frms, only 8 percent of investing partners were women.
Two percent of venture capitalists were Hispanic. Not even
1 percent were black. And almost a quarter of VCs with
MBAs got those degrees from Harvard.
But some of that is fnally changing. In September 2017,
General Catalyst hired its frst female managing partner.
Union Square Ventures, First Round Capital, and FirstMark
Capital soon followed. This year, BoxGroup, Redpoint
Ventures, and Bain Capital did the same. In June, Andreessen
Horowitz hired Katie Haun as a general partner to run a new
$300 million cryptocurrency fund; in July, it
promoted Connie Chan, an expert on the inter-
section of Chinese and North American tech, to
A handful of brand-name appointments won’t
change an industry overnight. Being the only
woman on an all-male team is generally not fun,
and research shows that one woman on an otherwise all-male public-company board won’t make
much diference. (For that, you need three; there’s
little reason to think venture capital is diferent.)
And some women VCs admit they are reluctant to
Venture capitalists pride themselves on being data-driven,
invest in women. They know that if that invest-
ment goes south, it’ll be doubly difcult to get
support for the next female team. Still, “three or
four years ago, 75 percent of the venture funds in
Silicon Valley did not have a woman partner,” says
Trish Costello, the founder of investing platform
Portfolia. “Every one is now looking for one.”
All this didn’t happen because new data
showed that diverse teams perform better. Such
teams have long been known to process facts
more carefully and be more innovative than
homogeneous teams. According to McKinsey,
companies in the top quartile for gender diver-
sity are 21 percent more likely to have above-
average proftability than companies in the
bottom quartile. And companies whose leaders are at
least 30 percent female have net margins 6 percent higher
than companies with no women among the senior ranks.
but this data apparently didn’t convince. What did?
Rewind to June 2017, when six women said they had
faced inappropriate advances from Justin Caldbeck, the
co-founder and managing partner of Binary Capital, which
had $300 million under management. Accusations quickly
followed against Dave McClure, co-founder of 500 Startups,
and, among others, Steve Jurvetson, the co-founder of DFJ.
Five years after Ellen Pao sued Kleiner Perkins, six months
after Susan Fowler left Uber, Silicon Valley women were
squarely in the middle of #Me Too.
As were Silicon Valley men. Binary Capital collapsed.
McClure lost his job. So did Jurvetson. “This was one of the
frst times there were real consequences to bad behavior,”
says Jess Lee, a Sequoia Capital partner and Polyvore
co-founder. “For the frst time, you had frms fall apart.”
Venture capitalists insist that they didn’t mean to build
brotopias. It’s just the pipeline, don’t you see? The pipeline
theory insists successful venture capitalists need to have
been tech wizards or successful founder-CEOs—prefer-
ably of companies that made truckloads of money for
other venture capitalists. Tragically, the argument con-
tends, there just aren’t many women who meet
those qualifcations. (Of course, with less than
3 percent of venture capital going to female
CEOs, it’s not entirely surprising that there are
so few women with nine-fgure exits.)
But after Binary Capital imploded, those all-male partnerships started to look sinister. Why
couldn’t these well-connected men fnd a single
worthy woman? More crucially, frms started
worrying. If Binary hadn’t been all-male, would
Caldbeck have gotten away with such bad
behavior? (His partner knew about his reputation.) What if a venture capitalist who thinks he’s
done nothing wrong loses his frm because the
party-boy partner everyone loves to have around
behaves abominably toward a woman who’s sick
of taking it?
And suddenly, women were getting hired.
Maybe you didn’t have to have an engineering
degree or a founder’s pedigree to have the
makings of a good VC after all. “I’m not technical,” proclaimed Sarah Tavel, upon being hired
as general partner by Benchmark, although
she’d managed tech teams at Pinterest and
spent six years at Bessemer Venture Partners.
Catherine Ulrich had been chief product ofcer
at Shutterstock and Weight Watchers before
she became the frst female partner at FirstMark. Sarah
Smith, the frst female partner at Bain Capital, had
previously been an early-stage investor and a vice
president at Quora.
As it turns out, maybe the pipeline of those with impressive experience building products, leading teams, and
producing serious results was always a lot broader than the
old guard thought. Maybe those new female partners will
knock it out of the park. And maybe—after many years of
bad behavior and shortsighted investment theses, and after
a very recent spasm of fear—one of the last redoubts of the
old boys’ network will fnally become a bit more modern.
Like Silicon Valley was always supposed to be.
KIMBERLY WEISUL is an Inc. editor-at-large.
Harvard study by
and Silpa Kovvali
partner hires by
of venture capital
exits are proftable,
so this leap is
a big deal.
“Always being the only woman in the room. It’s draining after a while.”
—A female founder responding to the question “What was the most diffcult part of raising money?”
on Inc. and Fast Company ’s State of Women and Entrepreneurship survey.