A story of a conversation between an academic researcher, VC investor, CVC investor and an entrepreneur

2019 brought more female-founded unicorns than ever before, and more new female partners at VC firms. Despite this progress, VC remains one of the most gender-skewed industries in the US. Last year, approx. 87.8% of the VC funding was raised by all male founder teams. We also see an emerging evidence that the disruption caused by COVID-19 is bound to disproportionately affect women. As reported by Pitchbook, Q1 2020 already showed a decline in share of deals with startups founded by women.

Wait… but why?

I am a nerd. I studied Finance & Accounting, I studied Psychology, and then I got an MBA. I have always been fascinated by behavioral economics and academic research proving that we are irrational in a systematic way when making decisions under uncertainty. If you haven’t read yet — Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a good place to start. Yes, he is that psychologist who was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Now, why it matters in VC. Mixed gender or women-led startups are not performing worse than male-led — actually it’s quite the opposite. So isn’t it rational to invest in them? From behavioral economics, we know that decisions under uncertainty are influenced by the actual framing and context. Biases and heuristics come into play when it comes to VC investing — it is no different than thinking about weighing potential gains and losses under uncertainty. So what can we actually do to help scale investments in female founders if we can’t change how we’re all wired? Let’s look at it from three different perspectives represented by (#1) a researcher, (#2) two investors, and (#3) an entrepreneur.

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