New venture fund focuses on female founders

We caught up with Lisa Calhoun, general partner at Valor Ventures, about her new fund V1 and why it focuses on female founders.

Why the name Valor Ventures?

Valor means courage with honor. The best entrepreneurs show their valor as they bring innovation to life. We celebrate that hero in every founder.

logo 1Why does your first fund invest in female founders?

Our insight is that female founders are undervalued overachievers. To the extent that this thesis has been documented, initial evidence looks like we’re onto something. For example, First Round’s latest report was that teams with female founders outperformed male only teams by 63%. You can see a lot more of the statistics around why we are bullish on teams with female founders here in Inc. Magazine.

Does this mean you don’t invest in men?

Our partnership invests in real innovation. We believe the best ideas come from the edges, not the mainstream. We focus on finding undervalued overachievers who target a big market, have an innovative business model, and customer traction. You can find out more about our process here.

We’re happy to see any kind of gender identity composition in a founding team for Valor’s first fund, V.1, as long as it includes a female founder. (See why above.)

There are a lot more men creating startups than women, right?
Aren’t you limiting your options to create great returns?

Perception isn’t always reality. The reality is, women start 3 out of 5 businesses today (US Census). It’s true that right now, 80% of the startups pitching at venture events are all-male teams but that does not mean that more startups are driven by men. Our interest isn’t who’s got more, but who’s more likely to have the next awesome, unthought-of innovation. Our partners are convinced innovation comes from the outside in, not the inside out. Any where there’s a lot of homogeneity, innovation suffers. Let’s also look at the scale—we’re on track to see over $50 billion in venture invested this year—a niche  fund like V.1 has more than enough room.

So you help women entrepreneurs with V.1?

The entrepreneurs we are investing in have proven businesses with a track record. They don’t need “help.” We expect these founders to change the world in many ways—including helping our investors get a great return!

Women entrepreneurs are sometimes characterized as difficult or different. What’s your take on that?

Investors with actual experience with female founders often characterize them as—entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are different. They’re people who bring a great gift to the world—a new business. That personality type and unusual perspective is necessary to create change. Steve Jobs, Steve Ballmer—are they overly emotional, too demanding, prima donnas, or simply unusual? Unusual perspectives drive exceptional change. With any founder, you can’t expect “typical” and “average.”  If they were typical or average, they’d be in another line of work.

Who is investing in V.1?

Sophisticated, accredited investors, family offices, and funds of funds that are looking for great returns. A few of our investors invest because they also believe that female tech founders outpunch their weight class. We are one of the few options for that investor.

94% of the venture industry is male and 93% of venture capital currently flows to male-only teams, according to Babson’s Diana Project, despite the fact that 20% of the firms going for venture have women, according to CrunchBase.

How can founders see if they’re a fit for V.1?

It’s just as important that our partnership and team are a fit for them—but to kick off the process, sharing an executive summary or pitch deck with us on our website is the usual start. We try to respond with rejections in 48 hours, and so if it takes longer, it’s a good sign our team is discussing the merits. We respond to every founder deck we receive.

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