All Raise at SXSW 2024: Boosting Women in VC

All Raise
All Raise
Published in
6 min readApr 18, 2024

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At venture capital firms with $50 million AUM (assets under management) or more, women make up a mere 17.4% of decision-makers (principals, partners, and managing directors). Firms with AUM under $50 million it’s 18% according to PitchBook 2023 US All In: Female Founders in the VC Ecosystem. To drive parity in our industry, a new wave of female leaders are forging their own paths. Some of those leaders presented at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2024, a huge conference celebrating the intersection of creativity and technology. Among them were Paige Hendrix Buckner, CEO of All Raise, and Dana Wildeboer, VP of Communications & Community at All Raise, who participated in SXSW panels this year.

Invest Like a Woman: Rising Emerging Managers and Seed Investors
(an official SXSW panel)

“The panel is titled ‘Invest Like a Woman,’ but they just invest like good investors, right? That’s what we’re here to talk about. So I’m going to spend a lot of my time talking to [the panelists] about their expertise as investors and spending less time talking about gender,” said Paige Hendrix Buckner, CEO of All Raise, moderator of the panel. Joining Paige was:

Left to right: Katherine Rice, Partner, GingerBread Capital, Karen Sheffield, Founder & Managing Partner, Pachamama Ventures, Monique Woodard, Founder & Managing Director, Cake Ventures, Rachel Ten Brink, General Partner, Red Bike Capital, Paige Hendrix Buckner, CEO, All Raise

Here are a few takeaways.

Founders:

  • Understand their business’s capital needs and whether it’s a good fit for venture capital.
  • Prioritize being “VC bankable” with a well-organized business, financials, strategy, and market analysis.
  • Think about how the company can reach $100 million in revenue per year to be considered venture-scalable.
  • If you’re a first-time founder, focus on proving product-market fit before scaling the team.
  • Demonstrate capital efficiency and resilience to secure funding.
  • Understand the economics of venture capital and the high-risk, high-reward mindset in investing.

Investors:

  • Ask founders if they want to be the CEO of a public company. They need to understand the leadership required for the position and set goals for the company’s growth.
  • Prioritize communication, team building, and capital efficiency in early-stage startups.
  • Good LPs are willing to lift the hood and understand the underlying performance of the portfolio — rather than relying on marked-up valuations.

(Emotionally) Unpacking The Modern C-Suite
(a panel by The Female Quotient Equality Lounge)

The panel of female C-Suite executives shared personal experiences and insights on how being more human-centric, empathetic, and connected has helped them navigate their careers and lead effectively in a rapidly changing world. “Leaders have to be more human-centric, and we have to be more focused on people. And we have to be more focused on empathy and being connected,” said Alice McKown, Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer at The Atlantic, referencing their recently published report called “The Lead Index.” She added, “And so thinking about that, I want to look at what it means to be a female leader.” She facilitated the panel that included:

Alice pointed to research suggesting that women tend to lead with a traditional business leadership style that is more analytical, more tactical, and more data-driven. Additionally, she said, there is value in leaning into “soft” or psychosocial skills. Here are some insights from the panelists:

  • Show humility to create connection and foster community in leadership.
  • Understand the customer experience.
  • Share personal struggles with balancing work and family responsibilities with your team. Leaders who share personal struggles and vulnerability can lead to a feeling of psychological safety and connection.
  • It’s ok to say, “I don’t know”.
  • Normalize not having all the answers and figure things out together.
  • Ask questions when unclear on why certain decisions were made to promote transparency and collective problem-solving.
  • Go to therapy to build self-awareness and avoid projecting onto your team.
  • Talk about what’s really going on in your life, and share with your team when needing to step back, pause, or take a moment.

How VC Can Repair the Broken Rungs of the Tech Ladder
(an official SXSW panel)

“Imagine climbing a ladder, grabbing all the rungs, and then oops, the next one is gone, missing, broken. Therefore, getting to the next one is a Herculean effort, right? And unfortunately, this is the experience of women, nonbinary, and BIPOC people in the tech and VC community,” said Gabie Kur, Senior Vice President, Codeword. She led a conversation centered on narrowing the gender gap in the tech sector and the need for continued progress toward gender parity. The panel included:

They addressed the importance of valuing cultural contributions, creating inclusive communities, and diversifying investment in emerging managers. While the number of women check writers in the tech industry has doubled since 2018, indicating progress towards a more equitable community, we are far from parity.

Core insights from the session:

  • Emerging managers are more likely to invest in diverse founders, including women, as they bring unique perspectives and networks to the table.
  • Diversity in investment strategies and checkwriters can unlock new opportunities for different types of founders, leading to outsized returns.
  • Building trust and relationships within underrepresented groups is key to repairing the tech industry’s “ladder” and creating more diverse checkwriters.
  • Investors should partner with entrepreneurs to build businesses that are more representative of the customer segment they serve.
  • As an investor, it’s crucial to recognize the value of diverse perspectives rather than just focusing on accolades or positioning.
  • Having diverse backgrounds and experiences in venture can lead to better decision-making and business outcomes.

The session ended with a striking question from the audience — an entrepreneur got a term sheet from an investor, but it was half of their typical check size. When asked about the allocation, the investors mentioned it was “because they’ve never invested in someone who had self-identified as disabled before.” The entrepreneur added that in a meeting with the VC, “they said we would love to invest, only if you bring onboard a non-disabled male cofounder.”

The panelists responded:

  • “They don’t sound like they’re your people,” said Dana Wildeboer.
  • “One thing that we say in the industry is that all money isn’t good money. Every person who can write a check is not always the person that should be writing the check,” said Judene Small, “think about these things as long-term relationships.”
  • Picking the wrong investor can make your life very difficult, said Jenny He, “these are people who are going to control your company, so you want to be really careful.”

Successful investors prioritize diligent investment practices. SXSW provided a valuable platform for our leaders to share their advice with others in the tech and venture capital ecosystem. All Raise was proud to play a role in the conference, fostering a community that celebrates, encourages, and develops the next generation of top investors.

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