Techs and the City – Jeanne Sullivan, StarVest Partners

Techs and the City – Jeanne Sullivan, StarVest Partners


Much has been said and written about the lack of women in the tech sector, be it as investors (or associates), founders or in management positions at major companies. Is the problem the old boys network – or that success in technology is seen as a young man’s game?  In this series, we speak with some of the top industry women in New York as they discuss the challenges they face, the perceptions that need to be changed and the work that’s being done – or not – to help to promote women in tech. 



Today we hear from Jeanne Sullivan, founding principal of StarVest Partners and one of Forbes “5 Most Powerful Women Changing the World in VC and Entrepreneurship.”

What was/is the biggest challenge facing you as a female entrepreneur/investor?

Biggest challenge:  Just learning the ropes on becoming a Very Capable investor.   At the boardroom table, it has been important to learn how to be “effective” – clear, concise, meaningful direction and value-adding.

What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurship in New York?

I believe that those of us of who understand “the ropes” and who care about prospering entrepreneurship have a responsibility to support the entrepreneurs who want to build a successful business.

What is being done that you like presently?

I believe in and appreciate the many incubators, accelerators and shared work spaces that help companies become educated, connected and thriving.

Are you involved in any organizations that help to promote female entrepreneurship?  Or, do you do anything personally to help promote women in technology?

If I am NOT involved in an organization that promotes female entrepreneurship, I ask them, “how come I am not involved and what can I do for you?” !

I am on a mission to help promote women in technology and proudly serve on the global board of Astia, and also serve, mentor, judge and speak for Women 2.0; Claudia Chan, Springboard Enterprises, The She Source Women and Media Center, Womensphere, and any organization that may need me to support their dynamic women entrepreneurs.

Do you feel investors (in general) have a different mindset when it comes to investing in a woman-run company? For example, does the work/life balance issue come up?

Yes…and I would say gratefully, that the mindset is changing.  I have heard men who are GPs in funds exclaim, “And there is a dynamic woman as CEO” !

We are making change and powerful and outspoken women leaders like Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg are changing the attitude about work/life balance – there is no balance, just juggling!  And we are great at that.

Do you think that women in top roles at major tech companies are scrutinized more closely than are their male counterparts?

Yes, of course we are.  That is why we have to be at the top of our game and love the line about Ginger Rogers, “and we dance in heels and backwards”.

That is why we need men and women to advise, support and be aware of women in the workforce and their high ability to complement a team, a culture, a company’s strategy and more.

Where do you and your company fit into the ecosystem?

We are three women founders at StarVest and recognize fully that women bring a different lens to the art of investing, of running a company and to the culture in a company.  We definitely are on the lookout for strong women leaders in the C-suite and love to see smart women CEOs run our portfolio companies.

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