Scarlet Fu, a Bloomberg television anchor recently sat down with a panel of three highly successful venture capitalists: Rebecca Kaden of Union Square Ventures, Beth Ferreira of FirstMark Capital, and Ellie Wheeler of Greycroft to get an insider’s perspective of women in the venture capital industry.
First and foremost, all of the women recognized that there are no direct or traditional paths to get into venture capital. Kaden fully embodies this notion as she shared to the audience that she originally planned to be journalist, and after graduating college, moved to San Francisco to write for an up-and-coming newspaper. However, she soon found herself getting involved on the finance side of things. That is, she was more interested in figuring out how the newspaper would make money.
Wheeler was originally on a pre-med track with the goal to become a physician. She soon realized she did not want to practice medicine. Wheeler ended up working at a private equity firm in Boston and then working at Cisco before becoming a partner at Greycroft.
The panel agreed that being a VC mandates that an individual possess a wide array of characteristics and strengths. Kaden, Ferreira, and Wheeler emphasized that interpersonal skills and relationship building are crucial components of this industry, and they also mentioned the serendipitous factor of being at the right place at the right time.
This extraordinary panel of women is presented with 1,000 pitches per year and of that 1,000, they will only invest in 3 companies on average. The NYC VC ecosystem has tremendously expanded and evolved as the amount of companies increase and the sheer amount of capital increases as well. However, there are still very few women in this industry. That may seem ironic given the fact that women hold a ton of purchasing power, but it is undeniably true. There are around 8% of women working at top VC firms and while these numbers are increasing, Wheeler points out, “We’re getting excited about tiny increases. It’s pathetic.”
Kaden remarked that who is around the investor table is what is important, and you want an investor table that understands the nuances, which can only be achieved with diversity at the table.
Ferreira spoke about how women can be underestimated in business, but recognizes this as an asset, “Anytime you are underestimated it’s a huge advantage.”
Kaden regarded that the quality and caliber of female VCs on both coasts is “tremendously high,” and there is a real commitment among female VCs to support one another and to see one another succeed.
This event ended on an uplifting note, and the room was packed with tons of women -and many men- from various fields all interested in seeing the VC industry evolve into one of inclusion and diversity.