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Video interview with Beth Seidenberg,MD, partner @ Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. Beth joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in May 2005 to work in the life sciences area. For the past 20 years, she has focused her career on introducing new innovative treatments for AIDS, arthritis, asthma, cancer, psoriasis, cardiovascular, metabolic, neurological and renal disorders. She introduced 10 innovative products to market and achieved over 40 regulatory approvals (including new indications and formulations) on a worldwide basis. These products have been successfully commercialized and have generated several billion dollars of revenue.
Transcript follows & video above. This is PtII of the interview.
- What sort of challenges do women face if they become a venture capitalist?
Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers is a very unique place, I’ll say that up front. There are 8 women partners here. So I face no problems as a woman & I’m incredibly grateful to the firm & the founders. At the end of the day everything about the firm & the way we do business is based on merit. It is purely a meritocracy. We’re gender blind & race & ethnicity blind! It doesn’t matter & I don’t feel any special treatment or special needs here as a partner. I would say that’s a unique situation & its a privilege to be part of the team here. I was in corporate America before, it wasn’t as easy. I think that a lot of the time, you have to select the environment that is friendly & it may be based on gender friendly but it also maybe based on personality or skill set. But a lot of women, I think as much as we talked about the emotional connection, when it comes to themselves & figuring out who they want to be around, they’re more tolerant of being around people who are not as friendly to them or who they are. It’s ok to select & as I’m getting older I’m being much more selective.
And not tolerate people or conditions that are not supportive of who we are?
Absolutely & I’ve been in those situation. Every woman has, every woman has! And don’t tolerate, you don’t have to because there are a lot of friendly places out there.
- What needs to happen for venture firms to employ more women venture capitalists?
I don’t think it’s different in venture capital than anywhere else. Many businesses have been male oriented for many years & the venture capital business is coming around. I’ve met women partners at firms who have been venture capitalists for 20 plus years. I think the key is don’t be afraid to ask & take a risk. If you really have a passion for backing entrepreneurs & backing new ideas & technology then venture capital could be a great fit. Make sure that you are accomplished in the area that you want to invest in, & I think that’s true for men or women. I can tell you at our firm, that every partner has an expertise, a deep expertise, in an area in which they’re going to invest. And I think that that should hold true for any firm that you work for or in. If you’re an expert in an area, you will garner respect.
And also be able to judge the merits on a much more equal playing field with an entrepreneur or startup?
Absolutely & entrepreneurs will be comfortable with you because you bring expertise to the table.
- What qualities & experience are necessary to be a woman venture capitalist?
So expertise is number one, two & three, there’s no question. The second would be the ability to judge people or have a sense for how to put a team together. Sometimes you have investments where there’s a fantastic team that walks in the door & everythingis great. But that’s the exception not the rule. So I would say really having spent time in a business or an environment where you’ve had to bring people around you & you understand how the complementary skill sets work together, I think, is very important.
That’s great & is where women’s strength is, if we’re generalizing.
- What is the key, from your experience, to bridge the gender gap with male venture capitalists, both for women venture capitalists & women entrepreneurs?
Ok, that women have got to produce results?
Yes just like anybody else. If you produce results you’ll definitely gain the respect of your colleagues. The other thing is don’t be afraid to take risks. Because if you’re going to produce great results, you have to by definition you have to take a lot of risks. So go out & take the risk & realize that it’s only with the big idea & your conviction behind that & pulling all the right elements whether its money, people, the right co-investors that that’s how you’ll succeed & gain a lot of respect.
That image or metaphor of skiing is fantastic really. It’s certainly stuck with me! That gives us some sort of pragmatic idea about how we can achieve those results. Thank you again Beth, I really, really appreciate that you’ve contributed.
My pleasure, thank you.
This interview was mentioned in the New York Times.