The Investors: 19 women bridging the gender funding gap

7 Mar 2018

Image: MJgraphics/Shutterstock

Diversity is a good investment, and this group know it. These are the people helping more women to reach their funding goals.

The lack of women in investment is both a symptom and a cause of the gender gap in STEM. Sci-tech businesses led by women can struggle when met with panel after panel of male investors who don’t understand their product or their model.

We featured most of these ‘firestarters’ previously when we centred our Sci-Tech 100 investors list on those driving change in the investment monopoly. We’ve remixed this list and added some new faces – and we can’t wait to see who else joins this investment revolution.

Sara Brand

Sara Brand

Sara Brand, founder of True Wealth Ventures. Image: True Wealth Ventures

Founding general partner at True Wealth Ventures, Sara Brand is focused on supporting women entrepreneurs in consumer health and sustainable products. True Wealth holds the belief that women-led companies perform better financially and are an untapped market for investors. In a letter on her company website, Brand wrote: “Women-led businesses are underinvested in today, and I see a big opportunity to hand women the reins to drive companies to successfully bring these products to life.”

‘I see a big opportunity to hand women the reins to drive companies to success’

Brand also works with other organisations to foster greater ethnic and gender diversity in the entrepreneurial sphere, including the Rising Tide Fund, DivInc and Women@Austin.

Nisha Dua and Susan Lyne

bbg ventures

From left: Susan Lyne and Nisha Dua, BBG Ventures. Image: Gino DePinto

The powering force behind BBG Ventures, an early-stage fund that only supports start-ups that have at least one female founder, is made up of Susan Lyne and Nisha Dua.

Lyne is the president and founding partner, using her wealth of experience in the media industry to offer a helping hand to entrepreneurs in the consumer internet and mobile spheres. By her side, partner Dua is founder of the #BuiltByGirls movement, aiming to encourage young women to get involved in tech and give girls a starter education in the VC industry.

According to its website, BBG Ventures focuses on women as it feels they are the dominant users of mobile and social platforms, influencing the majority of consumer purchases. “We think it’s smart business (and plain old common sense) to invest in entrepreneurs who know the end user best.”

Anu Duggal

Women Invent 100 2018

Female Founders Fund partner Anu Duggal. Image: Noam Galai/TechCrunch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A serial entrepreneur, Anu Duggal is the founding partner of Female Founders Fund (FCubed), an early-stage investment fund focused on women-founded tech companies.

Duggal cut her teeth in entrepreneurship in India. Alarmed at the paucity of investment being made in women-led start-ups, Duggal decided to do something about it and, in 2013, she began raising money for the fund. Since then, FCubed has invested in more than 25 companies, including WayUp, Eloquii, Minibar and Tala.

‘The next generation of venture-backed businesses will have some great female founders, and we wanted to build a fund that really was at the centre of that’

Elizabeth Galbut and Pocket Sun

SoGal Ventures co-foundersPocket Sun and Elizabeth Galbut. Image: LinkedIn

From left: SoGal Ventures co-founders Pocket Sun and Elizabeth Galbut. Image: LinkedIn

Elizabeth Galbut and Pocket Sun are behind SoGal Ventures, a VC firm focusing on how the next generation lives, works and stays healthy. Instead of trying to find a seat at the table, these women have carved out their own and created a culture that aligns with their not-so-typical vision for the future of venture capital (VC).

‘SoGal Ventures will represent how far our generation has come, and how deep our impact on the world can be’

The current VC environment is 94pc male, and both women have said they have come up against patronising remarks from more established players – but this only drives them forward on their mission for a more diverse playing field.

Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop

MakeLoveNotPorn founder and investment figurehead, Cindy Gallop. Image: Connor McKenna Photography

Cindy Gallop is founder of MakeLoveNotPorn and IfWeRanTheWorld. The former is an organisation focused on talking about sex openly and honestly, while the latter is a successful social enterprise. Outside of her own ventures, Gallop is a general powerhouse and loudspeaker for women in investment.

‘I don’t wait for things to change. I make them change’

Gallop is particularly passionate about funding the sextech industry, saying that there needs to be a more ethical and honest depiction of intimacy than the current one. A major figurehead in the advertising industry, Gallop also wants to blow the lid off harassment in the field and create a more open and balanced world.

Arlan Hamilton

Arlan Hamilton on rewriting the venture capital rulebook

Arlan Hamilton speaking at Inspirefest 2017. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

‘I am the new face of venture capital’

We’ve been following Arlan Hamilton’s journey for some time now, and we’ve been enthralled every step of the way. From being homeless to setting up Backstage Capital, a $5m fund that has invested in more than 50 underrepresented founders, Hamilton is the ultimate role model, from women to people of colour to the LGBTQ community.

Tirelessly striving to support these individuals, Hamilton hopes to change the VC landscape, telling the Inspirefest 2017 audience: “I have an insatiable curiosity mixed with the love of freedom and having a say in my destiny. I am the new face of venture capital.”

Ari Horie

Ari Horie. Image:

Ari Horie is the founder and CEO of Women’s Startup Lab, “the influential luminaries in the technology sector driving radical change through the relentless pursuit of female entrepreneurial success”.

Horie wants to alter the mentality of Silicon Valley using the ‘hito’ ethic – the idea that every person is the product of a community, and can find strength in both their male and female counterparts. In a letter on her company’s blog, she offered some stirring words for women starting out: “Go wild, be bold, swing hard. If you fall, I know you’ll get up, because it’s in your DNA.”

Kathy Kelly

Kathy Kelly of Atlantic Bridge.

Kathy Kelly of Atlantic Bridge. Image: Sharppix

Kathy Kelly is an investment associate at Atlantic Bridge and is passionate about gender diversity in venture capital. A strong voice in the industry for more women-led ventures, Kelly believes that women represent the largest investment opportunity there is and wants to be part of a movement to tear down investment barriers for women.

An advocate for strong, confident women in the world of venture capital, Kelly’s enthusiasm is infectious.

‘Women need to have their voices heard in the industry; lack of access to capital and lack of awareness around this issue have been the main factors preventing women from getting the investment opportunities they deserve’

Sallie Krawcheck

Ellevest raises $34.6m to end the gender money gap

Ellevest founder and CEO Sallie Krawcheck at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in 2016. Image: TechCrunch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A formidable figure in Wall Street, Sallie Krawcheck launched Ellevest in 2016 with the aim of “redefining investment for women”. It is a wealthtech platform that manages investment portfolios using an algorithm aligning with women’s incomes and life cycles.

As CEO of Ellevest and chair of the Ellevate network, Krawcheck has been a role model for women in investment for some time now. Last month, she graced the cover of Money magazine along with other women fighting to close the gender money gap. She embodies the motto that graces the Ellevest homepage: “Invest like a woman. Because money is power.”

Aileen Lee

Aileen Lee

Aileen Lee. Image: Cowboy Ventures

Founder and managing partner at Cowboy Ventures, Aileen Lee is on a mission to invest in the most innovative seed-stage companies.

As seen in her work with Office Hours, a series of events to support female founders, Lee has been an outspoken defender of women’s rights in her field, previously lambasting the pervasive issue of gender inequality and sexism in Silicon Valley.

‘I feel like a lot of women don’t get credit for being smart, they get credit for being nice and being human’

Last year, Lee spoke to Pando about making the world of VC more people-focused: “I feel like a lot of women don’t get credit for being smart, they get credit for being nice and being human.”

Claire Lee

Silicon Valley Bank’s managing director for early-stage banking, Claire Lee. Image: Silicon Valley Bank

One of the most influential Irish people on the Silicon Valley investment scene, Wicklow native Claire Lee is managing director of early-stage banking at Silicon Valley Bank.

Lee will be a speaker at Inspirefest 2018 in July and is a recognised advocate and spokesperson for advancing efforts around equality, diversity and inclusion, and advancing women and girls in industry. She is also the founder of League of Extraordinary Women. She was personally honoured by President Obama in June 2016 for her efforts with the Global Entrepreneurship Summit and her contribution to entrepreneurship.

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Natalia Oberti Noguera. Image: Paola Kudacki

Natalia Oberti Noguera. Image: Paola Kudacki

Pipeline Angels is a network of investors aiming to transform angel investment by creating capital for women, non-binary people and men of colour. The woman behind this admirable endeavour is Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder, CEO and one of the entrepreneurs changing the world, according to Forbes.

Last year, Oberti Noguera also launched Pitch Makeover, a podcast where entrepreneurs are offered constructive feedback on their pitches from experts. In producing the podcast, she has hired a diverse workforce, outlining her conviction when it comes to giving underrepresented founders an opportunity to be seen and heard.

Anne Ravanona


Anne Ravanona, founder and CEO of Global Invest Her, speaking at Inspirefest 2017. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

We couldn’t have a list of women supporting other women in entrepreneurship without mentioning Anne Ravanona. The founder and CEO of Global Invest Her, “where women entrepreneurs get investor-ready”, Ravanona strives to create a level playing field in the world of investment to ensure that women don’t get overlooked.

For any female founder in need of investment, ideas or inspiration, Ravanona is a fount of knowledge. She spoke at Inspirefest last summer about the “unconscious bias in the hearts and minds of investors”, stressing that this is one of the many roadblocks women face on the road to getting funded.

Vicki Saunders

Vicki Saunders, SheEO (Inspirefest 2016)

Vicki Saunders, founder of SheEO, speaking at Inspirefest 2016. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Vicki Saunders is the CEO of SheEO, a global community of women with the goal to “reach 1m activators, 10,000 women-led ventures and a $1bn perpetual fund to support women for generations to come”.

‘I don’t want to put my capital into the same old dumb apps that don’t do anything in the world. I want to put my capital into female innovators’

Having successfully expanding her Canadian venture to the US and New Zealand last year, Saunders shows no signs of slowing down. In a 2017 Mashable interview, she said: “I don’t want to put my capital into the same old dumb apps that don’t do anything in the world. I want to put my capital into female innovators who are strengthening our communities.”

Julie Sinnamon

Women Invent 100 2018

Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon. Image: Luke Maxwell

Since taking the helm of Enterprise Ireland – the first woman to do so – Julie Sinnamon’s leadership has been characterised by a methodical and disciplined approach to ensuring more women founders and women-led start-ups succeed.

In 2016, she told the Inspirefest audience that the number of women entrepreneurs supported by Enterprise Ireland had tripled since 2011. And, recently, she revealed that 35pc of all high-potential start-ups backed in 2017 were women-led.

‘The job is not done. The key thing is that we keep that momentum going’

Sydney Thomas

Sydney Thomas. Image: Precursor Ventures

Sydney Thomas. Image: Precursor Ventures

Investment associate and head of operations at Precursor Ventures, Sydney Thomas is an intrinsic cog in the early-stage investment firm that values ‘people over product’. Thomas was also named the first VC in residence at list-mate Natalia Oberti Noguera’s Pipeline Angels.

Thomas teamed up with Siri Srinivas to build the Women of Color in VC network to highlight the amazing women that might get overlooked in the VC industry, and create a community and safe space for them.

Sharon Vosmek


Astia CEO Sharon Vosmek speaking at Inspirefest 2017. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Since 2007, Sharon Vosmek has been the CEO of Astia, a community of investors that is “guided by a proven philosophy that inclusivity is an essential element of innovation”.

‘My model is personal. It’s between you, me, your innovation and us changing the world’

A staunch advocate for diversity in this sphere, Vosmek returned to the Inspirefest stage last summer to hold an investor masterclass and showcase, and she outlined the three tenets of her investment model: the personal element, valuing the entrepreneur and creating solid foundations for lasting relationships.

“My model is personal. It’s between you, me, your innovation and us changing the world,” she told an enraptured audience.


Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Get your Early bird tickets now to join us in Dublin on 21 and 22 June 2018.