What did you eat for breakfast today?
Cheerios—today and most days.
What do you look for as a VC? What is a good “kind of company” for you these days?
As a VC evaluating investment opportunities, I look to answer what I call “the 3 why’s”: (1) why is this a big market opportunity and/or big pain point? (2) why will this team and this solution win (assuming, like is often the case, that there are multiple startups tackling the same problem now or in the near future), and (3) why now?
In terms of the team, I look for founders who are scrappy (able to accomplish a lot on few resources) and who are flexible and able to respond/shift their approach based on market feedback. I like to ask founders what they have learned so far, or what surprises they have encountered to get a sense for their ability to respond and adapt. Successful entrepreneurs generally react quickly to new information and iterate quickly on their product.
Trinity invests in early-stage technology companies in North America. We are lead or co-lead the first or second institutional financings for startups. My particular area of focus is mobile e-commerce and services, marketplaces and information services.
I became a VC because I love being in the flow of innovation, constantly learning about new ideas, and working with entrepreneurs to shape those ideas into enduring businesses. It’s hard to imagine a more stimulating job. And it’s addictive in a good way—there is always a new frontier of technology to be explored—which is why I have stayed a VC. Also, when I think about why I have stayed a VC, I credit the incredible culture at Trinity Ventures, which is based on mutual respect, intellectual honesty, and collaboration. That is how we work internally as a team, and with our entrepreneurs.
What are some of the bright spots in the future of the venture industry, in your opinion?
The venture industry thrives on technology disruption and there is a lot of disruption at the moment, in particular with the adoption of mobile technology and cloud computing. Our core areas of investment reflect these major disruptions: SaaS, IT infrastructure and security, mobile e-commerce and services, and digital media.
Another bright spot from an industry structure perspective is the proliferation of micro-VC funds, several of which have been founded by women!
How could startups (by our readers) get on your radar? Tips? Advice?
We are approached by over ten thousand startups for investment every year, so our email boxes are pretty clogged. The best way to get on our radar is to leverage LinkedIn and other social media to get a warm introduction from a mutual connection who can recommend you. In addition, write a concise email highlighting the problem you are solving, the key positive attributes of your business today (could be team members/advisors/investors with relevant expertise, or could be market traction or partnerships), and why it would be a fit for our fund (shows you’ve done your homework). Finally, attach an executive summary or pitch deck so that we can dig deeper if interested.
Any comment on CrunchBase now tracking female entrepreneurs?
I think it’s good to shine a spotlight on the issue of gender diversity in tech, and pulling together numbers on female entrepreneurs to form a baseline is helpful to driving a fact-based discussion. Though I have intuitively been feeling an improvement in the numbers lately, I found the CrunchBase numbers to be even better than I expected.
Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs, and if so, how?
It’s hard to generalize, but I would say that female entrepreneurs on the whole seem to be more mission-driven than their male counterparts and more focused on self-improvement.
My partner Larry Orr, who has been a great mentor to me, told me years ago to embrace being a woman in a male-dominated industry, rather than trying to ignore it. He told me it would provide me a basis for differentiation within the VC industry, both in backing female entrepreneurs and investing behind businesses serving the female consumer. As a result, I developed an investment thesis around the “she-economy” that formed the basis for our investments in Care.com, zulily, and thredUP, among others.