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Putting Our Money Where Our Values Are: Announcing a New Venture Capital Fund, How Women Invest

By Tamara Berner Gracon, Jen Hotes & Jen McClure

This summer, in addition to the significant challenges presented by COVID-19, we’ve been focusing on addressing the challenge of racial injustice. What if one of the ways to achieve justice and parity for Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color in leadership is to fund female and BIPOC founders? What if we supported the growth of these women-led enterprises to become industry and market leaders with diverse teams? What if we backed our stated values with actual capital investment?

Today, we are very excited to join our fellow Founding Limited Partners in announcing the launch of How Women Invest, a new venture fund dedicated to shifting the venture capital landscape by supporting women-led companies, with a focus on women of color. Founded by Julie Castro Abrams, CEO of How Women Lead, and co-managing partner, Erika Cramer, the core mission of How Women Invest is to bring gender equity to both the founders and funders ecosystem. In fact, more than half of How Women Invest’s Limited Partners are women of color.

Historically, female-led businesses attract less than three percent of venture capital, despite generating significantly better returns to investors – on average more than 25%. While 40% of companies in the US are founded by women, and they have proven to be more cash-efficient and more likely to return revenue at a higher rate, they receive only 2.7% of funding. Even less than that goes to women founders of color, and the numbers have been declining even further during the COVID-19 crisis. And, just this month the press crowed about another female Fortune 500 CEO, bringing the total to 38. Thirty eight?! Should we really be celebrating that, given that women make up more than half our population and hold more than 60% of graduate degrees, yet fewer than eight percent of the top jobs in corporate America are held by women?

How Women Invest will support visionary female founders who are building next-generation solutions and are re-imagining the world and the way we live our lives. The fund will provide these innovative startups with access to capital, mentorship and a deep network of industry experts required to successfully catapult their businesses. Investment decisions are enhanced by an investment council comprised of investment experts who cover a broad of range of industry sectors and corporate stages of growth. Strategic advisors support How Women Invest’s operations and ensure that the firm and its investment vehicles serve our investors with the highest quality of service and engagement.

Our Stories – Why We Got Involved:

Jen McClure, CEO, JEM:  I have been focusing on ways to feel empowered, empower others and to use this challenging time to do what I can to help address the systemic inequities that have become even more apparent during this COVID-19 crisis through bold new solutions.  As part of this focus, I am so pleased, honored and excited to be a founding LP in How Women Invest. And, as the CEO of a SBA certified Women-owned Small Business, and one of the few management consulting firms to be led by an all-women C-suite, we, as a leadership team, are delighted to have the opportunity support this new fund and the start-up companies it funds. Together, with the other Limited Partners of How Women Invest, we have a unique, exciting and unprecedented opportunity to participate in building a new and improved future of business and society.

Tamara Gracon, COO, JEM & Member Consultant, Consultants Collective: Since my first stint in investment banking right out of business school, I have been interested in venture capital. My business school reunion highlighted the gender disparity in funded entrepreneurs. As a long-time advocate for gender parity and dedicated mentor to many women through the years, I saw a VC dedicated to women founders as a way to bring together these passions. 

Jen Hotes, CFO, JEM & Member Consultant, Consultants Collective: As a Global Advisor for How Women Lead’s Women Leaders of the World, a financial expert and a passionate advocate for gender parity, this VC fund that is dedicated to addressing these issues enables me to put my money and my expertise where my values are.

Collectively, throughout our careers, we have worked in companies big and small across the US. Seldom have they been led by women. We have participated in diversity and inclusion programs, women’s leadership activities, and sensitivity training. All of them were well-intentioned. Many were quite good. Some moved the needle. None have created true parity. The way to create parity is to put our money where our values are and support women-owned businesses. Today, as century-old enterprises (along with many startups) are shutting their doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, we are all focusing on rebuilding the economy and business. As HWI managing partner Erika Cramer said on Bloomberg News recently, “A successful recovery and return to growth in GDP are dependent upon the untapped leverage generated by female-founded companies that drive this economy.”

We all have a unique opportunity to finally move the needle and change the future of business and society. If you have the means and ability, we invite you to join us in supporting the next wave of emerging women-led enterprises.

NOTE: A couple of things to keep in mind: Venture funding requires certain asset/income requirements. Both venture capital and angel investing are considered high-risk investments. This article is not a solicitation to any venture fund nor should it be construed in any way as given investment advice.

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