Following the Ellen Pao gender discrimination trial, quite a few articles came out about the lack of women investors in technology. We attend many events and panels, and it struck us that we know quite a few women tech investors, so we sat down and made a list of the ones we know in New York alone – and quickly came up with well over a hundred names. So, they’re out there. In New York, anyway.
Not long after having compiled this list (170+ VCs, angels, Corporates and Family Offices), we attended the Demo Day of one of the leading accelerators and noticed something odd: after the presentations, the male investors gathered in small groups to discuss the various companies, while the women dispersed to different stations where the entrepreneurs were answering questions and it struck us that there was something of a disconnect/chokepoint: the proverbial Old Boy networks have been around forever and while the names and faces may change, they’re still very much alive and well, while there’s no such long-standing network/pipeline among women: the women investors don’t necessarily all know each other.
Which gave birth to Ladies Who Lead, an event we plan on hosting quarterly (our 2nd one will be held this Thursday evening) so that the women investors of New York can get better acquainted with each other, in order to facilitate deal flow.
We do also include women investors representing state and local government, in our mix, as you never know who has seen what deals, up and down the food chain.
Our list now includes some 300 New York-based women investors, cutting across all levels of financing, disciplines, verticals, and all age groups and ethnic backgrounds.
So what about those stories about the lack of women investors in tech? We ran into a well-known Silicon Valley-based woman investor who had heard about our premier event, and informed her that we’d be happy to host a similar event on that Other Coast. Her response: “If you hosted a similar one in Silicon Valley, we could all find a nice restaurant and sit down to dinner. There’s a reason why you see those stories about the lack of women investors.”
Silicon Valley is often held up as being forward thinking and acting – and the birthplace of bro culture, and while Wall Street could easily be accused of the same, many of the women investors of New York started on Wall Street or in finance, and have managed to prevail. Then again, New York is not a one-horse town. And kudos to women like 37 Angels Angela Lee, who train early stage investors.
Some made their way from law and some from entrepreneurship itself, building and selling companies, only to reinvest some of the money and energy in the future of the industry, mentoring, advising, writing checks – and grooming the next generation of women investors and founders. Some have spoken at our Investor Breakfasts. We plan on inviting many more to future breakfasts. We may even try to profile at least some of them on our StartupOneStop website. (And a few good men, too, not to worry.) After all, they are the better half of tech, with advice and a unique perspective to offer: they’ve been there, done that, and in many cases, had to overcome hurdles and obstacles that men don’t. Such is the way of the world.
As someone who mentors at several of the top accelerators here in NY, we also have gotten the feedback that women mentor differently: not as a general rule and with all due respect to men who mentor and invest, women generally aren’t as dismissive: you may not hear a ‘yes,’ but even negative feedback is couched more artfully and (from what we’ve heard) instructively.
Like their male counterparts, they hate it when you reach out and ask, “Do you mind if I pick your brain?” Don’t do it. Just don’t go there. Come up with something compelling that will move them to want to meet with you, and hopefully work with you – or invest in you.
And truth be told, women investors and mentors are much more likely to get that question than do men.
Contrary to popular misconception, women investors don’t exclusively invest in women-led companies, but many do prefer to see at least one female on the management team – especially when you’re focused in a vertical where the customer base is primarily women.
We often find that there are more women than men who attend our breakfasts when we have a woman investor as our guest, and your loss: women entrepreneurs are guilty of this as well, for the record. Every investor has something to offer, and it’s a mistake to dismiss the women: they nurture, they opine, they instruct, they balance – and they deserve a lot more credit and attention than they get. After all, what would we do without these ladies who help to lead the New York tech community onward and forward.