Mark Suster, GRP Partners: Women Entrepreneurial DNA

The transcript follows and video below. This is Pt II of the interview. You can view Part I and Part III and Part IV here.

I loved the Entrepreneur DNA series on your blog & was ticking off points or not as you posted them  I know we are generalizing but how do you see women entrepreneurs holding up with those 11 points, what would we do well & where do we need to beef up?
(1) Tenacity
(2) Street Smarts
(3) Ability to Pivot
(4) Resiliency
(5) Inspiration
(6) Perspiration
(7) Willingness to Accept Risk
(8) Attention to Detail
(9) Competitiveness
(10) Decisiveness
(11) Domain Experience
(l2) Integrity

Let me start Pemo, by saying that in my household when I was growing up, my father was a paediatrician. He was a doctor, not a business person & my Mom worked. She really wore the pants in my house so I was sort of shaped from a very maternally run household. And so I hope, by prefacing with that, if I stereotype a little bit or generalize, I will be forgiven a tiny bit? What I tell teams is I think its important to have diversity of men & women & we know in entrepreneurial companies there is too many men. I recently funded a company with 2 co-founders & the requirement of my funding was that they hire a 3rd cofounder that was a woman. We’re in the process, we’ve made an offer & I’m hoping she’ll accept? (So if you’re watching please accept)

So my broad generalizations would be you know the old book ‘Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars’? Men tend to be confrontational, they tend to be bull headed, they tend to want to fight, they tend to want to one up each other in terms of knowledge & contests. And women seem to be more bridge builders & finding common solutions. I think a healthy dose of both is very good. So I hate to be somewhere where you don’t have bridge builders. Second women tend to be more organized, men tend to be more chaotic. So I would say that they tend to be more organized, men tend to be more scatter brained. Women tend to be more efficient in the office place so they come to work to get stuff done. They tick through their list & get stuff done! Men tend to have chats around the water cooler type. I think both styles of working work really well. Its about knowing the differences, catering to your strengths underpinning any weaknesses you have. Generalizing I think men tend to be more aggressive on business development, in my experience. Women tend to be slightly more understated. Learning to be more assertive & dogmatic in pursuing bus dev relationships is a skill I think that is important for every woman to develop. But I think its yin & yang. I think we each have our strengths & weaknesses which is probably the way DNA was intended to be.

Mark Suster

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

The starting point is more women that want to do it!

Mark Suster

Ok, beef up the numbers then?

Yeah, look if we’re going to have an honest discussion about men versus women, we have to be honest with each other about the biggest difference. The biggest difference is that somewhere between the age of 30 and 42 many women have kids. Obviously families have kids and our society, rightly or wrongly, (I’m not having a judgment call) tends to be such that the man continues with full time work & the woman either does part time work or stops working completely or takes 6 months off or whatever. She then usually has primary child rearing/caring activities. Well then let’s look at the age of most men when they’re out raising capital? Well it’s probably somewhere in the 28 to 35 range. And I honestly think, again if we’re going to talk openly about this, I think that plays a role in it. I look at my wife, ok, I very publicly say my wife is more accomplished educationally career wise than I ever was. She went to Brown Under Grad & she’s a Wharton MBA. She’s worked at Google, she’s worked in Corporate Strategy. I guess she got the job I wouldn’t have got based on gpa (grade point average) but listen we have 2 little kids. By the way I encouraged her to go back to work if she wanted to do that. She took a year & half off after the first child & I encouraged it & we got a full time nanny. After the second child she took another year & half off out of her choice & then she went back to work. And now that our kids are 7 & 5 she’s wrestling with ‘I want to work, I want to be professional, I want to do something meaningful but I also want to help my son do his homework.’ And again its by choice, she knows I’ve encouraged her by saying ‘Do what you feel comfortable with & I will support it!’ When you think about what it takes to be a startup CEO: on a moment’s notice jumping on an aeroplane to fly for a deal is something that’s the norm. And again if we’re going to talk realistically about that we have to acknowledge it.

If you look at most entrepreneurs that get funded male or female tend to be in that 24-35 range. And they’re outliers. (people who are outliers—in men and women who, for one reason or another, are so accomplished and so extraordinary and so outside of ordinary experience that they are as puzzling to the rest of us as a cold day in August.)  Jessica Mah got funded recently & she’s 19.  On the male side Brian Wong got funded & he was 18. So there are exceptions & there are teams that get funded in their 40’s. The first deal I ever did was funding someone who was 40 & has 2 kids. So I’m not opposed to it but if we look at the data (I haven’t looked at the data) I would bet you overwhelmingly skewed to 25-33.

Mark Suster

You’re right the facts of life do interfere for both men & women, so I understand what you’re saying.

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