By Scott Meacham
Recently, I received a phone call about a friend who was raising a fund specifically to invest in women-led companies. Considering the track record of venture capital invested in women-led firms, it’s easy to understand her focus.
In the United States, about 2.5 to 3 percent of all venture funding goes to female founders (that percentage increases to about 12 percent when firms with both female and male founders are added in.) Even so, the bottom line is that more than 85 percent of venture capital in this country goes to male-founded companies.
That flies in the face of numerous studies that show that women-led companies tend to perform better than those with leadership that is not gender-diverse. The Kauffman Foundation reports that private technology companies led by women are more capital-efficient, achieving 35 percent higher ROI and, when venture-backed, enjoy 12 percent higher revenue than startups run by only men.
Creating a woman-led only fund is one way the industry can stop missing out on great opportunities. Another way is to increase the number of female venture capitalists—making the deal flow process, from start to finish, more inclusive and welcoming to female entrepreneurs and innovators.
Fewer than 10 percent of the decision-makers at U.S. venture capital firms are women. More than 70 percent of U.S. VC firms are all male.
Our strategy at i2E is different. We seek inclusion and diversity in all our funds. Our head of investments, Carol Curtis, Ph.D., is a woman. Our venture advisor and client engagement teams are about 50/50 gender-wise. Our senior vice president of marketing and our director of finance are both women.
Does our intentional diversity make a difference? Certainly, it does.
Many of our portfolio companies are women-led, including one of our most significant exits, WeGoLook, led by Robin Smith. There is Biolytx Pharmaceuticals founded and run by Dr. Anne Pereira; SendaRide co-founded and run by Laura Fleet, and Ten-Nine Technologies founded and run by Paige Johnson, to name a few.
“Every startup gains value from a diverse group of employees,” Carol Curtis says. “Whether it is experience, age, gender, race, or any other trait, the different life and work experiences that individuals bring to a company or a board of directors provides a significant advantage in problem solving and strategic planning, which ultimately creates the best outcome for all.”
McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity in executive teams were 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profits.
Last week the CEO of Goldman Sachs announced that Goldman won’t take companies public anymore unless they have at least one “diverse” board member. By 2021, the bank will look for two diverse board members.
We understand why. Plain and simple, diverse companies perform better than companies where everyone is the same.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org