Change must happen from the top. We need to increase the number of female partners in venture firms. As the number of senior women increases, the numbers of females at all levels will increase. Don’t wait for vacancies on your board to open. Instead, engage female leaders with your firm and provide them with a platform to be thought-leaders and speakers at your events. Empower them to make the move.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Floyd, founding Managing Director of Storm Ventures. He focuses on early stage enterprise SaaS and has primarily invested in applications and cloud infrastructure related companies. Ryan works with Code2040, a nonprofit organization that creates pathways to educational, professional, and entrepreneurial success in technology for underrepresented minorities. He also blogs about enterprise start-ups, tech and venture capital at Ryanfloyd.org. When he’s not in the office, Ryan spends his time surfing and with his family.
Thank you so much for joining us! According to this article in Fortune, only 2.2% of VC dollars went to women in 2018. Can you share with our readers what you or your firm is doing to help close the VC gender gap?
The first thing is making sure we have our door open and the best female founders in enterprise and b2b want to come meet with us. We look at our opportunity set and ask ourselves if we have missed opportunities with female founders and if so, why have we missed them? I believe a big part of the problem is access, whether it’s female founders or other minorities. If we can provide access to capital that is the first step. The number of minority founders we have backed has gone up substantially from when we started Storm but we still have a way to go.
Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the VC gender gap, and explain?
1. VC hiring is often done quietly and through personal networks, which can lead to the echo effect and teams failing to diversify. If you have an opening at your investment firm, broaden your search for candidates beyond your immediate network.
2. Ensure the women in your firm advance to senior positions by supporting their development as leaders in the boardrooms of your portfolio companies. This will broaden the experience and increase confidence for others to follow.
3. Make it a goal to become a firm with a reputation for driving change as this will attract a broader range of applicants. This is a nuance many do not understand. Making your values clear and acting on them will help increase the pool of candidates that will be interested in working with you.
4. Change must happen from the top. We need to increase the number of female partners in venture firms. As the number of senior women increases, the numbers of females at all levels will increase. Don’t wait for vacancies on your board to open. Instead, engage female leaders with your firm and provide them with a platform to be thought-leaders and speakers at your events. Empower them to make the move.
5. Firms should make a conscious effort to focus on enhancing their venture power network with more diversity in general. This should include working with portfolio companies that embrace and understand the value of diversity.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am not sure about an actual movement but taking action in your daily life is critical. If I could inspire more people to do this one thing, it would push us all in the right direction. We have the opportunity to interact with many founders and executives and other investors and board members in the course of day-to-day business. We work with founders early in their careers and help them figure out how to grow and succeed as their business grows no matter what their background, experience, gender, ethnicity etc. It takes work sometimes to put some of these critical issues into practice but our core value as a company is to nurture founders and entrepreneurs to become leaders. We can’t expect them to already be that.
Who’s a female entrepreneur/ VC you respect and why?
There are many! But to give one example, I have enjoyed working with Maha Ibrahim at Canaan over many years. We have invested together and have experienced both wins and losses. You learn a lot about how people operate in difficult times. She is someone I would want to be in the trenches with me any time.
What do you think is the purpose and real impact of VC funds who focus their work on women and minorities?
The data suggests that some of those diversity-targeted funds deliver superior returns to many other funds based on common benchmarks. Kapor Capital recently released fund data, (https://www.blackenterprise.com/kapor-capital-impact-report-challenges-other-vcs-to-invest-in-gap-closing-companies/) showing that its ‘Impact Portfolio’ ranked in the top quartile of venture funds of comparable size.
While I would like to believe these funds are a “moment in time” phenomena — indicating that women and minorities have already established equal access to capital — in reality, they do not yet. Having a fund focused on these opportunities is a great way to build a differentiated offering and as a result getting to see some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs that others might be missing.
Can you share with us an anecdote about the real impact you’ve had in this field?
We as a firm are trying to do what we can to do a better job of reaching a broader audience of entrepreneurs including women and minorities. One of the people on our team has started a group called BLCKvc (https://www.blackenterprise.com/how-this-venture-capitalist-plans-to-increase-the-number-of-black-investors/). We continue to encourage him to spend time building the community. Another simple example is that whenever we do a board search for independent board members, I actively look for diversity in candidates. We also work with groups like Athena Alliance to help us source candidates and I know the founder, Coco Brown personally. She is a great force in driving change in this area. https://athenaalliance.org/
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
That’s easy. Oprah. She has accomplished so much in life but has also figured out how to be a human being. There are few as successful as she is in business that also seem to find a path into being human and understanding people and have empathy and a real understanding for the human condition. She is inspiring. Tell her I am free for breakfast anytime!
Thank you so much for these great insights!