In June, Venture Capital Journal profiled Cindy Padnos as one of five female VCs who braved the male-dominated world of venture capital to become investors.
Padnos launched her firm, Illuminate Ventures, last year as a way to bridge what she saw as a growing gap — the difference between the amount of venture money going to women entrepreneurs (falling) and the number of women joining business and technology-focused organizations for women like the Anita Borg Institute, Women 2.0, Astia and Springboard (growing fast).
When she told people about her hunch, they were “stunned,” she says, but they also told her that if she was going to start a venture firm based on this idea, she needed data to prove her point. So she wrote a white paper — one that ended up requiring her to review over 150 research reports and bring in two summer business school interns (from Padnos’ alma mater, Carnegie Mellon) to help.
“I’ve never worked harder on any one project in my career,” she says.
Now her white paper is available. Here’s what she found: The number of women participating in business and technology is growing rapidly, and venture firms would do well to invest in women-owned firms.
Among her findings:
- High-tech companies founded by women are more capital efficient and are more likely to survive long enough to get established.
- More women are inventing fractional software patents, and they’re doing it at a faster rate than men.
- Firms that are owned or led by women are the fast growing sector of new venture funding in the U.S., growing at five times the rate of all new firms between 1997 and 2006. One portion of the white paper compares the growth of high-tech companies led by women to the growth of similar companies led by Indian immigrants to Silicon Valley, 30 years ago.
- Firms where women hold top management positions get higher returns on investment (35%) and return more money to shareholders (34%) than firms where the management is all male. Mixed-sex firms are also more innovative.
- Despite their success, capital is still a bottleneck for women entrepreneurs. Women-led companies with more than $1 million in revenue are twice as likely as male-led companies to get debt capital rather than equity capital.
- On the other hand, firms with women investors are 70% more likely to invest in a woman entrepreneur than firms that all male.
Illuminate has male advisers and welcomes talented male entrepreneurs. “We’re not crazy,” Padnos says. But she also thinks women are more comfortable with other women, because it’s human nature to feel comfortable with people who are like you.
So Illuminate’s advisory board is dominated by women — it includes heavy hitting entrepreneurs and executives like former Apple executive Heidi Roizen, VMware co-founder Diane Greene and Handspring co-founder Donna Dubinsky. They serve as mentors and coaches to Illuminate’s entrepreneurs — and what male or female entrepreneur wouldn’t want access to people with track records like theirs?
Padnos declines to discuss Illuminate’s fundraising, but the firm has invested in four portfolio companies, which are listed on its Web site. At least three of them were founded or co-founded by men.
If you want to read Illuminate’s white paper, go here.