Funding Female Founders
As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I asked Zach to calculate the percentage of teams with at least one female founder in our last two core funds.
Yesterday, I wrote “I don’t have the exact data on me and it would take more time than I have right now to calculate it, but my guess is that over the last four years, about thirty to fifty percent of the teams we have funded have had at least one woman founder on them”.
Well I am pleased and proud to let you all know that my guess was correct.
Here is the data:
Percentage of investments with at least one female founder:
USV 2014 Fund: 33%
USV 2016 Fund: 43%
Certainly we have more work to do, the female founder ratio is not 50/50 yet, and we have work to do on other areas like people of color, etc.
But I am quite pleased that USV is female founder friendly.
should being ‘female founder friendly’ mean not discriminating against female founders or actively looking for a 50/50 portfolio ratio. i’d post its the former not the later.the bar should be – we have the same bar for men/women – and not that we adjust the bar to hit specific ratios. – i’m a father of girls so have a strong interest in a super female-friendly world. just unsure if positive discrimination/affirmative action best helps get there. (good intentioned comment – pls don’t flame).
Totally agree and share the exact same thoughts with my daughter whenever possible.
Some thoughts. Affirmative action has been addressed in super confusing ways but at its simplest it says when you have an industry or positions or ecosystem (like venture-backed startups) that has been so overwhelmingly led by (white) males, it takes conscious action to bring about change. That’s it. Be super-thoughtful about where you’re looking for the next deal and how you are reacting to this team in your conference room. That’s hard to do. Overwhelmingly favoring one class most likely didn’t come about because of anti-female or whatever attitudes. It’s just that when you see the same thing over and over again, the subliminal message is it’s less risky to, say, back a male-led startup than a female-led startup. That’s thought 1. Here’s thought 2, the meritocracy is subjective at best. Who will or will not succeed as a founder is often hard to predict. If you fall back on “pattern recognition” re-read my thought 1. My own personal experience is that raising some money isn’t enough by itself. It takes seriously backing the founder, ongoing support, fair terms and more to succeed. If you don’t get that for any reason (including love the idea but the female founder isn’t all that important) the startup will suffer, subtracting from the potential to influence the pattern. In which case, see thought 1.
hmmm. i think i get it.appreciate you sharing your thoughts.
Change doesn’t just happen.
Do you have the earlier numbers too? I think there was a lot of progress made from 2004 to 2008 to 2012 funds.What about women CEOs?
Will be interesting to see how this changes now that you have a female partner on board.Good stuff Fred and a big thumbs up to the team for making this part of your mandate.
Another way to measure is % of all founder who are female. Likely shows a lower % than what you provide above. Nonetheless, I call BS on anyone (or any agency / group) who suggests you could point to a single stat to provide proof that a company is, or is not “female friendly”. This issue is nuanced and trying to create a benchmark consisting of a single, observable statistic is folly.As this is my first comment, I should add that I think your blog is insightful and a great read.
.Damn good first comment. Well played.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
Should the “goal” be tied to “percent of people born who are female”? 50/50Or should the goal be tied to “% of startups that meet our rigorous standards who have female founders”?Using the birthrate stats as a standard is very problematic. Think, for example, if the NBA used the same criteria to judge its non-discrimination policies…
Great news! Do you look actively for it or is it just happening? If you are looking for it I’ll be happy because you work on diversity with great results, but if it happens organically, I’ll be even happier 😉
I have been recently thinking about this topic – diversity, measuring it, targets, and how to improve it – as in my capacity as Director of Program at FINOS I’ve been putting together some new health check criteria for our OSS programs and we wanted to include some criteria around diversity for our open source communities. (The result of that work is at https://finosfoundation.atl…, which I presented to our board last week.)It was an interesting discussion in developing these criteria. There were some initial thoughts that perhaps our targets should be relative to the industry– i.e., we should set “realistic” targets based on the current developer demographics in both technology and financial services. But we all very quickly disavowed ourselves of that notion, and doubled-down that our target should and must be 50/50 gender parity in our projects, because that’s the right goal, underlying current state not withstanding, especially for an open source community.These discussions are hard but must be had. Measurement can be difficult too (e.g., there are some PID considerations for example when dealing with, say, a large OSS community. But under the old Drucker attributed adage of “you can’t improve what you can’t measure”, measure it we must, and in turn have conversations about how we create more inclusive work and project environments.
I have worked in VC firms where I have been told that they don’t want to invest in a single founder female (single) company. USV can advocate for such change.I think along with gender diversity intellectual diversity also matters among the founding team. Sometimes diverse background in work experience and education even in culture are value drivers of non-linear behavior in solving complex problems.
Comment of the day
Totally agree with second paragraph. Question are we talking single as in not married, single as in the only founder, or single Mom?None are acceptable.I have heard the I don’t want to invest if you are married/have kids as a male (Just as screwed up)So not that the last one is not screwed up (some of the most driven women I’ve seen are single Mom’s), and yes I tend to gravitate towards founding teams, but there are others that want one founder.
She was the only single founder and a single woman. I think it is the responsibility of investors, board members, founders and even founding team to drive these discussions. But at the same time not to compromise with talent and create such environment where diversity can thrive.
That is just royally screwed up. The thing that is incredible about it is that you would say that. Hear me out. I’m also noting it was a firm not firms (am I right? because if it was multiple then I’m really stunned.)If you said we don’t invest in companies unless they have more than one founder, I get that,that is a business philosophy. (many believe the opposite) I don’t agree but ok.If they are male or female and they are single and you somehow hold that against them, I think you’ve crossed the line.But to come out and bring gender into that discussion? To actually say it? It really shows a majorly screwed up culture.Look at the Susan Fowler debacle. Do I think things like that get said after too many drinks at a happy hour? Yes. It certainly does not make it right.But to put it in writing on her first day? And it wasn’t the first time?
The first paragraph seems awfully niche, as there are so few single founder companies that need VC capital. Anyone that unusual, their gender would seem the least important thing to consider, by far.Diversity in a founding group is debatable, I think.You need a small team to build an awesome product. You need to fit that to openings in a market and find the liftoff point.It is hard to imagine where way outside the lines experiences would help when your target zone is laser focused.Diverse teams are needed to serve diverse customer bases. I am not sure that is the need in the first 3 years of most startups.
How do you straddle the fiduciary duty to achieve the highest IRR for your LPs, while also trying to be a really good guy and the outlier VC that has conviction to funding more female ran companies? It’s romantic to think the IRRs would be the same (or female higher), but if the data turns out otherwise…how would you respond?
The data already has turned out that diverse teams lead to greater results so there’s no point even asking this question. You can find many articles and stats – this one is pretty simple. http://fortune.com/2015/03/…
Data is only as reliable as the sample size chosen and the goal of the data seeker.
Your words not mine “if the data turns out otherwise…how would you respond?” and then you discount the data with a ‘ all data is subjective’ comment. I’m confused?
I care more about his data, as I trust he’d look at it with less bias. I could be wrong, but that’s my guess. Lot of firms out there run polls and do research as a means to their end goal, not the other way around. For example, I’m willing to bet the author of the article you cited is a woman. We all have biases. It’s not wrong, I do too, we just need to be cognizant of it.
The data on female and MBWE businesses (note this is not VC) suggest that the these groups are outperforming. See link to report below.https://about.americanexpre…In my experience most LPs don’t care about IRRs to the level you may think. In fact, they don’t pay attention unless you lose their money.
Going to repost without the links since DIsqus thinks when I post links about women in business, it’s spam.It’s been my experience that LPs don’t care about IRRs unless you lose their money.I wanted to share the Amex report from last year that talks about MBWE’s successes in the US but Disqus won’t let me. The report shows their research on business owners (not VC) but I think it’s more useful since it represents a population and not a small sample size.
If diversity wasn’t a factor, Stanford would probably be 95% asian. I agree diversity has value, just recognize the unintended consequence of creatively justifying it into one’s investment criteria. Unless it’s a non-for profit, or SPE, I’m guessing investors rely on GP to find the highest & best use of their capital in venture funds. Different than charitable orgs/donations. Those line can be blurred if/when GP has certain bias, slippery slope I think. FYI I’m a transgender so I think he should invest in trans-led businesses to maximize his returns given our maximum diversity.
I think Stanford (et al) is a bit different though. Anytime you have an overwhelming amount of high capacity and highly qualified applicants you can afford to take the high road and cater to particular interests to meet some other goal. For whatever reason I don’t see investing as the same thing. There is not an infinite supply of companies that you are able to choose from. Certainly not proved with the failure rate of venture backed companies. Those people who get picked to attend Stanford (et al) will generally succeed big time, right?I was thinking of the Ivy’s this morning actually. How ‘fair’ is it that slots at the major ‘name’  universities are taken up by kids who have rich parents who have no need to actually ever earn a living? I don’t mean kids who have rich parents who got an edge because they were able to attend private school, get tutoring, or had the right values either (although how ‘fair’ is that?). I mean kids who actually won’t ever need to earn a living because their parents can provide them a safety net. Ditto for scions of well know families or people. They have much going for them with family name. No doubt they have a much better chance (all else equal) of having a coveted slot as a result of a famous parent. The ones that everyone wants to get into that provide ‘the ticket’ to the good life you know the usual suspects.
I agree with that. Coincidentally I think a lot of tech entrapraneurs are wealthy trust fund babies that were only able to pursue a tech startup because they had enormous safety nets to fall back on at home. Could Snap and FB been started if their CEO’s had massive studen loans? Having multi millionaire parents makes risk taking much less risky
The report is called The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report
They are mining an emerging class of founders and startups, just like they did when they looked outside of SV in the ’90’s and ’00’s.Fred and Brad are the sharpest of the sharp.They have switched from selling out VC A-holes to flaunting their commitment to the zeitgeist. They just happen to totally believe in doing both things, which is likely why it is such a killer strategy for them.
I respect that
Certainly we have more work to do, the female founder ratio is not 50/50 yetWhy should it be 50/50?The nursing industry in the US is still 90% women. Should that be 50/50, too? If not, why?The construction industry is 98.7/1.3. What should it be?I am 100% opposed to discrimination, and I am all for female founders and CEOs, however this is a non sequitur.What the number should be is (ventureBackedFemaleFounders + discriminatedVentureRejectedFemaleFounders) / totalVentureBackedFounders where skills and qualifications are relatively equal.The data in this post says nothing about the absence or presence of gender discrimination, which seems to be the root issue. For all we know, the USV data could be on trend with the rest of the industry due to the emergence of more female founders in the market.And nobody should be patting themselves on the back for not actively discriminating against women. It’s like a guy looking for kudos because he doesn’t beat his wife.
It is nearly a cliche now, as Jordan Peterson has beaten this example into the ground, but….in the Scandanavian countries, which lead the league in gender equality, women predominantly choose traditional female jobs and men choose predominantly traditional male jobs.Stereotypes exist because they are predominantly true.A-holes exist because they dehumanize people and deny them their future by using stereotypes as a blocking mechanism.
I’m very familiar with JP and the Scandinavian research. Men generally exhibit more trait dominance and aggression than women, but there are plenty of women who are more aggressive and dominant than men. But across a large sample (eg Scandinavia) you see this play out. Men are generally more interested in things while women are more generally interested in people. One interesting thing is these biological differences are most realized on the extremes as evidenced by the violent criminal population. According to the DOJ, males represent 96% of federal prosecution on domestic violence.And completely agree on assholes. They come in all varieties!
You can do whatever you want and stereotypes can br true 80% of the time should not be hard to accept, but progressive people seem to struggle with it.B:c a-Holes use stereotypes arbitrarily.
What’s your take on JP?
He subtracts from his impact by producing too much content.His initial rise to prominence by protesting government mandated speech was opportunistic but also an important defence of democracy.His core statements are 100% on the money.
That’s so fantastic. Honestly I look back to when I had my (failed) tech startup and can’t believe i thought it was realistic to have two female cofounders in 2005 to get funding (and in Canada) for a product that wasn’t baby or fashion related. It’s amazing to see how much things have changed. Still so much room to continue to grow (people of color, socio-economic etc.)
You are awesome Leigh, but you don’t really think the gender:market fit was the reason your startup failed, do you?95% of startups fail.
Forward progress – that is terrific – but as others mentioned I would like to see the number for companies with female CEO’s also not just one female founder but the percentage across of female founders e.g. if a company has 5 founders with 1 female that should be weighed differently.
.Yesterday I spent a delightful afternoon interviewing TechStars Austin companies — their first cohort for 2019. I work with their companies as a mentor and this was the “speed dating” afternoon when nine companies meet a bunch of potential mentors.The mentors get to grade the companies, select a few favorites, and the companies get to do the same thing. Later, they will pair off and enter into more formal mentoring relationships.I have been doing this for a while and all of the companies I have ever worked with have gotten post-TSAtx funding. One has folded, but the rest have survived. Several have prospered. I still work with one of the companies long after they graduated.There were nine companies — four of them had woman founders. One had a husband-wife team. One had a mother-daughter team who was also black. The balance were all white. No vets.None of the male founders had a woman team member. One of the female founders had a male member.This cohort is the product of a thousand applications and a very detailed screening process. The guy who runs TechStars Austin is a stone cold pro — Amos Schwarzfarb. He has an incredibly efficient team. The after action meeting is run by a woman, who is also a pro — have to be to keep those ten mentors on their toes. [Amongst the mentors, there was a single woman.]I note that the women founders were “mostly” in fields that a woman would have an advantage in.There were three companies from Chattanooga, TN and one from Toronto. Three from Austin, TX and one from Houston, Los Angeles, and Fayetville, AR — great trout fishing in Fayetville beneath the dam).A lot of what is going on is just “bash to fit” with a side order of virtue signalling.For all of my business career, it has always been true that “sometimes the best man for the job is a woman.”I am the father of two founders — My Perfect Daughter is a twice founder, her latest is a thing called “Weezie Towels” and My Favorite Son is the founder of a political consulting company (he left investment banking to do this).Fred Wilson was very thoughtful when MPD (lovely red head) moved to NYC to go to work to have had lunch with her her first week in town. When she talked to her first startup employer, they asked who she had met thus far and MPD said, “Fred Wilson, I think he’s kind of a big deal.” She got the job.It is going to take some time, but women are going to be fine. It is overdue and there is rampant favoritism, but it will get better slowly.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
.An odd result of the rampant bro culture within the tech business is a conscious and unconscious move by women to found their own companies.I have a daughter who has worked for two startups (Uncommon Goods and Bustle/Romper) and who recoiled and started her own companies twice. One was a successful side hustle and the other was a full on startup that has met with substantial success — Weezie Towels.She has never really articulated that she was leaving the building because of the bro-ocracy, but I picked it up. When she parted company with the last one, pregnancy issues and remote working were involved, she was treated shabbily in my view. Interestingly enough, it was by a woman.I am certain that motivated her to start her own company and she did.I started the first company I ever did on the wings of being pissed off about something, so maybe it’s in the DNA.The big issue becomes can a woman get a fair shake at funding and that answer is clearly — NOT YET.Diversity is a much broader issue than gender. Gender is a good start, but there is a lot more to it. For another day.So, I applaud guys like Freddie Wilson at least looking at his own book of business. I don’t think having a female founding member is in the same league as being a female, founding CEO, but it is a start.It took USV a long time to find a female partner, even though they had been pontificating about the subject a long time. It takes time to make real change.It would be interesting to see what percentage of total founding members were female. That would put a finer point on the discussion.Aren’t future supplicants going to game the system and bring along a female to the baptism of fire at USV? [Asking for a friend.]JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
What would be real interesting is to drill even deeper on USV’s data. For example, among USV funded companies w/ at least one female co-founder, what is the gender breakdown among company employees? How does that data stack up vs. USV companies that are lacking in co-founder diversity? Does having diverse gender leadership trickle down to the rank and file (a far more meaningful stat, imo)? My hunch is there’d actually be little correlation, and if so, then what’s the point of driving divirsity at the top of the funnel? It looks good on an org chart and building a “socially conscious” perception for a company, but that’s just PR bs w/ out trickle down to the rank and file.
Why is it assumed that if there is a female founder that women will have more opportunity? I could make a case behaviorally that it’s the opposite. That a male founder is more likely to hire women then men in some cases. I’ve actually had that experience with a man that worked for me who hired a certain woman. And I don’t think it’s unusual either. In this case the woman was hired because she was a woman (and quite frankly very attractive) and ended up going on to bigger and better things. And I suspect those opportunities came as a result of her being a woman, not in spite of that fact.One thing I will say is that women are disadvantaged in cases where perhaps the man is either in a relationship or is married. I think this is just the way that it is. A wife or girlfriend is not going to be happy (or vice versa) with their husband or spouse spending both travel time and possibly late night meetings with a woman. At least one that she feels is a threat to her because of looks or ability. People want this to be not the way it is, but guess what it is the way that it is. And there is nothing that says you need to put the needs of a complete stranger (or some societal goal) ahead of what is important to your spouse or makes them feel un-comfortable with who you work with.
In an industry that’s been heavily criticized for lack of gender diversity, it’s not a stretch to think a female co-founder would be a strong internal advocate for diversity. Not to suggest that criteria should trump a prospect’s skills and experience (it shouldn’t), but if they aren’t sensitive to inequities, then who likely will? A founder helps define a company’s culture and ethos. The data analysis I pointed to could directionally indicate the relevancy (or irrelevance) of having a female co-founder wrt hiring and gender discrimination. My hunch is it’s irrelevant.
In an industry that’s been heavily criticized for lack of gender diversitySee that is exactly the problem with the world. Who is doing the criticizing? Not customers or people paying money to businesses. But the media, social media, bloggers and a very small part of the world has a very loud voice. It’s like anytime there is a march and it’s blown into a major issue by people who sell advertising because it gets eyeballs. Right?People, customers, those who pay you money don’t care about this. And if they do they are not spending their money and showing it (in any meaningful way). They care overwhelmingly about what they are getting for their money and if they are happy with that.
A socially conscious company has value. It hardly is or should be the senior criterian, but it does provide/deliver value. Many people—including investors—patronize companies that are socially responsible. People also feel good about working for such companies. Its importance prob is hard to precisely quantify, and will likely vary by age, sex, political affiliation, HHI, etc., but you can’t outright dismiss its relevancy.The org below ranks companies across a range of criteria (e.g., fair pay, equal treatment for all workers, strong community orientation).https://justcapital.com
I don’t even know where to begin with that justcapital nonsense.Companies on this list are the epitome of ‘we don’t give a shit about anyone’. Microsoft at the top?Here is how they come up with this:https://justcapital.com/iss…ironically note that leadership has the smallest weight.What they do means next to zero to me as a consumer. I would suspect that people say this is important when asked but vote with their dollars much differently (even adjusted for age group).As far as ‘people being happier working for’ let’s see what they do when there is an actual pay or benefit differential.interesting that they are looking for donations given who founded it and is affiliated with it:https://justcapital.com/don…
I’m not passing judgement on their survey methodology, rankings and weighting, which can very easily be questioned, I’m just giving you an example highlighting why social issues are not entirely a non-issue for many. How many millions of people work for non-profits cause they believe in a particular cause? It’s not a stretch to understand social causes and corporate responsibility play a role in the for profit world too, however their relative importance is just not nearly as large. To say it’s totally irrelevant imo is a fallacy.
Thanks for writing this up. Would love to see the raw data if you’d be open to sharing. Do you have the numbers to show what % of founders you’ve invested in are women, not just ones where there is one woman on a team? Also curious if you track % of female employees or female equity/ownership across portfolio company teams?
The way forward is equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.I’d say being funded by USV is an outcome. Getting to pitch a project to USV to gain funding is an opportunity.
admirable. what of ethnicity, sexuality, class, age, faith, politics, et.c., et.c., et.c.? 50/50? 20/20.
Hey come on JW.Only one totally arbitrary superficial identity factor at a time.
Top 10 all time CPG ad.
it would also be interesting to see if you got more leads (sum of won/accepted/rejected) over time, and if team size has grown. that could help shed light on if the resulting change is a change in USV or a change in underlying population, or both, and to what degree.
If women are successful pursuing careers anything like those funded by VCs now, then fine. Terrific. I hope they are successful.That said, from all I’ve seen, it is from wildly irresponsible down to cruel and ugly to encourage girls and women to pursue such careers. Instead, girls and women should concentrate on in effect what it appears Darwin wants — quite traditional love, marriage, home, family, being good as a wife and mother, good at parenting, helping the development of the children as inacademic, artistic, athletic, creative, emotional, empathetic, entrepreneurial, ethical, mechanical, moral, psychological, quantitative, rational, religious, romantic, scientific, social, technical, verbal, etc. development, and then doing well as a grandmother helping the children do the same. So, there is plenty to do that is really important.The pursuit of 50/50 will nearly always, and overwhelmingly on average, result in another issue for Darwin — weak, sick, or dead limbs on the tree. Likely in only a few more generations, the pursuit of the 50/50 stuff will be gone as surely as powdered wigs. So, we are likely now in one of the times of fastest change in the gene pool in all of human history. On average, Darwin will NOT propagate weak, sick, or dead limbs on the tree.If in addition she wants/needs a career, then consider first K-12 teaching or nursing.The fact that 50/50 does not hold is not a problem to be solved but some crucial data to be understood. Actively pursuing 50/50 is a serious mistake to be understood and then avoided.This whole issue of pursuing 50/50 is old: In E. Fromm, The Art of Loving, the summary isMen and women deserve equal respect as persons but are not the same.Fromm continued claiming that Western Civilization got from the French Revolution the idea that any difference was evidence of tyranny to be overcome.Early on I got convinced that 50/50 was a good goal because in much of K-college the girls did much, Much, MUCH better than I did, better manual dexterity, social skills and insight, working in small groups, understanding emotions, working with language, understanding Belle Lettre literature, rote memorization, clerical accuracy, doing holiday and party decorations, and pleasing the teachers, etc.From that I placed a huge bet on equality.Later I had to conclude that nearly all the girls were essentially helpless with math starting with algebra, physical science, engineering, anything mechanical or electrical, or computer software. Some of the girls with a lot of motivation and exceptional talent between their ears could learn such things but like a dog learns to walk on just two legs — a big strain, somehow unnatural, awkward, and with little real consequence.My bet was against my first, essentially traditional inclinations and done with some astounding evidence in a special case. Still time proved that my traditional inclinations were very strongly correct and my bet was a mistake, a big mistake, huge, the worst mistake of my life, ruined a big fraction of my life and my career as I tried to make the bet successful, and was fatal for her — trying to recover from her most recent failure at 50/50, visiting her mother at her family farm, she went missing and in two days her body was found floating in a lake.In total for this disaster betting on 50/50, I was lucky even to live through it.As I look around in daily life with more experience, information, and insight, where I “paid full tuition” (JLM), I see lots of women being happy, doing well, having good lives, with little stress, being wives and mothers, and working at traditional careers for women.Part of my experience is from the women I’ve known in my career direction of mostly applied math and computing — disasters. Too often they just didn’t get it, tried really, REALLY hard, put formality in front of reality, and in total were in one word, mistakes. They were better at office politics and in superficial ways pleasing their bosses! They were still good at what they were already good at in grade school!I’m doing well now with a spectacularly promising startup. But the struggles with her got me so far behind that in the last few days, as I needed to do some office space cleanup for my startup, I found old papers, etc. from the struggles still filling big parts of my office stuff. Disaster. My office is in good shape now: Ended up working with about 50 boxes, throwing away a lot of old stuff, having 22 boxes in my office and another dozen or so in less important rooms, with all the box contexts in a nice, little inventory system.As I look around, I see much more evidence and see much more clearly why 50/50 is a huge mistake. Some evidence is in the graphs here from Wilson — again those ratios are not evidence of problems to be solved but important information about reality to be understood.Lesson: Having or pursing anything like the 50/50 equality for girls and women in careers is nearly always a gigantic mistake. If it is tried, nearly always the best hope is that it is abandoned at the first signs of medical problems, inability to sleep, severe stress, anxiety, depression, tears, etc. and well before ruined homes and families, failed marriages, clinical depression, and suicide.Net, the equality pursued would be a HUGE step down for girls and women, cruel, ugly.Do NOT try that.Here Darwin has a solution well on the way.We can avoid the politically correct pursuit of dangerous 50/50 quickly and gently with insight now or with Darwin’s solution later.
A number of commenters referenced the ROI on women. Here are some good stats in this Forbes piece: https://www.forbes.com/site…
I made the same point yesterday 🙂 As much as I think it’s amazing that we have more co-ed founding teams, having women on the team that gets funded is not the same as having a women CEO get funded. I’d imagine those numbers are significantly lower than anyone is reporting.
I tried sharing this yesterday but Disqus thwarted me. Brad Feld shared a Ted Talk that addresses a big bias that inhibits female led companies from being funded.https://feld.com/archives/2…
Reposting without the link. Brad Feld recently wrote a post about bias and shared a wonderful Ted Talk where the speaker discusses her thorough research on bias that inhibits female led companies from being funded. Disqus continues to mark my posts with the link as spam so you’ll have to perform your own search.Disqus has only marked as spam two of my posts and they both contained links to sites that discuss women in business. How’s that for bias!
There’s another report I read recently called The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report that AmEx published. Again, Disqus won’t allow me to link to it but it reveals strong population trends for the growth of successful MBWE’s in the US.
I am not a quota person.Especially when you are doing something that a tiny fraction of the workforce is interested in doing, let alone capable of doing successfully. Kudos to you, btw.But, the idea that a VC would target you based on a gender quota, to me, seems insane, given the likely universe of high growth, VC funding required companies that can be successful at any time. Got to give Fred/AVC credit, they have the most insane track record in their industry.And, while I think the goTenna idea is super cool, on first pass, it does not strike me as a company that would need VC backing. Committed investors, sure, but VC?And I want to stress, 5 min superficial review only and I am not asking for a pitch / expecting you to justify anything. Just stating my first reaction.Have you had an instances where you thought that Fred’s/AVC’s gender quota has made future investors or other business partners question your legitimacy as a VC backed company?That’s always the issue with quotas. They come with stigma.
I second this notion. I would dig deeper and publish female CEOs before being too pleased with these results. That’s what I’ve seen most funds that are really committed to transparency do.
I second this notion. I would dig deeper and publish female CEOs before being too pleased with these resultsSo let me ask you this. If you are running a business do you feel you are more likely to give business to a company that has a female CEO? And not even ‘all else equal’. Maybe pay more or accept an inferior product? Probably not, right?I would guess that in evaluating investments the USV team didn’t give any more weight to gender other than maybe feeling better about what they had already decided to do. It’s a business. Not a social mission.Now I want to bring up this concept of ‘never good enough’. That is when someone takes a step in the right direction the other party then cops an attitude that says ‘oh but you need to also do this’. Everyone does this in some part. I also recognize that sometimes a comment is not exactly how someone feels. But I wonder why everyone is up in arms over Fred’s happiness about what he is doing. (Normally that is me playing that role haha..).If you are raising children would you do similar things? I know that is not a good idea as I was raised like that ‘never good enough’ and I hated it. I don’t think that means either ‘everyone gets a trophy’ either. But on the other hand important to not rain on parades and make someone feel they have no hope. What do they call it? Baby steps.I will end with a divorce anecdote. My ex wife and I were in therapy. There were things that she wanted from me that were discussed. I felt that I made some progress in the right direction toward some of those things. What did I hear from her sitting there? A bunch of complaints about stuff that she still wanted. She wanted 100% compliance and nothing less was going to make her happy. At that point what did I do? Let’s divorce this is hopeless I can’t give you everything you want.  Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered is the saying. I should thank her because I am so much happier and in an ideal relationship now.
Would be helpful to the conversation if you detail exactly why you said ‘mic drop’.
“If you are running a business do you feel you are more likely to give business to a company that has a female CEO?”From the other side of the table — the female CEO side — I can tell you that very often the opposite is the case: many businesses are less likely to deal with companies with a female CEO. This happens often enough that we’ve had to find a workaround. What we do when we expect a reaction like this is to have my male cofounder, who is very impressive in his own right, make the initial connection, and then introduce me into the relationship. Invariably the following thing happens: first they take him seriously, and because he takes me seriously, they take me seriously too.On the one hand, I wish we didn’t need workarounds like this. But at the same time, it is at least somewhat encouraging that much of the bias we’ve encountered is in the end not that deep. Most men do come around to taking women in leadership positions seriously, at least once they get over certain initial misgivings.
This is an artifact of our culture now whereby you can find out who someone is with an easy web search. Didn’t use to be like that. You could pitch business and there were typically cases where you didn’t want them to know you were the owner, President whatever. Why? It gave you more flexibility to not be that person. It worked to your advantage. Besides people were more impressed if just a salesman or ‘worker’ had their act together. (I know this for a fact..) What we do when we expect a reaction like this is to have my male cofounder, who is very impressive in his own right, make the initial connection, and then introduce me into the relationshipCan you give specifics of where this is happening and in what situations? And what do you mean by ‘very impressive’. Shouldn’t the product or service you are offering be ‘very impressive’? Who cares what the ‘impressiveness’ of the founder is?When I buy a quality product or a service I care about what I am buying. Not that the head of the company went to a name school or what they achieved some other way that gives them some kind of social rank.I think this is an artifact of our society today actually. Old school things like that didn’t matter. Also old school you didn’t even go out and flaunt that you were the ‘boss’ because it put you at a disadvantage often.
I respect the pragmatism of your workaround. Wish it was not necessary but…