summit Blog , Girls in Tech, TheNextWomen, Ogunte: Global Tribal Network & Women2.0

Review of the ebook done by Penny Herscher on her blog The Grassy Road & FirstRain

The video was mentioned by Mark Suster on his blog Both Sides of the Table Why Aren’t There More Female Entrepreneurs? & reposted on Fast Company & mentioned on Startup America Partnership Blog 

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

Nick Flores, Investors Circle: Looking for Environmental Social Impact

Nick Flores Director Investment & Entrepreneur Services Investors’ Circle, where he oversees the organization’s investment process from start to finish. He is working to grow a robust pipeline of high-impact deals across a variety of sectors, and to maintain strong communication with all portfolio companies. At the same time, he also works closely with early-stage venture funds and IC’s affiliate fund, the Patient Capital Collaborative, to manage the deal syndication process with these partners. Before coming to Investors’ Circle, Nick managed the Capital Access Program at Green For All. There he helped generate content, launch capacity-building programs, and identify capital sources, all with the intent of supporting the development of small green businesses. Nick has also worked previously in both real estate private equity and the sports industry, most notably with the PGA Tour. Nick holds both an MBA and a BA, with honors, from Stanford University.

Ed Reitler: Legal Issues Startups Face

Video interview with Ed Reitler partner at Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt.  He attended Harvard Law School (J.D., 1990), magna cum laude, where he was an Editor and a contributor to the Journal of Law and Public Policy and a contributor to the Harvard Journal of Legislation.  Ed handles a wide variety of corporate matters including private equity, venture capital, mergers & acquisitions, capital markets and joint ventures transactions. Ed handles a wide variety of corporate matters including private equity, venture capital, mergers & acquisitions, capital markets and joint ventures transactions.

Transcript follows & video below

Could you highlight some of the legal issues that startups face when raising venture capital or angel investment?

Sure, when an early stage company takes on any type of capital whether it’s from a venture fund or angel group or single angel, they’re really taking on a partner.  The rights that are negotiated, particularly by venture funds are extensive.  They fall into 2 general categories. One imposes encumbrances on the entrepreneur’s equity. So really the vc seeks to help shape the path of the company from an exit standpoint preventing the entrepreneur from selling her shares. Or allowing the venture fund to tag along into a sale, perhaps even imposing a drag along right which would allow the venture fund to force a sale. The other area of rights that the entrepreneur has to become accustomed to, is around corporate governance. That means that the investors have a right to have a say in new equity raises or maybe more than a say, a consent right to new equity raises & sales of the company.  Perhaps additional executive hires, perhaps debt financings, any changes to the corporate organizational documents that could affect the rights of the venture partners. Probably the biggest thing for an entrepreneur, especially a first time entrepreneur at least one who’s first time at getting financing, has to become accustomed to is the notion that they’re no longer with the founding team calling the shots alone.  The Venture & Angel investors will want a right to participate in major decisions in the company’s future.

Ed Reitler

Fantastic, that’s really clear, thank you.

What percentage of women startups have you had as clients?

I looked at your questions before you came over & I thought about this question. A suprisingly low number. I’d never really thought about it until I first got your email about the video interviews you’re doing. I’d say females on an executive team, which is broader than saying the one founding, the primary mover of an early stage company, I’d say probably around 10% of the companies have women. I was surprised by that because as I thought about that it’s a shockingly low number! Given on a nationwide basis, there’s more women in the work force than men on a percentage basis. So I found myself surprised by how low that number is.  We operated a small fund out of this office & it’s called Angel Run Capital.  It’s made up of venture fund general partners, entrepreneurs, I’m an investor.  It’s entirely volunteer partnership. We just invested in a woman led company called MyNines which is a flash sale aggregator, aggregating information off sites like Gilt, Rue La La, ideeli, HauteLook, Editor’s Closet.  Apar Kothari is the CEO of that team. We’ve invested in 5 companies but of the 5 we’ve invested in, she’s the only female entrepreneur that we’ve invested in. My client base has a similar dynamic. Even though you haven’t really asked the question, in the questions that you sent me, I’ve never been clear on why that is.

Ed Reitler

That’s the purpose of my interviews.  I’m trying to nut down why there is a shortage & how we can boost the numbers.  Thank you for that.

There are groups out there that are trying to do that. Are you familar with Girls in Tech , Golden Seeds , Astia .  I went & looked at some of the interviews on your site, you spoke with Natalia, she’s with Pipeline Fund & I’m a mentor to that group. Those are all groups that are very active in trying to encourage female angel investors & help train them. also to back & support women entrepreneurs & women led businesses. I’m also on the Technology Committee of the New York City Investment Fund & Fred Wilson’s heavily involved with that.  I know you’ve interviewed him . That’s a fund that seeks to invest in women led businesses within the 5 boroughs of New York City.  There are a lot of efforts out there & I think they have been successful.  But the numbers are still staggering about how much more work that needs to be done.

Ed Reitler

Yes, yes thank you. Do you think that networking with Venture Capitalists is harder for women entrepreneurs? I know that entrepreneurs are often connected to vcs through lawyers & through their other contacts.  So I’m just wondering if you’ve noted if that networking piece is missing?

I certainly actively work to put companies together with capital. It’s part of my job as facilitator or counsel to the venture funds or the companies.  There’s no filter as to whether it’s a man or a woman that’s leading a venture led effort.  I certainly make the introductions.  On the networking front, perhanps there is a difficulty there in that, if you’re doing something after hours maybe the dynamic between a man & a woman is different than between 2 men if you’re having a beer or dinner. But I would think that that dynamic would be the same in any area where networking is crucial, any sales effort or any investment banking type of service work that there would need to be that type of interaction between  a female service provider perhaps male clients or vice versa. I don’t think there’s anything unique about venture that prevents women from networking as effectively as in other industries.

Ed Reitler

OK

Future of Social-Loco Investing #SocioLoco

We really enjoyed @Social-Loco Conference & this is video of the investment segment (our favorite segment of all the conferences of course) in two parts.

2010 saw a surge in venture funding of social-loco companies, with investors looking to get a piece of both new companies & established players.  But what does it take to create corporate value in this growing space….& how will startups compete with the growing power of the big location platforms like Google, Microsoft & Facebook.  What are vcs, angels & CorpDev people thinking about the Social-Loco space?

Moderator Marc Prioleau, Prioleau Advisors @mprioleau Panelists: Stewart Alsop, Alsop Louie Partners @salsop ; John Malloy, Blue Run Ventures ; Kent Goldman, First Round Capital @kentgoldman; John Lily, Greylock Partners @johnolilly

and Part II

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 Care.com 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

Julia Hu: Leverage the Hell out of your Womanhood

Video Interview with Julia Hu, CoFounder of Lark.  Julia is the CEO and founder of LARK, a mobile and consumer electronics startup out of MIT that helps couples sleep better together. Before LARK, Julia was an entrepreneur dedicated to growing early stage startups in the cleantech and design space. She launched Clean Tech Open’s National Sustainability Program to provide sustainability mentorship, education, judging, partnerships and environmental initiatives to startups across America, and then worked with consumer products social venture D.light Design in China on managing international marketing. Julia received a Masters and Bachelors in Engineering and Design at Stanford, and an MBA candidate from MIT Sloan.  You can find Julia on Twitter @ourlark

Transcript follows & video below

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

Our company started about a year ago & we came out of MIT where I was a business student at that time. Throughout the year I had been working a lot with business plan competitions. In that experience I met with a lot of venture capitalists. So that was a lot of great proving/training ground. Prior to MIT Sloan I helped run a clean tech incubator which grew startups to vc funding. At that time I was immersed in the venture capital startup ecosystem as well. But really I think my main learning experience has been this last month, month & half when I was raising our first round for Lark. That was a real steep learning curve & a roller coaster.

Julia Hu

What would be the highlight & what would be the most challenging in that experience over the last few months?

I think one thing is first understanding how much money you need & what goals you want to accomplish with this money. Being very clear about what you want to accomplish because you’re funding to a milestone. The most exciting part then is to understand who are the people that can most help you, in the sense of their networks or their expertise. So really trying to understand who in the valley can be your support system & be your champion & would be interested in the type of business that you want to create. It’s been very fun & very challenging as well trying to pick the right partners, investment partners. I see investment partners as a business partner who can really help grow the company with you. It’s about picking the right partners who are open to your type of company & then seeing if there’s a fit personally, as well as a market fit. That’s been the most challenging is trying to figure out who are the right partners for you.

Julia Hu

What’s been the highlight for you? Finding that fit?

I think finding the right group of people. The highlight I have to say was last week when I saw the first $800k in our bank account.

Julia Hu

Brilliant, congratulations.

Thank you. We have been bootstrapping for a year. We’ve lived on very, very little, very happily, but a couple of hundred dollars a month. I think for my team just to know that doing what they love, they could do this for at least another year with this money was a really great day. Until the money is in the bank, it’s not in the bank! It was great to see the support coming through & really helping.

Julia Hu

So moving from the dream realm to the real realm? The money made it concrete. That’s fantastic!

Exactly. Yeah!

Julia Hu

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

As a woman I have definitely seen that I have had to really adapt to the environment. I think because by my nature as a woman, maybe, I am not as aggressive. Sometimes not that I’m unconfident but that I like to listen to people’s other alternatives & recognize the validity of those. Sometimes it comes across as if I am not completely sure of one particular direction. I think one thing in fundraising, learning a lot about myself & learning that this process is really about you just ploughing forward without any regard to your doubts & your potential down sides & just keeping optimistic. I think as a woman that’s really the most important.

Julia Hu

OK so I’m hearing that you had to adapt your receptive nature to become much more assertive & putting out your vision & what you wanted to achieve rather than just listening all the time.

Exactly.

Julia Hu

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

That’s funny! I have to say that the venture partners that I’ve talked to have been absolute gentlemen. Everyone has been extremely professional. There never really was a hint of ‘You are a woman, what’s the story?’

Julia Hu

So no bias?

No I don’t think so. But I do think that having a male technical team & having a diverse team has helped that. I also feel that my background from Stanford & MIT in engineering has helped, being able to speak the same language in terms of business & in terms of technical product. I certainly think that that’s helped. Sometimes I do feel that it’s very obvious that I’m a woman & it almost helps me stand out in certain ways! So sometimes it’s a positive.

Julia Hu

What you’re saying is that you could use it to your advantage? And some people say that the main thing is just to be yourself so if you’re a woman, obviously part of that is being a woman?

Yeah being a woman. I think women bring a lot of different skill sets. I think while most of the venture partners that I talk to are men, you can express your core assets as a woman. I just have to say I remember back in the day before I started raising venture I had this fabulous woman advisor, Mara Fitzgerald who was a pr firm founder. She would just say ‘Julia you’ve just got to leverage the hell out of your womanhood!’ It was so funny. I was kind of in shock. Not to say that we have to do anything out of the ordinary. Just recognize your own strengths. Recognize that you are given this opportunity to stand out & that you have a very different core set of assets & to use that not in any demeaning type of way. Just be confident!

Julia Hu

Fantastic, thanks for that advice. What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need specifically for sourcing venture?

I would say that you need to be disciplined. You really need to be disciplined & even keeled in your internal perspective as well. I feel like entrepreneurship is a ton of fun. It’s also a ton of work & a ton of troubles.

Julia Hu

Yes very intense!

It’s very intense. It’s an emotional roller coaster more than anything else. I would say as a female, to be able to smooth that roller coaster out & to create a stability that will be core for you to continue forward. And for your team to feel that stability. I think it’s the CEO’s responsibility to create an atmosphere of extreme, continual stability for the team & protection from the outside world that is the roller coaster.

Julia Hu

Most founders would agree with you, I imagine & work out their own ways of doing that. Can I ask what techniques you use to do that?

One is surrounding yourself with great mentors. My fellow entrepreneurs who have gone through this have been so gracious. A lot of them have been men & they coach me in the mornings sometimes. They call me up & they say ‘this is normal, keep your chin up!’ Or they help me be more aggressive. I think having a core group of people who have gone through this before & can share these emotions with you & business strategy is really helpful. I think the other thing is staying positive in any way that you can. Even though almost everything I do is work & sleep, I used to be more regular about having yoga or some sort of stepping back ability where its some regular thing. That definitely helps. I hope to create a little bit more of a balance of life soon too. This last month has been totally crazy so that’s gone up in flames. I also think being able to have a great team that you can just be honest with because at the end of the day the team is everything. I really learned that. Then having certain family or friends that you can call up when you’re really feeling down that are outside. A lot of times you want to complain about this issue but you can’t complain to these people within this network because they’re part of it. Having your other life & support network I think really helps.

Julia Hu

Where you can debrief & get encouragement? That’s fantastic thank you. In your opinion what percentage of women would qualify then as regards having these qualities? What I’ve heard is that you’ve learnt a lot of skills but also you have some innate ability because you’ve come out of incubators & helping a lot of people do that. Do you think that most of the skills could be developed? If so what are your ideas about how this could happen?

Yeah I think entrepreneurs need to be very well rounded, very adaptable & able to see different perspectives & coalesce these very different perspectives. I think it’s all about team building. I think it’s all about motivation & driving everyone forward with one clear vision. Also pivoting if need be. I think it really is a passionate mind set, a continual mind set that is ‘we can rise above the occasion & we’re going to go change the world!’ Those traits I think anyone could cultivate. If you have it in your heart to be an entrepreneur, know that they’re going to be crappy days, know that you’re going to fail most of the time. But keep on going towards your goals! Also realizing that if there is enough of thoughtful advice that you’re getting that says no, no this is not quite the right path’ of being flexible & going toward a goal that you see market acceptance to. It’s a balancing act!

Julia Hu

Dimple Sahni: Art of Venture Seduction

Video interview with Dimple Sahni.  As the founding partner of DS Inc., Dimple provides strategic and investment advice to firms who are exploring mission related investing and/or emerging markets more generally. Concurrently, she also advises social entrepreneurs globally on issues related to operational efficiency, strategy, financing, and governance, etc.  Most recently, Dimple was a Manager of Investments at the Omidyar Network with a focus on Emerging Market Ventures and Property Rights. She was instrumental in developing the firm’s Emerging Markets Venture strategy with a specialization in India and the BOP market segment.  Dimple led Omidyar Network’s recent investments in Comat Technologies, a for-profit provider of technology-enabled solutions that promote socio-economic growth for rural communities in India and the Rural Development Institute, an international nonprofit that secures land rights for the world’s poor. Her portfolio also included World of Good, an online and offline ethical retailmarketplace empowering female producers all over the developing world and United Villages, a US-India mobile WiFi company providing services and a distribution channel across rural marketplaces. Dimple’s board responsibilities included Comat and World of Good. You can find Dimple on Twitter @dimple_sahni

Transcript follows & video below

I understand you act as a consultant to investment firms. Could you tell me in what areas of industry is your expertise ?

Sure well over the course of the last 5 years I’ve become a generalist in the very true sense of the word. I started off my career as a technology generalist so hardware, software, clean tech, Web2.0. But since I’ve been working with emerging markets & particularly in India where every sector is in hyper growth mode, I’ve become a generalist in healthcare, education, financial services, agriculture. My clients which range mostly from capital providers but also some social entrepreneurs span all of those industries. I’ve done both early stage & growth investing so they actually span different stages as well.

Dimple Sahni

Well you’ve had a lot of experience in different areas, that’s fantastic. A bit of everything, yes? What do you look for in women entrepreneurs & startups that indicate interest to you in investing in their businesses?

For me, I’m going to talk about personality & character traits first & then I’ll talk about some business model archetypes that I think are pretty good signs of success. In terms of personality & character, I look for people who are very transparent, very ethical, highly passionate, are very forward looking (not just short term oriented but are long term oriented). And they’ve thought about a path to profitability which is reasonable & is not just showing the typical hockey stick which a lot of entrepreneurs want to show & a lot of vcs want to see. I also like to see how they plan to surround themselves with the right type of team because a lot of founders have founderitis & they’re consumed with the business & only see themselves in leadership role. But not every leader has to lead from that position. So I look to see how they’ve thought about the organizational structure as well & how they’ve thought about the operations of the firm. But someone that’s really prepared & very crisp & very articulate. I allow for things like local languages,ESL, different MBTI personality types. I try & factor all of that in. I think there are some standards that I don’t want to compromise on & preparation is one of them, ethics & transparency & just general forward looking nature. Those are the traits that I won’t compromise on. And business model archetypes, I look for people who are not necessarily doing incremental changes but are really doing more revolutionary changes.

Dimple Sahni

So more disruptive?

Definitely more disruptive. I think a lot of people say that they want to invest in that but when an incremental technology comes around & it’s incremental to a Google or a Skype or something else that has hit big, they’re likely to invest in it.

Dimple Sahni

Safer?

Yes much safer. As I mentioned, I have a high appetite for risk so I look for the more disruptive organizations & technologies. And also the business models that are sometimes grounded in services because again in emerging markets, technologies are a means to an end. Technologies in & of themselves don’t have the IP laws, the legal system & structure is simply not there to be able to build these types of technologies. Whereas web technologies work well here, it’s mobile technologies that work well in India & Africa. You have to really translate what technology means & in many of those countries as I mentioned, services are really the revenue generating business models. In my mind if you’re targeting those economies, coupling a product with a service, catering to the rising bottom of the pyramid, I love business models that speak to that. Because if you’re only focusing on the top 10% of the population, which can afford your product or service, you may get the short term gains now, but again you don’t have a long term view as to where the real wealth of the economy is going to come from.

Dimple Sahni

Yeah, growth wouldn’t be there, would it?

No, no. I look for people who have not thought about hyper growth but are really realistic about the milestones that they’re going to have. So business models that again incorporate buffers & missteps because it inevitably will happen. I think most people usually paint a very rosy, best case scenario. I like to look at business models which even at a base case are going to do reasonably well.

Dimple Sahni

And where do you see women in this? Have you seen many women pitching & do you find that they are able to deliver these requirements that you have? How do you see that compared to male startups?

Yeah. I don’t see that many women unfortunately. I’d like to encourage more & lately I’ve been mentoring a lot of women who are coming out of business school & engineering schools who either have an interest on creating a company or financing & getting into venture capital. So I think that trend might be changing.

Dimple Sahni

We need more mentors, that’s great that you are doing that.

Yes, yes. In terms of preparation I feel like that the women are very well prepared. It’s their delivery which is what set’s them back. They’re not confident in speaking. They’re aren’t looking to play on their strengths or talk about their successes. They’re quite humble in their approach. While I don’t need to see the hockey stick, I do want to hear about why I should invest in you & your past successes may be a good indication of that. Men I meet are oozing with confidence but they often lack preparation. They like to shoot from the hip & when I ask detailed questions, they stick to their bigger picture answers. Now I’ve seen enough business plans & heard enough pitches & I kind of know when someone, man or woman knows what he is talking about. Those are the major differences I see & it’s just a question of volume as well. I see 95% of business plans from men, 5% from women.

Dimple Sahni

Mark Suster said that it’s a number’s game with women really. We just don’t have the numbers.

Yeah & again I think it’s changing.

Dimple Sahni

Very encouraging, thank you. Advice for pitching for venture is often correlated with dating. What sort of chemistry makes for a good match & is a success for both entrepreneur & venture capitalist?

Yes well the analogy you make with dating, is actually highly, highly accurate. Let me talk about it at a macro level & then I’ll talk about it at a micro level too. Venture capitalists, by the nature of the market & the nature of the capital they have, they’re more interested in deals which are harder to get, which attract the interest of other capital providers. There’s a running joke that vcs often say well we might be interested, but who else is interested because then I could be more interested? I liken that very similar to dating. When other people show interest in you, your market value goes up.

Dimple Sahni

You’re hot?

Yes absolutely. Anyway so creating that scarcity value really, really helps versus if you shop your business plan around to everyone. Or in the dating analogy, if you hit on every thing, no ones gonna want to date you because your stock value has gone down. At a macro level, generally that’s how the dynamics work. At a micro level, when you’re sitting across the table & it’s a vc/entrepreneur relationship, I think someone who challenges you & someone who can give you really good constructive feedback. Conversely the person that’s receiving that feedback or challenging them back. I mean to me being in a relationship is all about being a better person & challenging a partner to do so as well & not making it so personal because you’re both trying to achieve a higher good. That type of chemistry, I think is really, really healthy. Then I think leaving a little bit on the table, so you leave some room for a follow up meeting. As an entrepreneur, I would say, give me enough so that you entice me but don’t tell me everything. Let me think that there’s more I have to discover, whether it’s upside potential or new channels I didn’t think about. But also let me feel comfortable that there’s ways we can work together & collaborate. So that the next phase of the business is a collaborative effort, it’s just not you being singular about what you want to do.

Dimple Sahni

So this is a really interesting piece. It’s almost like a seduction, that you’re actually consciously keeping something back possibly, to entice the VC to want to explore further.

Absolutely.

Dimple Sahni

That is a really interesting piece, thank you so much.

Sure.

Dimple Sahni

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.

Yep

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?

Absolutely.

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.