Is the reputation the VC industry has gotten for being “an old boys club” fair?

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JASON LEMKIN

Well, of course it’s a fair characterization.

Any industry that is tiny (there are so few VCs, really), and so male dominated, is going to have an inherent amount of unacceptable sexism in it.  And venture does.

But … venture itself is going through change.  The partners are turning over, and the Web 1.0 generation is retiring.  It’s less an old boys club today, than a newer boys club.

I feel like things are getting a tiny bit better.  Two female founder start-ups I’ve invested in, each has gotten multiple A+ level term sheets this month.

GP gender ratios remain terrible, but awareness of the issue, and embarrassment around it, has reached an all-time high.  It’s no longer OK for VCs to joke about having no women on their website.  This was probably (quietly) seen as OK even in 2014.  It’s not OK today.  It’s no longer OK to make insensitive remarks.  It’s no longer OK to even say anything about “differences” between male and female founders.  This certainly wasn’t the case when I co-founded my first start-up with a female co-founder and female lead engineer in the ’00s.

Today, at least, many VC firms are quietly concerned about their gender ratios and at least trying to do something (even if it isn’t much) about biases in the companies they fund and are at least thinking about how to increase the ratio of female founders they fund.

So let’s see.

Venture capital firms aren’t start-ups.  They are tiny entities, with just a handful of partners each and even in total, that exist almost entirely to invest and make money.  Partners are judged ruthlessly by each other and their own investors (the Limited Partners) based entirely on their financial returns.  On IRR and cash-on-cash returns.  Constantly judged here.  As a General Partner, you are almost nothing more than a number, your returns.  But some things at least have changed.

I’m Facing East.  And wondering (and often unsure of) how best I can help.

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Published on April 24, 2016
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