VC firms offering advice, not just money, to help women founders
In an industry where few women hold positions of power, even the addition of one female investor at a venture capital firm can feel like a monumental achievement.
So when OpenView Venture Partners announced this week it had made Elizabeth Cain the second woman among its eight investment partners, the firm trumpeted the move as evidence that it’s serious about addressing the chronic underrepresentation of women in tech.
OpenView, a Boston firm that invests mostly in business-to-business technologies, isn’t claiming that it’s solved the problem. But it says it has a plan to do more.
The company is also starting a new program to help women-led software companies grow and expand, giving them advice and networking assistance.
Though companies won’t necessarily get funding from OpenView, the hope is that the program will guide them to the point where they’re candidates for the firm to invest.
This is but one of a number of efforts around Boston and the tech world to fix two issues that industry leaders have identified as sources of inequity: increasing the number of women-led companies looking for venture funding, and better connecting them with investors.
Katie Rae, who leads the MIT-linked venture firm The Engine, is among the women leading a program to offer office hours for women founders. The group is holding an event next week that will include Maia Heymann and Nilanjana Bhowmik of Converge Venture Partners and Rudina Seseri and Sarah Fay of Glasswing Ventures.
For Cain, a former business development executive at NetSuite who was most recently helping OpenView portfolio companies in the same area, the effort is significant even in its small scale.
“Today . . . I can bring the access and resources of a VC to a few early-stage female founders,” she said. “I wish it could be more, and in the future I’m sure it will be, but this is something I know that we can do to impact change today.”
There’s plenty more to do. Companies with all-female founders got about 2 percent of venture funding last year, according to the data provider Pitchbook, and a recent study by TechCrunch found that only 8 percent of venture partners at top firms are women.
That’s despite data showing women-led firms have above-average results.