"You have kids or lots of other responsibilities? We see that as a positive. You can balance a million things at once. Your office doesn't have a Ping-Pong table in it? That's okay, ours doesn't either. Worried we are going to hit on you? Don't. We've both been in your shoes. We know. Your job is hard enough already, and we want to help."
It turns our that one reason for the low percentage of dollars going to companies with women CEO's and executives is that there are so few women VCs. VC firms with female partners are more than twice as likely to invest in companies with a woman on the management team (34% of VC firms with a woman partner versus 13% of VC firms without a woman partner), according to Diana Report Women Entrepreneurs 2014: Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital. The research was conducted by Babson. With women making up just 11% of investment decision-makers, according to the NVCA-Deloitte Human Capital Survey Report, no surprise that women entrepreneurs aren't getting funding.
Social Capital evaluated nearly 3,000 companies during its private beta and committed to funding several dozen across 12 countries. An interesting byproduct of the data-oriented approach was that CEO demographics skewed 42% female and majority non-white. (For context, female founders received 2.19% of venture capital funding in 2016.) Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya called the 42% data point “simply fucking awesome.”
Dana Kanze, the Harvard Business Review study’s author, led a team of Columbia University researchers to comb through almost 200 videos of entrepreneurs pitching at a TechCrunch funding competition in New York. She tracked the words investors used when asking questions and found they use different words depending on the gender of the entrepreneur. When speaking to men, investors used words like "gain," "hope," "ideal," "accomplish," "achieve," "aspire," "obtain," "earn," "expand" and "grow." But female entrepreneurs, said Kanze, hear a different kind of language. The questions investors ask them include words like "accuracy," "afraid," "anxious," "avoid," "careful," "conservative," "defend," "fear," "loss," "obligation" and "pain."
“I was repeatedly getting asked questions around potential losses and anything that could go wrong,” she says. “The questions for my male cofounder were about the company vision, its home-run potential, and anything that could maximize investor gains.” What made the differences even stranger was that the cofounders had similar backgrounds — both had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania about a decade earlier and had worked in investment banking afterward.
Wood hopes to bring in more women and first-time investors by lowering the barrier to entry. The Helm’s annual membership fee is $2,500 and the minimum investment is $50,000—minimums at most existing VC firms are at least double that. It will also provide community members with direct access to portfolio companies, social events, financial education as needed, and regular content about female entrepreneurship. Wood calls this “experience investing.”