The numbers are clear, if disheartening.
Women CEOs win only 2.7 percent of the approximately $80 billion in venture capital each year. This statistic prevails despite women being the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs, and despite research from First Round Capital showing that founding teams that include both women and men produce dramatically stronger valuation growth than all-male founding teams.
It's an obvious and glaring disconnect, one that's spurred some venture capitalist groups to work for diversity in their industry.
Directors of several VC funds have stepped forward to close the massive gender funding gap. In addition to backing female-founded businesses, target emphases of these funds range from mobile startups to media/entertainment to underrepresented tech entrepreneurs, including people with disabilities and veterans. Different funds also back women of color, and women from geographies outside the usual tech and VC hubs.
What isn't included on the list of targeted funds are female founders of beverage alcohol companies, or even hospitality in general. It's a gap that a new fund from Constellation Brands Ventures aims to fill.
Last month, Constellation Brands announced that its venture capital group intends to invest $100 million by 2028 in female-founded or female-led businesses in the beverage alcohol space and adjacent categories. Such an initiative combats head-on several obstacles that female founders face, such as well-documented gender bias during investor pitches in general and the underrepresentation of women in the beverage alcohol industry in particular.
It's another example of connecting the dots between advancing women in underrepresented industries and making meaningful investments in female-led businesses. I dug into the trend for both personal and professional reasons, since I'm a female founder in the beverage and alcohol industry. Here are my three top takeaways, and what they mean for entrepreneurs everywhere:
1. The profile of women as entrepreneurs is rising.
Certainly the $100 million announcement, which was released less than two months ago, generated significant buzz in the press and within the industry itself. A question, and a skepticism, that I heard immediately was whether there are in fact enough promising women-led businesses in the beverage alcohol space with the scale and traction to claim the full breadth of that $100 million investment opportunity.
No such doubt apparently existed for Constellation Brand Ventures' chief growth officer Mallika Monteiro. She says her team has received several hundred inbound inquiries in a little more than a month. "It's really exciting to see the level of interest and the pipeline of ideas," she recently told me. "We're optimistic about where this can go."
The question surrounds tapping into the right women, which paradoxically happens when gender is no longer a crucial determinant of success. In practice this means women entrepreneurs stepping forward to be recognized for their potential--and then the barriers that have traditionally held them back (such as lack of access to capital) being removed.
2. placeholderThere are more mutual benefits available.
What does each side of an investment play have to gain?
As you work through the scenarios in your own situation, the give-and-take might seem obvious at first. It's like any other startup-VC relationship, until you remember that few women founders typically have the ability to tap into that dynamic.
In the case of two companies that Constellation Brands Ventures has already invested in--Austin Cocktails and Vivify--they benefit from the parent company's reach, scale and influence to significantly boost their growth. At the same time, the parent company benefits from a high-profile jump-starting of the Constellation Brand fund as well as direct involvement in Austin Cocktails' and Vivify's transformative innovation and accelerated growth.
What was the need at hand? Ideas and products designed by women for women, which is an underrepresented category on both sides of the investment table.
3. Consider the timing of when investment meets innovation.
Sometimes the turning point for entrepreneurs hinges on a widely acknowledged problem, such as beverage alcohol brands under-performing in their outreach to women. Everyone knows it's a problem, yet little attention or resources seem to be dedicated to developing a solution.
That's where investment meets innovation: Constellation Brands Ventures with its capital, and entrepreneurs with their ideas, meeting as part of a cohort who speak to each other with the end goal in mind. Being in a position to facilitate that conversation, Monteiro told me, is just as compelling as the capital investment itself.
Ask yourself two questions. First, is it the right time for my business to pair our innovation with outside investment? Second, especially if your answer to the first question is "no" or "not yet," how can I access that ultra-valuable cohort of people who can relate to my situation and offer support? Your answers will speak to the needs of your business and the timing of when those needs will be met.