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Success against all odds: Hearing from women VC leaders at The Bridge Conference

Women VC leaders at The Bridge Conference

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I had the pleasure of attending The Bridge Women’s Conference last month, an event that connects limited partners with emerging high-growth women-led tech VC funds. The Bridge is a community on a mission to build the world’s largest ecosystem of women emerging managers. Today, only 2.4% of all funding is invested into women founders, and even less is invested in women minorities. It was great to hear from so many amazing women leaders!

Key insights

The two core areas of focus for investment discussed at the conference were Web3 companies and healthcare. Healthcare accounts for 20 percent of the global GDP allocation, but less than 10 percent of funding is actually invested in early-stage healthcare startups. With the current socio-economic landscape and political climate, women’s health is very top of mind, along with child-care as the pandemic has shifted thinking around remote work. Eldercare is another key healthcare focus with general life expectancy continuing to increase and long-term care options for aging parents becoming a central theme.

Despite the volatility in public markets and institutional pullback private markets today, failure is still seen as a learning opportunity and critical step in success. Many general partners openly shared stories about their journey to success, including failures and adversity they had overcome.

One story that particularly stuck with me was from Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital. She was once underestimated and persevered from being homeless to attending Harvard, and now, as the founder of Backstage Capital, has invested in over 200+ companies led by other underestimated and underrepresented founders, including people of color, women, and LGBT.

Advice for investing and early companies 

When it comes to investing, emerging GPs also shared the core elements they look for in their portfolio:  

  1. 18 months of runway  
  2. A leader with a clear and concise vision of where they want to go
  3. A company not trying to do too much 

As the discussion progressed, two reasons emerged on why early companies tend to fail:

  1. Founders try to do too much by themselves and avoid reaching out for specialized or expert help when needed (i.e. think marketing, finance, operations)
  2. Early companies don’t hire the right talent to help build up a good company culture, which can impact morale down the line

Since GPs are giving founders forty “no’s” to every one “yes,” ensuring your company is meeting these standards and avoiding pitfalls is critical to attracting funding!

Looking to the future

Given the current economic uncertainty, emerging GPs are looking to maintain at least twenty-four months of dry powder to weather a potential slowdown in the private markets. As we continue to see more emergence and pursuit of the public investor fleeing the public markets, fundraising should maintain its strong pace.

GPs also talked in depth on how to work with family offices. This tight-knit group of investors holds a significant amount of capital and are well connected, but are a very hard network to break into. “Once you know one, you know them all, but in the same token if you don’t know one, you know none.”

Thanks again to The Bridge for the opportunity to hear from and get to know such driven, successful and powerful women leaders. Looking forward to the next event!