Randy Komisar is an author & venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He wrote ‘The Monk & the Riddle’ & ‘Getting to Plan B’. He is the original ‘virtual CEO’ and has a hands on approach with startups with whom he invests. He was gracious enough to allow me to video interview him last week. The interview will be featured in 3 parts. This is Part I of the interview & focus is on Women Entrepreneurs and Part II is on Business Models & Part III is on European Entrepreneurs & Incubators. This is the transcript and the video follows.
- Recently there have been numerous articles in the press about the challenges that women entrepreneurs face in sourcing venture capital. In April Fast Company ran an article ‘Startups: An “Alpha Male Pissing-Contest?“. More recently Businessweek: ‘Closing the Venture Capital Gender Gap: Women launch nearly half of all startups, yet they lead only 7 percent of companies backed by equity financing. ‘ Also in Forbes recently ‘Only 10% of venture capitalists are women and that’s not good for business.’ In your opinion, what needs to happen so that more women entrepreneurs can raise venture capital? From the part of women entrepreneurs? And from the part of venture capitalists?
Let’s start with venture capitalists: There’s not enough women in venture capital today & that’s part of the problem. Venture capital tends to be clubby in the sense that you tend to have confidence & trust & perhaps better communications with people that you feel are more alike than you feel are less alike. And that applies across genders too as well. I do think that there is a generation of younger venture capitalists who are male who are particularly more comfortable with heterogeneity including gender heterogeneity. Also we do have places like Kleiner Perkins where we do have a number of partners who are women partners probably disproportionate for the industry who will help not just with our relationships with women business people but also to establish the right sensibility inside the partnership. So I think that its important for venture capital to be more embracing of heterogeneity not just gender heterogeneity, but all heterogeneity. And I think gender heterogeneity is part of that.
From the women entrepreneur’s side my sense is that, I hear this concern from women who I have a lot of confidence in, in this business all the time who tell me that they think that women entrepreneurs aren’t as bold, aren’t as inspirational aren’t as far reaching as their male counterparts. And I don’t think that caution is a good thing when it comes to venture capital. Venture capitalists like bold ideas, they like people who they think are going to have high aspirations & are going to reach for large, disruptive inflexion points in the marketplace. So I think that women should not hold back, they should be as bold & as aspirational as they feel in approaching their businesses. And the venture capital community needs to be more welcoming of differences & heterogeneity.
- Women have different skill sets than men and ways of looking at the world & running businesses that indicates to me that having more women run startups would actually help business/the economy generally. I noted this in the online dating industry where most of the founders/CEO were men and they often opted for short term profits which often meant tricks with SEO & subterfuge to keep customers on their sites without providing what they were meant to be offering – potential good matches with partners. What do you think women can contribute to business that men sometimes miss?
What I’m impressed with is that the women I work with in business tend to be more purposeful in the way they approach business. Where we are here to make some gross generalities, I think that it is not an uncommon trait amongst men to treat business as a game, to think about it as buying low & selling high, to think about winning & losing. Whereas the women entrepreneurs I work with, are as competitive & as capable as any of the men, but often think much more holistically about what they are doing, why they are doing it & how that impacts others, not just their customers & employees but their communities. And so I think that women bring a holistic sensibility to business that business sorely needs. As we’ve just seen in the last big downturn where corners were cut & gambits were hatched that sunk an entire economy, a global economy. I don’t think that’s what I’d expect from women leaders in similar roles.
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