Women continue to change the world, including the venture capital industry. In 2019, the number of firms with two or more female partners doubled to 14%, suggesting that women are becoming more and more centered in this financial playing field. Here’s a look into some of the influential women filling these seats and how they began their careers in the world of investments.
Sarah Kunst, Cleo Capital
Sarah Kunst is a data-driven angel investor that focuses on closing the gender gap in venture capital. She is the Managing Director of Cleo Capital, a venture capital firm focused on women in entrepreneurship. Sarah started her career working with major brands like Apple, Red Bull, Chanel, Mohr Davidow Ventures, and Sequoia Capital.
In 2019 Cleo Capital closed a fund at $3.5 million. Kunst scouted leaders of women-owned companies like co-founders Molly Chen and Melody McCloskey of Birchbox. When she interviewed with Marie Claire, Kunst said, “There’s a lot of data that shows that when women invest, you make more money. So I’m going to go out and focus on women who have access to really interesting investments, but don’t have money to fund them themselves.”
Gillian Munson, Union Square Ventures
A partner at one of the world’s largest private equity firms, Gillian Munson brings her multifaceted strengths to the table acting as both investor and operator of this major firm. She runs the firm from an operational standpoint while also pinpointing prospective early-stage tech companies to help fund growth. Prior to Union Square, Munson was the CFO of The Knot’s parent company, XO Group, exiting in 2018. Her background is rich in financial management and includes roles as an equity analyst, M&A leader, banker and early-stage investor.
Trish Costello, Portfolia
When Trish Costello founded Portfolia, her main objective was to position women with capital as investors of companies they believe in around the world. Portfolia has since grown to 10 funds with 44 investments in 33 companies.
The U.S. big tech and innovation industry's leading contributors are entrepreneurs. However, with only 5% of investment professionals represented in venture capital, Costello saw an opportunity to increase the disparity of women in the industry. Understanding this fact helped inspire Costello to create an opportunity to increase women's disparity in venture capital. Her extensive background includes leading the Kauffman Fellows Program, serving as Founding President of CVE Capital Corps, and mentorship in the venture capitalism industry.
Arione Simone, Fearless Fund
President and Chief Executive Officer, Arione Simone, kicked off her investing career in 2010 to inspire entrepreneurial women. Receiving her MBA from Florida State A&M, Simone is a serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, angel investor, author, and a PR & marketing specialist.
She founded the Fearless Magazine platform, and then teamed up with Keisha Knight Pulliam to invest in early stage, minority- and women-owned businesses. Together, their unique niche in entertainment affords them the opportunity to connect startups with celebrities for investments opportunities and business growth. The Fearless Fund has also fostered strong relationships with big companies such as Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Walt Disney Pictures.
Aileen Lee, Cowboy Ventures
Aileen Lee is the founder of Cowboy Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on investing in seed and startup tech companies that reimagine work and personal life and build brands that people love. With degrees from MIT and Harvard, she was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2019. Some of Cowboy Ventures’ notable investments include Dollar Shave Club, Crunchbase, and Textio.
While the venture capital ecosystem may still be a somewhat closed network, women are making an impact and entering the industry with a strong platform. Historically known as a male-dominant industry, women have stepped into key roles that drive significant growth in both fund level investments and entrepreneurial companies.