An Open Letter to Female Entrepreneurs Everywhere
First, thanks for taking a break from the all-encompassing work of starting a company. We’re pretty sure you’ll want to hear this.
We’re Maren Bannon and Jennifer Neundorfer, founders of Jane VC, a new fund to invest in visionary female entrepreneurs. We started Jane after experiencing first-hand the systemic hurdles women face in tech. Like you, we’re frustrated. With you, we will build a new investing culture.
We grew up hearing girls could achieve anything. Since graduating from Stanford Business School 10 years ago, we’ve been trying to do just that. Maren has been building tech startups and very much lived the ups and downs of converting an idea into a successful business. Jennifer co-founded a venture fund in the Midwest and led investments in over 50 startups. Yet throughout those years, we repeatedly witnessed female founders who should have been sure bets spend twice as much valuable time and energy cobbling together small checks, while their male counterparts made handshake deals in the millions.
Our experience isn’t unique; it’s a microcosm of the world. Historically, tech has been run by men, and informal networks and social norms often make it difficult for women to break in. We’ve lived the stats on women and venture capital (they’re bad — here’s a summary), but we’re optimists who see this moment as an opportunity.
We asked ourselves, what would the world look like in 10 years if more women:
- Believed they could start big businesses?
- Had the capital to help them achieve their visions?
- Had the mentors, role models and community to help them along the way?
Jane is our vehicle for realizing this vision and delivering a return. In doing so, we will catalyze change in tech and venture capital.
How? It starts with three promises.
(1) We promise to make VC more transparent.
Let’s be real here. Venture capital is opaque. It’s homogeneous. Ask anyone how to get attention from a VC, and the advice is: get an intro from someone who made that VC money. The historical gender bias in tech means that this introduction likely needs to come from a man. Is this the best way to spark innovation?
We don’t think so, and we’re doing things differently.
First, we’re scrapping the introduction. At Jane, we welcome female entrepreneurs with big ideas whoever and wherever they are. Access us from anywhere in the world through our monthly virtual office hours or pitch us directly. No warm intro, LinkedIn stalking or Sand Hill Road visits required.
Second, we are transparent about our investment process and promise prompt follow up and decisions, even when it is a “no”. A lot of VCs say this, but we will take it a step further by measuring and publicly sharing our Net Promoter Score. We will hold ourselves accountable, iterate and improve. We challenge other funds to do the same.
(2) We promise to recognize your potential, wherever you are.
On a recent trip to San Franciso, we shared our idea for Jane with a prominent venture capitalist who responded, “I’d never invest outside of the Bay Area. If someone is building a business somewhere else, it’s because they can’t hack it here.”
We can’t wait to prove this opinion wrong.
Big ideas and talented entrepreneurs are everywhere. We know that because we’re part of the emerging movement of investors looking beyond Silicon Valley. We’re Stanford graduates with deep roots in the Bay Area, who have moved to the Midwest and to Europe. We’ve collaborated with visionary entrepreneurs in Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, London, Berlin and more. We know their exponential potential and recognize this massive opportunity.
We’re not the only ones talking about investing beyond Palo Alto, but we’re some of the few acting on it. We don’t have to “get comfortable” investing outside of Silicon Valley; we’re already there. Our geographically diverse team and expert network gives us the reach to find the best female entrepreneurs wherever they are, be that Silicon Valley or elsewhere. So, whether you’re coding from your basement in Seattle or Stockholm, call us.
(3) We promise to believe in you.
Investing in women is a no-brainer. According to Quantopian, women-led companies outperform the S&P by 3x. A BCG study of MassChallenge startups found that female founded companies generated 10% greater revenue over 5 years than their male counterparts. We’ve personally watched many of our female friends, colleagues and contemporaries start, scale and exit incredibly valuable companies. But you know the stats — despite their performance, women still receive just 2% of venture capital.
Investors dream of exploiting capital inefficiency, but VCs largely overlook this funding gap. We believe “the women opportunity” should be double underlined on every whiteboard on Sand Hill Road. Like all VCs, we’re looking for outstanding entrepreneurs with big ideas; but unlike most, we’re putting money on the belief that many of them will be women.
We’re creating what we hope will become the most engaged community of people who share our conviction and want to support female entrepreneurs. It starts with the women on our Investment Committee and includes the experienced men and women we’ve recruited to be experts, advisors, and advocates to support you on this journey.
If our vision resonates with you, join your fellow Janes. All are welcome — women and men, founders and future founders, investors and aspiring angels, supportive community members.
Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to join our community and learn more about our movement. And of course, if you’ve got a big idea, a ton of grit and a dream of changing the world, pitch us here.
-Jennifer & Maren