Women in Tech: Taking the Investment Risk
Folks, I am an angel investor in tech startups in the US (Silicon Valley, Seattle, San Diego, Utah and other cities), Europe and India as well as emerging markets. I have been eagerly investing in companies for the last 5 years. To date, in any of these cities/countries, I have ‘rarely’ had a woman investor in the investment forums globally. In fact most of the forums have a few women investors but typically they are not very involved. So, what gives?! Seriously , fellow female investors: Why are women not at the table in investing? Women are a massive ‘buying-power/force’ in the global economy, BUT, not at the investment table.
As a result, most angel groups are men, and VC firms are comprised of ‘male’ investors. More importantly, as over the years the number of women have not increased, the ‘male’ investing community globally has not learned how to work with women investors. When we look at investments, we form due diligence teams. I would love to have a few fellow women investors in these teams but it is extremely rare. And of course, when investments are made, board seats are allocated, which as a result of there not being enough women at the table, the boards are comprised of men. No surprise there! Hence, I am often a solo woman investor and the only woman on the due diligence team and on the board. To make matters worse (this really deserves a blog on its own), the bigger problem that we simply don’t have enough women as startup CEO’s or in startups, period! See the pattern. This is 2012, and I never thought I would be having this conversation.
As a result the environment is not terribly inviting and the pattern gets deeper. Hence I see where Dave McClure is coming from. Frankly, an unreal sight: An all male investment team, investing in an all male startup company…Where the hell has my gender disappeared to? We have enormous talent in women execs, technical and talent across the board. Women CFO’s are phenomenal and totally get finance but are not present at the investment scene. The fact that women are not at the table is not a matter of not having the talent (which women do), but a matter of choice and decision.
A huge contributing factor I have found is that startup investments are all about risk. Huge risk. You place a bet. With that comes uncertainty and the possibility of failure. Women often shy away from financial risk (even women with huge net worth) and the possibility of failure is not comfortable. Fear of failure is much more personal for women (as an investor or startup exec) than it is for men. I believe that this has been a stumbling block for women. Not a matter of intelligence, finances, or capability: A sheer matter of risk-tolerance!
There are some fantastic all female investment forums such as Golden Seeds, Seraph Capital Forum and others, who not only are mostly women investors but have great women participants and do invest quite a bit in women led companies. For me it is critical to change the playing field and integrate. Perhaps part of the problem is that we (women) try to hard to separate into groups. While we have female-centric investment forums, I don’t know of forums that are male-centric. I think that we (women) perhaps separate more than integrate, shy away from intimadation and need to hugely up our risk-tolerance ( if we are inclined to invest) and get in the game. As for barriers, our lack of participation has accentuated the barriers. I look forward for us to play harder and be more at the table. I would love to hear your thoughts!
Picked up a copy of Provoke yet? You can find it on Amazon. All my best,