Women of Influence: VC making strides on diversity from within

As part of our inaugural Women of Influence list, which recognizes trailblazing women in venture capital and other alternative assets, we take a deep dive into DE&I recruiting and the current state of gender diversity in VC.

There’s no denying it’s been an unusual time in venture. At the start of the pandemic, firms held off on conducting new business and concentrated on their current portfolios.

After a couple of months, it became clear that putting things on hold was not in the DNA for most of those in the venture community. Fundraising, deal and exit activity have surged in the previous 12-plus months.

Under the backdrop of a pandemic and a robust venture climate, we set out to compile this, our inaugural list of Women of Influence in Private Markets by requesting nominations in March and April for women who stood out and achieved something notable during the previous 12 months.

The final 10 VC women are a diverse group from various geographies and kinds of firms. A sampling of their efforts includes successfully fundraising, launching a mentoring program, expanding their firm’s footprint geographically and helping start one of the few women-backed and women-funded SPACs.

Along with that list, we present stories on diversity and what steps firms can take to increase gender diversity. In addition, we examine the data and see what’s changed, or not changed, when it comes to female check writers at large VC firms.

We’d like to think this debut Women of Influence special section celebrates not just the finalists, but all those who are leading their respective firms while also striving for diversity, equity and inclusion.

We hope you enjoy this coverage. We imagine the women featured here will drive the VC community to new heights in the years to come, and we look forward to poring over next year’s nominees.

Kerry Baldwin
IQ Capital

As managing partner of IQ Capital and chair of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, Kerry Baldwin is one of the UK’s most noted investors, with more than two decades’ experience in venture. She co-founded IQ Capital in 2006 and has raised four funds since. At BVCA, she’s the first from the early-stage deeptech sector to serve as chair. Amid a pandemic, the final stages of Brexit and a capital gains tax review, Baldwin is known for her work with the UK government, including regarding funding issues facing life sciences, biotech and deeptech founders and venture funds.

Janet Bannister
Real Ventures

Named managing partner prior to the pandemic, Janet Bannister is a pillar of Real Ventures’ presence in Toronto, making major contributions to Canada’s tech community and the entrepreneurs with whom she works. She is also one of the few female heads of a Canadian VC firm. With her conviction that women are underrepresented among founders of venture-backed tech start-ups, Bannister hopes her inclusion on the Women of Influence in Private Markets list inspires women “so that we can together change the leadership composition of not only private markets but also of entrepreneurs, business executives and community influencers”.

Nisha Dua
BBG Ventures

As managing partner, Nisha Dua co-founded BBG Ventures with Susan Lyne in 2014 in New York to invest in seed and pre-seed companies led by “underestimated founders” in the health and wellbeing space, education, future of work, climate-friendly consumption and overlooked consumers. The portfolio now includes more than 80 companies led by female founders. In March 2021, amid a pandemic, the firm raised $50 million for its third and largest fund. As a peer from another firm says, BBGV has put to rest the notion that there aren’t enough female founders to support a top-quartile fund.

Charmaine Hayden
GOODsoil VC

Charmaine Hayden, founding partner of GOODsoil VC, entered the world of UK venture capital as one of the only women of colour at partner level. Hayden identified early on in her career that there was an opportunity to back underserved sectors of the community. At GOODsoil, which invests in start-ups in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, she looks to minimise funding disparities among underrepresented groups in the tech sector by investing in diverse teams. Prior to joining the firm, she founded ethnic curve model agency Face4Music, and Gold Digger, a hub for female entrepreneurs.

Amy Nauiokas
Anthemis

Anthemis, where Amy Nauiokas is founder and chief executive, has gained a lot of attention in recent years for its fintech investments in category leaders. But the firm is also noteworthy for how it supports women and people of colour, including through the pandemic. It launched Female Founder Office Hours in summer 2020. Besides her finance investment focus, Nauiokas is known for her commitment to working for a more equitable and inclusive industry, hiring, investing in and mentoring diverse and underrepresented talent. She says that being a good leader “requires vulnerability, transparency and communication.”

Kimmy Paluch
Beta Boom

Kimmy Paluch, managing partner of Beta Boom, is a tech entrepreneur, former software engineer and diversity advocate, who has pledged to help overlooked founders by equipping them with the necessary skills. The pre-seed investment firm, which she co-founded with her husband Sergio Paluch, is not just a fund investing in underserved, diverse founders in new geographies. They also provide coaching and researching and reporting on stats regarding diversity in tech. During the pandemic, she ran the Women’s Startup Academy, a six-month coaching programme for promising female founders.

JoAnn Price
Fairview Capital Partners

JoAnn Price, co-founder and managing partner of Fairview Capital Partners, launched the Connecticut-based fund of funds in 1994 and has been a pioneer in investing in the diverse manager space. Price is also involved in a number of community and philanthropic initiatives. As well as leading by example, she is not shy about encouraging her colleagues at Fairview to get involved in the community. She is past president of the National Association of Investment Companies, and one consultant says of Price that she deserves a lifetime achievement award for her work in private markets.

Dana Settle
Greycroft

Dana Settle was a founding member of Greycroft in 2006 and leads its Los Angeles office. As co-founder and partner, she spearheads the firm’s diversity initiatives. She recently launched a board matching program at Greycroft, which has built a network of diverse board candidates for the firm’s portfolio companies. Her exits include The RealReal, Maker Studios, Trunk Club and Sometrics, among others. Settle recently co-founded one of the few SPACs to be launched by women, Powered Brands, which had $1.5 billion in orders by the end of its first pricing day.

Olivia Steedman
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan

Olivia Steedman, senior managing director of Teachers’ Innovation Platform at Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, is known for her focus on talent development, as well as mentoring and championing women in tech. She has been with the firm almost two decades. In April 2019, she oversaw the launch of TIP, which sported a portfolio of C$3.5 billion ($2.9 billion; €2.38 billon) as of December 2020. The firm noticeably has kept active in the past year, beefing up its San Francisco presence with the hire of a managing director, and establishing a team in Hong Kong.

Christine Tsai
500 Startups

Since the firm’s inception in 2010, chief executive and founding partner Christine Tsai has led the growth of the early-stage investor to $600 million in committed capital in more than 2,400 portfolio companies worldwide, including such unicorns as Grab in Southeast Asia. Today, 500 Startups is one of the few VC firms to integrate ESG into certain funds and support portfolio companies towards increasing diversity in the workplace, minimizing environmental destruction and instilling better labor practices. The firm is also one of the first US VCs to seek third-party validation for its DE&I initiatives.