Five ways to close the VC gender gap: “More action and less talk.” with Elaine Kunda and Tyler Gallagher
More action and less talk. Millions of dollars are spent on advocacy, mentorship, sponsorships, and conferences. The organizations spending money to create platforms to talk about change can have a significantly greater impact by creating platforms to make the change actually happen.
As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the VC gender gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Elaine Kunda, the founder and managing partner of Disruption Ventures, the only woman-founded private venture capital fund in Canada investing exclusively in women-led businesses. An experienced CEO and strategic operator with two exits under her leadership, Elaine has realigned businesses strategies and built effective teams for nearly two decades. Elaine is a longtime advocate for women’s economic empowerment as a founding advisor to G(irls) 20, an organization that encourages G7 and G20 leaders to prioritize political change and economic freedom for women and girls.
Thank you so much for joining us, let’s jump right in. According to this article in Fortune, only 2.2% of VC dollars went to women in 2018. Can you share with our readers what you or your firm is doing to help close the VC gender gap?
I have created a fund that invests in companies led or founded by women. The fund has a target of $60M, with two successful closes and two investments in three months. We are not only investing in seed and Series A financings across North America but are actively getting involved with our portfolio companies to help them build sales funnels, relationships, teams, and access capital.
Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the VC gender gap, and explain?
- More money to women GPs.
- Pressure from the largest investors to ensure more investment dollars are getting in the hands of women investors.
- More action and less talk. Millions of dollars are spent on advocacy, mentorship, sponsorships, and conferences. The organizations spending money to create platforms to talk about change can have a significantly greater impact by creating platforms to make the change actually happen.
- Men to acknowledge and openly support that investing in women has real economic benefits — and not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do.
- Continued support from government. Women are proven to be good investments and need governments to create policies that enable entrepreneurs to be successful.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’d like to see a world where business plans are measured by the impact it will have on society and the environment with the same weight as the impact it will have on the bottom line. Exploitation of people and the planet is not success to me because it’s easy to get rich if you’re willing to do it at any cost. Companies have proven there is economic opportunity when social good is considered, so how can we teach this in business school? How can we measure this more effectively in our organizations? How can we reward those companies who make deicisons with a longer-term vision? I’d like to see a change in how we measure success — beyond making money, what other successes do our decisions bring?
Who’s a female entrepreneur/ VC you respect and why?
There are so many, it’s hard for me to choose! I’d have to say Sara Blakely, Arianna Huffington, Beyoncé, Whitney Wolf, Michelle Romanow, Oprah, and of course Diane Von Furstenberg. But the thing is, I respect female entrepreneurs for the same reason I respect successful male entrepreneurs: they are people who do something better and different than anyone else. They are people who have a vision, and the tenacity and ability to lead others in seeing their vision through. When you layer on the known challenges that both entrepreneurs and women in general face, the accomplishments of the women mentioned above are even more exceptional to me.
What do you think is the purpose and real impact of VC funds who focalize their work in women and minorities?
Gender bias is systemic in women and men. Women investors, though they are more likely to relate to women founders, still struggle with unconscious beliefs that men are better leaders and entrepreneurs. Plus, they have to defend their decisions on male-dominated investment teams and will back off in the face of too much resistance from partners. Developing funds that invest solely in women eliminates the bias. From here, we can gather numbers and results to continue to prove the value and opportunity of women entrepeneurs.
Can you share with us an anecdote about the real impact you’ve had in this field?
When I developed my thesis for Disruption Ventures I trusted that women entrepreneurs would appreciate that I was an entrepreneur before I became an investor. I also believed that the network effect would lead to opportunity and unique access to deal flow. Not only have these things proven true, but fully-subscribed rounds of financing are making space to see that I’m in their boardrooms with them. There is way too much talk and way too little action, so my commitment to action by raising funds and signing cheques is the real impact.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Laurence Fink’s thoughtfulness for a world undergoing significant change is something I admire greatly. As the largest investor in the world, his vision for how corporations and investors need to evolve sets a new standard that will contribute to closing gaps in venture capital. He has been clear and deliberate on the need for responsible investing, and I would love to share experiences with him from the trenches.
Thank you so much for these great insights!
About The Author:
Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and Dubai focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. In addition to his role with Regal Assets, Tyler is a regular contributor to Forbes, Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global and Authority Magazine. Tyler has also been featured in many news publications and has been a guest expert on “The News with Ed Shultz”. Tyler is a proud member of the Forbes Finance Council a private invite only-group of hand-selected industry leaders.