As the dust settled on the British Business Bank's bombshell diversity report from February, Techworld set out to find and speak to a dozen women in the UK venture capital industry and get to the human stories behind the striking statistics.
That report, which was supported by Diversity VC and The British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, found that 75 percent of pitches submitted to VC funds in the UK come from all-male founding teams and just four percent come from all-female founding teams. On top of that, for every £1 of VC investment, all-female founder teams get less than one pence.
It also highlighted the lack of established networks for female founders to access the sort of venture funding their male counterparts have had access to over the past decade or so, with only 36 percent of female founders having access to 'warm introductions', against 42 percent of all-male teams.
Alongside my colleague Hannah Williams, our first question for all of these women was the same: how did you get into VC? Aside from being a nice introduction to that person's career path, this also gave us a fascinating insight into the various different routes being taken into what has historically been an incredibly opaque industry with a reputation for being a 'boys club'.
We took a decidedly unscientific approach to defining our final dozen, starting with some of the most vocal exponents of greater diversity and inclusion in the industry, including the two cofounders of Diversity VC themselves, and asking who they admired most within the sector.
We have been publishing those conversations pretty much in their entirety, one-by-one, over the past three months, all of which can be found here.
The answers we got to that initial question ranged from your typical career path of: top business school to investment bank or consultancy firm to VC firm; to more fortuitous (or nepotistic) routes in via university or industry contacts. But we also spoke to women who have been emboldened to found their own funds and drastically shake up the industry in their own way.
There is Ophelia Brown, who had the typical background of banking for Goldman Sachs before getting into venture capital and eventually founding a fund of her own in Blossom Capital. Then there was Maren Barron, who teamed up with an old Stanford friend Jennifer Keiser Neundorfer to found Jane VC and only invest in female-founded startups.
We spoke to young venture capitalists, like Esther Delignat-Lavaud Rodriguez, who have forced their way into the industry by being smart and determined enough to get onto an internship, which is in itself an increasingly important route into the industry for people that don't fit the traditional white, male mould of a tech investor.
We also spoke to more experience practitioners, like Suki Fuller, who are constantly adapting how they work and continue to challenge their colleagues to question their own bias and spot opportunities they may have missed if it wasn't for having a diverse mindset.
We know we have only scratched the surface with these twelve women, and have been incredibly humbled by the reaction we have got to the series both on social media and in private, and have been introduced to a whole host of amazing women in the industry as a result, with the intention of profiling another twelve this time next year.
In the meantime we want to thank everyone for taking the time to speak to us about a topic that just a few years ago would have been far more challenging to vocalise in an open and honest way.
We hope to keep the conversation going for years to come and look forward to speaking to investors from all sorts of different backgrounds in the future.
Meet the changing face of UK VC:
- Ophelia Brown, founder at Blossom Capital
- Suki Fuller, cofounder of Salaam Ventures
- Check Warner, cofounder of Diversity VC
- Lillian Li, cofounder of Diversity VC and investor at Eight Road Ventures
- Megumi Ikeda, managing director of Hearst Ventures
- Anya Navidski, founding partner of Voulez Capital
- Maren Bannon, cofounder and partner at Jane VC
- Laura Connell - principal at Balderton Capital
- Esther Delignat-Lavaud Rodriguez, investor at Oxford Capital
- Suzanne Ashman-Blair, partner at LocalGlobe
- Siobhan Clarke, partner at Episode 1 ventures
- Cassandra Harris, advisor at The Billion Dollar Fund for Women