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Male VCs Miss the Point of Why Female Founders Matter

For a lot of reasons, fewer female founders get VC funding. Here's why investors who aren't trying to shift the stats are making a huge mistake.
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The following is a guest post by Kat Gordon, founder of Maternal Instinct and of the 3% Conference, an event that delivers content and builds community to support more female creative leadership in advertising.

Hedge fund billionaire Pal Tudor Jones was in hot water recently, after telling an audience in that having babies kills a woman's focus, rendering her unable to succeed in the trading industry.

He's taking his lumps on the social Web, likely unaware while he's off yachting somewhere.

Reading the fallout triggered a recent memory where another respected male speaker seemed clueless to the inherent value of women to an industry.

I'm referring to VC George Zachary, who participated with Steve Blank in a Fireside Chat at February's Startup Grind. It was good stuff: intimate in feel, honest in tone, with no sanitized story telling. Make no mistake--these are smart, smart guys who have their finger on the pulse of what's happening in the VC world and were generous with their hard-won knowledge.

Yet there was a record-scratching moment for me midway through their talk and the Paul Tudor Jones incident called it up from where I had mentally filed it under "things that make you go, 'Hmmm.'" I looked the talk up online and watched it again just to see if I would experience it differently. No dice.

Judge for yourself: Watch at the 32:35 mark and listen to Mr. Zachary's response after an audience member asks about the landscape of female founders.

He answers: "I see female founders one out of 20 times." When asked how many he has funded, he estimated about two out of 23. He says: "I don't care if the person's male or female--I seek a founder living out a passion."

Sounds reasonable.

Yet here's the rub. Both Blank and Zachary describe the skill of a VC as one of pattern recognition: someone who spots winning ideas and white space in the market.

Here's the pattern I cannot grasp that neither man is seeing:

1). Women are amassing wealth, influencing spending, and driving tech usage at rates well beyond men. By 2030, women will control two-thirds of the nation's wealth.

2). Founders are most likely passionate about something that meets a need or interest that originates from their own life experience.

3). If 19 out of 20 meetings are with male founders, how do VCs hope to meet the needs of the true market: women?

What strikes me most is how passive the VC model seems to be. Meetings result from a tsunami of email requests, putting VCs in a reactive mode when it comes to taking meetings. There seems very little pavement pounding or take-charge initiation.

Say what you will about why more women aren't hitting Blank and Zachary up for meetings--that there just are fewer of them and they may seek other forms of funding. You may be right. Yet the ones who are out there have something men don't have: insight into the pain points of a woman's life and into what may motivate a female-driven marketplace.

How will you meet the needs of the largest economic force in the world--beyond China or India--by taking one meeting out of 20 with a female founder?

Last updated: Jun 5, 2013

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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