The venture landscape changes fast. Ten years ago, few would have predicted the ubiquity of micro funds or the rise of Andreessen Horowitz or the very existence of a platform like AngelList that enables people with enough connections to become pop-up VCs.
Few — though not most — see what’s coming next, too, and that’s women VCs, taking their place alongside men, in equal, or nearly equal, numbers. In fact, we’d argue that the shift will represent the biggest opportunity over the next decade.
It may be hard to believe, given the wealth of attention paid to the low numbers of women in the industry and the obstacles they’re having to overcome. But the signs of change are everywhere if you’re paying close enough attention.
Women now make up 60 percent of college graduates, and many more of them are graduating with tech-friendly degrees. (Women are exceeding at elite institutions particularly, and now account for one-third of Stanford’s undergraduate engineering students, as well as one-third of Stanford’s graduate engineering students.)
Though women are making slow inroads at venture firms — according to CrunchBase data published last week, just 7 percent of the partners are women at the top 100 venture firms — women are increasingly finding paths around today’s guard.
They represent 12 percent of investing partners at corporate venture firms — a percentage likely to grow because of heightened interest in how tech companies fare when it comes to diversity. “We believe it’s a missed opportunity if we aren’t an active participant” in funding women- and minority-led companies and funds,” says Janey Hoe, VP of Cisco’s 40-person investments unit.
More, over the last three years, 16 percent of newly launched venture and micro-venture firms had at least one female founder, shows CrunchBase data.
So what’s happening? As VC Jon Callaghan of True Ventures noted during a panel discussion in San Francisco last week, Moore’s law has played a starring role. As costs have fallen and made entrepreneurship accessible globally, more people are coming into venture capital.
Monique Woodard, a longtime entrepreneur and more newly a venture partner at 500 Startups, credits her own path to the democratization of information brought about by social media platforms, as well as the many public insights into the industry that VCs like Fred Wilson and Brad Feld have contributed over time. “You suddenly have this library around venture capital and thought leadership that didn’t exist before,” said Woodard, speaking on the same panel.
It’s also the case that women — an expanding number of whom are founding startups, as well as rising through the ranks of other companies — have more role models in VC than they did a decade ago.
Of course, none of these trends is brand-spanking new. So why, you may be wondering, is now suddenly the tipping point? Because the ethical, business and financial reasons for change are finally poised to overtake the industry’s inertia.
(Image: Bryce Durbin)