March 15, 2023
This Women’s History Month, we are proud to spotlight our senior Investment Associate, Emma Leavy, who shares key insights on working in impact VC.
How do you think early-stage venture capital can help to address the capital gap for women-led companies, and what role do women investors and fund managers play in this?
As of 2021, only 2.3% of venture capital went to female-only founded companies. I work in venture capital because I believe that innovation is among the most precious resources we have. I also believe wholeheartedly that great ideas and the ability to execute on them are distributed equally across men and women. So, it makes me feel incredibly frustrated to think about all the companies that could and should exist if women had access to the same resources, support, and opportunities as men.
Research shows that women investors tend to be more likely to invest in women-led companies. As a female investor, I try to use my power and influence to chip away at the systemic bias that has prevented women from accessing traditional capital. As a woman, my network is oriented towards spaces where women entrepreneurs spend time. I also try to be as generous as possible with introductions and advice for women entrepreneurs even when I pass on a deal. And for some of the industries where I am an active investor, such as femtech, my lived experience as a woman gives me a unique perspective on market potential and customer needs.
What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs who are seeking investment and struggling to access capital?
I would recommend asking a trusted friend or colleague to listen to your pitch and then practice responding to questions. Research has shown that women entrepreneurs get asked more prevention questions than promotion questions as compared to men entrepreneurs. Practice responding to prevention-focused questions with promotion-focused responses. If you are early on in your fundraising journey, I would recommend going to pitch events and watching how other entrepreneurs respond to questions. Prepare, practice, and then spend time developing a communication style that claims your power and feels authentic to who you are.
I would also advise women (and all entrepreneurs!) to, when possible, seek diversity on your cap table. If you are fundraising for early-stage capital, your investors are most likely going to be with you for a long time as you grow the company. For women founders, it can be a powerful resource to have women investors in your corner.