Meet The Bay Area's Top Female Venture Capitalists


According to a Fortune Magazine analysis from February 2014, just 4 percent of senior partners at venture capital firms are women; and only 12 percent of women, based on a study led by The National Venture Capital Association, are generally employed in the tech business.

The Bay Area is still one of the most dynamic tech ecosystems where people are looking for more diversity: the quantity of VC firms that is starting to include women on their staff is increasing. Companies like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for instance, has 12 women on its team. Recently two of those women, Theresia Gouw and Jennifer Fonstad, who are longtime business partners, decided to launch their own company.

Here are ten women investors who are helping change the face of tech:

Beth Seidenberg, Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Invested in: Spotify, Facebook, Shazam, Nest, Secret, and Auxogyn, which is focused on device and diagnostics for in vitro fertilization.

Cash on hand: $1.2 billion

KPCB is one of the few VC firms who has a relavitely substantial number of women on staff, around 12 to 44 as senior VCs. The firm is specialized in investments in incubation and early stage companies particular to digital, green tech, and life sciences. It's considered one of the largest and most established VC firms and could potentially lead the way for a more balanced gender roster across the industry.

Jennifer Scott Fonstad, co-founder of Aspect Venture

Invested in: Athena Health, Exabeam, a start up that builds network-tracking security software, and BirchBox.

Cash on hand: between $10,000 and $500,000

Fonstand launched this brand new firm with her partner Theresia Gouw on February 2014. They invest in companies specialized in mobile, consumer internet, enterprise, Saas, and healthcare IT. They make seed and series A investments.

On being a female VC: “I think that if a woman wants to be in this field, she has to have a passion for technology and also has to like to see a company growing.”

Shanna Tellermann, partner on the investing team at Google Ventures

Invested in: Over 250 companies in technology and life sciences, including Uber, Flatiron Health, Cloudera, and Docusign. The latest investment is on a clothing rental service Le Tote. 

Cash on hand: $1.6 billion under asset management.

Google Ventures was launched in 2009 and it provides seed, venture, and growth-stage funding to companies. It doesn’t make investments for Google. GV drives the companies they are interested in, supporting them with design, recruiting, marketing. They invest in US and Europe, with offices in San Francisco, Boston, New York, and London, and headquarters in Mountain View.

On being a female VC: “As more women move into venture capitalism, more women will start companies and get funded, thereby inspiring more women to get into technology. The process ultimately comes full circle, as successful female founders may go on to become VCs and angel investors. Although the balance is not where it needs to be, there are strong indicators that the industry is heading in the right direction, even if it is at a slower pace than we would like.”

Eurie Kim, Principal at Forerunner Ventures (pictured at top) 

Invested in: Hotel Tonight, Wanelo.

Cash on hand: almost $100 million total capital

Forerunner Ventures is a female VC firm founded by Kirsten Green. It's an early stage investment company dedicated to partnering with ambitious entrepreneurs to define and dominate a new generation of commerce. This includes innovative, vertically integrated brands that might be launching online or on mobile, and marketplaces that are offering buyers and sellers a new way to transact.

On being a female VC: “I have to admit, I don't spend much (or any) time thinking about being a woman in VC. I just try to be as valuable as possible to the founders I partner with, and develop new ways of thinking so I can stay ahead of the curve. Men dominate VC today because founders to date have more often been men, and many founders transition to VC after they've reached a point of success in their operating careers. As women founders become more prevalent, I'm confident that we'll be seeing more female VCs that have valuable industry and operating skills to bring to the startup ecosystem.” 

Aileen Lee, co-founder of Cowboy Ventures

Invested in: Brit+Co, a lifestyle brand that touts creative living for making and doing in the digital age, MassDrop, an online platform that makes it possible for groups of people to combine their orders and buy in bulk together, Philz Coffee, and True&Co.

Cash on hand: $40 million

Cowboy Ventures helps seed-stage technology startups. They back founders who are building products that customers love to use and that reimagine work and personal life, what they call "Life 2.0" products. They find and back ultra-talented entrepreneurs who have big visions, crazy amounts of drive, and who create magic with technology, business acumen, and customer love.

On being a female VC: “We are proud to work with an above-average ratio of companies with outstanding female founders and team members, but there's lots of room for improvement when it comes to diversity and culture in tech companies and VC firms.”

Stephanie Palmeri, Principal at SoftTech VC

Invested in: Eventbrite, Hired, Poshmark, Clever, Handshake, Grovo, and Class Dojo.

Cash on hand: They just closed their latest IV fund for $85M, which brings the capital under management to $155M.

It invests in startups specialized in e-commerce, mobile services, and SaaS (software as a service). SoftTech VC was founded in 2004, and Palmeri has invested so far in over 150 early-stage startups. The company is based in Palo Alto and just opened an office in SF; they're considered one of the most active firms in the Bay Area and have made investments in Silicon Valley, New York, southern California, Boulder, and Canada.

On being a female VC: “It is not the first time I have been working in a male dominated industry. There are times when my gender is an advantage because I am the only woman in the room and that can be a great opportunity for me because it makes me stand out and I can bring a different prospective. Men have been supportive in my career and they have helped me to access to the network here. I like to see more women in the field because I think that the balance is always best for a company and for the whole industry. It brings diversity and it is always an advantage.”

Stacey Bishop, Partner at Scale Venture Partners

Invested in: Hubspot, DataSift, Docusign, Hubspot, Datastax, Demandbase, and Vitrue. 

Cash on hand: they have closed their 4th fund of $300 million

The firm invests in early-in-revenue technology companies in SaaS, cloud, mobile, and internet sectors. The company is based in Foster City, and it started as Bank of America’s in-house capital firm before becoming independent in 2007. The size of their investments often ranges from $5 to $25 million, with an average of about $12 million over the life of an investment.

On being a female VC: “There are a lot of women in the company, and sometimes I don’t realize that in the Venture Capitalist world there is a lack of females. Having more women in this field can bring a different prospective, and I think that a woman doesn’t have to behave like a man to succeed. I think that a woman, to really embrace this long career, has to be herself and doesn’t have to change who she is.”

Jennifer Ratay, Executive Director at Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund

Invested in: The Art of Yoga Project, a nonprofit organization focused on early intervention to help at-risk and sexually exposed girls prepare for the future; The Big Lift, an initiative bringing together resources from across Silicon Valley to jointly tackle improving third grade reading proficiency in disadvantaged local communities; and Food Shift, an early-stage program that works collaboratively with communities, businesses, and governments to develop longterm sustainable solutions to reduce food waste and build more resilient communities. 

Cash on hand: They make multiple grants each year ranging from $120,000 to $150,000. They have granted $4 million  so far to 41 Bay Area nonprofits.

The nonprofit organization, founded by Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen in 1998, attracts over 200 Silicon Valley donors and families who support leading nonprofit organizations in education, environment, at-risk youth, and international development. They support social ventures to achieve their goals, selecting cutting-edge organizations and initiatives that receive 3-year grants and access to SV2’s skilled donor network.  

On being a female VC: "As head of a social venture fund in Silicon Valley, I have more female peers than in the traditional venture world. In fact, both SV2's founder and current Board Chair are women, and our staff team is 100% female. At SV2 and in much of the broader social venture community, return on investment is measured in social rather than financial impact and lives positively changed is a bottom line that is gender neutral."

Annie Kadavy, venture capitalist at Charles River Ventures

Invested in: DropBox, Bop.Fm, Glyde, Twitter, Yammer, and Mailbox

Cash on hand: They have just closed their 16th fund for $393 million

The firm was founded in 1970 and it is one of the nation's oldest early-stage VC firms. They have invested in anywhere from 1 to 15 million dollars in a Series A. The company is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Menlo Park.

On being a female VC: “It's a fact that women in venture capital firms are still a minority and this seems to be a topic that is talked about a lot right now. Do I wish there were more women in VC? Of course. That said, I often hear  people talking only about gender, but I think that this focus is simply one example of diversity. There are all sorts of things that make people unique in their perspective or life experience, gender happens to be one of those things. Diversity of opinion, coupled with a high level of mutual trust, is the best way to reach the right answer which, in our case, hopefully means picking the best companies in which to invest. I may be the only woman on my investment team but I am not the 'only' in many other ways, which is a big part of why I'm happy to be part of the team at CRV."

Chelsea Stoner, VC at Battery Ventures

Invested in: Intacct (financial software), Avalara (sales-tax software) and WebPT (software for rehab specialists). On the healthcare side, her companies include Brightree (software for the home-healthcare industry) and Data Innovations, which helps healthcare labs manage data and other information.

Cash on hand: On February 2013 the firm raised a $900 million fund

The company was founded in 1993 and is interested in Internet and digital media, financial and information, clean tech, software, and communication services.  The firm invests usually in companies ranging from seed to later stage, with as low as a few hundred thousand dollars up to $100 million.

On being a female VC: “Being a woman in the VC business can sometimes be an advantage. CEOs often hear from so few female investors that I can stand out when I am trying to win a new deal," Stoner says. With a background in engineering, she is used to working with mostly men. “While it isn’t always easy, many of the best things in life aren’t. I am truly passionate about the industry and work hard to put my stamp on it.”

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