What’s next?

imagesOver the last couple of years I have met with many women who are my age and are thinking about a new career.  The good news is that these women want to do something meaningful that is not in the non-profit arena.  I am not dismissing the importance of philanthropic work but for some reason women tend to gravitate towards that vs the profit world once they start to make career changes.  They want to sit on those boards and make a difference.  I believe there are other ways to make a difference.

I have told this story several times but not in writing.  Years ago I spoke at an event for about 100 women. Most of these women came out of the banking and legal arena.  Afterwards two women came up and said “we want to do what you are doing.”  They followed up and we got together to talk.  They had both been financially successful in their own right and were looking to put their capital to work by angel investing.  This was music to my ears.

I talked to them about two deals I had currently committed to and still needed capital.  They were concerned that they did not know anything about the business.  I started to ask them questions. Ends up that when you are our age that you know a lot more than you realize.  Experience is worth a lot.  They got excited and started to ask a million questions from what is a note and how does it work to what percentage would they own of the business.  Once they started to wrap their arms around what it meant to invest in a start-up at the early stages they began to hem and haw.

Hem and hawing is understood.  When will we make our money back, will we make our money back, what kind of returns will we really get, etc., etc.  I finally said to them, “how much money did you spend on your holiday vacation this year”?  That was the “aha” moment.  The amount of money they were putting into these two companies in total was probably a bit less than what they have spent on their vacations.  I followed up with you are making an impact in a women entrepreneurs business.  You will help her grow her business.  You will learn about the start-up world.  Most important you will feel empowered that you were able to do this.  You will be making a difference.

They both pulled the trigger and have done almost a dozen deals with me since.  They now they have a whole crew of women who also want to do what they are doing.  I am going to put together a breakfast this fall and invite them all.  I want each of them to understand the process.  What they are investing in and why.  How they should think about it.  I don’t want to be responsible for their dollars or decisions.  I want each of them to feel empowered to do their own investing.  This is going to be fun.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Jenna Abdou

    This is great, Joanne!! Thank you for all you do.

    1. Gotham Gal

      thanks Jenna.

  2. withandwithin

    The good part of having more women angels si that more biz run by women will be funded but most of all understood 🙂

    1. Gotham Gal


  3. Donna Brewington White

    Even the way you are approaching this displays the relational element that women naturally bring to business. As more women enter the angel investment arena, it will be interesting to see how this changes — and the way it will influence venture capital in general.

    1. Gotham Gal

      It will certainly be interesting.

    2. Matt Kruza

      Only thing I would quibble with is venture capital and angel investing in my opinion are massively different due to one thing: Fiduciary responsibility / liability. Joanne to some degree is appealing to these women’s “higher nature”: if Fred or other VC’s do that ABOVE their LP’s profit interest they can (and if it got to aggregious) would be sued. So, absolutely agree to the approach to having a bigger purpose than money, but you can’t do that in VC unless that is specifically in your charter when you go out to LPs. This MAY (not certain, but its fair to entertain / ponder) be one reason that the relational element of women you talk about will not / has not made a big impact on VC. Curious of your thoughts.

      1. Gotham Gal

        Wrong. If many of the early stage ventures get backed by a significant amount of women angels there will be a long tail. That tail is more women entrepreneurs will be able to grow and prove their businesses worthy of institutional investors

        1. Matt Kruza

          You wouldn’t disagree that you have no fiduciary duty (your and fred’s money can be spent as you want), but Fred and Albert and other USV partners have a fiduciary duty correct? I don’t mean to sound insulting, so obviously you must agree with the first part on the legality correct? I assume you are disagreeing with the “softer” side element being more prominent even in a fiduciary environment?

          1. Gotham Gal

            I sit on boards. I absolutely have fiduciary duties.I do not take the investments I make lightly. Just because I do not have LPS is irrelevant

      2. Donna Brewington White

        I’m certainly not the one to answer this question definitively, but I don’t think we fully know the impact that women will make on VC until we have a larger female VC population.In response to your other comment, I don’t expect a woman to be any less shrewd or conscientious of fiduciary responsibility. It’s not so much about being softer or nicer, it has more to do with things like values and perspective. The way things are done now is based largely on male perspective, values and priorities. Not saying these will be completely different for women or that we throw out the baby with the bath water, but there is room for disruption in VC and part of this disruption may be achieved by more women as players. Only time will tell, really.And from what I can tell, yes, Matt, you are a nice person. 🙂

        1. Gotham Gal

          Eloquently put. Completely agree

    3. Matt Kruza

      And to reiterate / make clear. I think women are 100% as capable investors as men, but I am a little bit angling /implying that you need to be more cut throat vs relational. I am a very good networker (with different ages, genders, races) so I don’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t be a nice person (I think most people think I am… right? 🙂 ), but the more softer / relational side is tough to do when managing other’s money for any gender I think, and I think its a point that doesn’t get enough play / mention/ discussion

    4. awaldstein

      Hi DonnaI don’t think rational–nor irrational–is how I bring my thoughts to understanding gender. Feels too simple.I think it is more about value and communications and understanding that the panorama of problems that need to be solved is different.I think it incorrect to think about what happens to a firm when you have a women in the boardroom.I think it more powerful to realize that the game simply changes not becomes more rational or feminine.When Lianna wanted to bootstrap Luli we decided to give her the voting power of the ownership. Success with a lot of learning comes but it is about empowering a different set of values .At least that’s my take.

  4. drmarasmith

    This is a great topic! I decided instead of a mid life crisis, I would have a mid life renaissance. I took my lifelong passion and professional expertise into something completely new – technology. It has not been easy, but it has been exhilarating learning and the best of times have been when I have gotten to interact with other women who have been through a similar experience or are also trying something new. Read: WE Festival. Thanks Joanne for all you do. Through your sharing you have created community and that is very powerful. You have created a catalog of “experience and expertise” and I look through your archives often. Your help and encouragement is incalcuable and for that I am very, very grateful. Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Much appreciated

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      “mid life renaissance” << this!

  5. William Mougayar

    It sounds like you’ve planted the seeds for the Women’s Angels Network.

  6. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Damn, I love this. It must be so exciting and gratifying to know you’ve made such a significant contribution to getting more women into angel investing (and therefore entrepreneurship). Nothing and no one can take that away.

  7. pointsnfigures

    Fun. Good on you.

  8. Riki Franco

    As a first time female entrepreneur this is the best investment I could ever asked for. Successful, smart, sharp like minded women who want to help build something great, this is priceless! I wish to see more of them getting involved, I really do.

  9. Marissa_NYx

    What a great piece, thanks Joanne.My startup is backed by 4 women (one being myself as founder ) and we have all invested our time and money because we believe in the mission we are serving . Mission based companies are powerful places to work , invest and customers gravitate towards them . they have the capacity to make greater financial returns. They are stronger and more resilient. They sequence in this order: Mission, then team, then objective.Women, Iike men do not all think and invest alike. I have met many along the road who hem and haw , many of these types would be better investing elsewhere , in shares or bonds than early stage tech companies. They do not understand the difference . If they are investing because they believe in the mission, this changes their whole thinking . They invest themselves into it as well as their time and money . VCs want companies with strong mission and leadership . They should be looking in the direction of women backed companies .

  10. Jen Bekman

    Joanne Wilson: a force, as always! I don’t doubt you’re fomenting a revolution, and I’m awfully grateful to be along for the ride.