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Sold Out 1st Mondays Event – The Fight Towards Equitable Access to Capital, Full Panel Recording & Pictures

Posted: March 6, 2024

By Ella Napata

1st Mondays March 2024

Well over 250+ startup community members came together for the sold-out 1st Mondays event at the ClickUp HQ in Downtown San Diego. Attendees enjoyed a panel discussion around the award-winning movie Show Her the Money and learned about the harsh reality that less than 2% of Women-led startups are VC-funded. The panel was moderated by Cheryl Goodman, Startup San Diego Vice Chair, and accompanied by panelists:

  • Silvia Mah, CEO of She Invests!, Chairwoman & Founder of Stella
  • Azin Radsan van Alebeek, Co-founder and General Partner at Emmeline Ventures
  • Grace Chui-Miller, Chief Financial Officer at Correlation Ventures
  • John Majeski, CEO at Portola Valley Partners

These accomplished investors and entrepreneurs shared their perspectives on the funding disparity for female founders. The conversation highlighted both the obstacles women face and strategies for overcoming them.

Overcoming Bias and Proving the Value of Diversity

One of the central themes of the panel was the persistent bias and skepticism that women still encounter when seeking funding or pitching business ideas. John Maciejewski, CEO of Portola Valley Partners, recounted how bringing gender diversity to his past company proved transformative, allowing the company to break through a stubborn revenue ceiling and achieve growth.

“After doing assessments, an industrial psychologist said the problem was that we were all alike – there was no diversity or tension,” John Majeski explained. “Once we brought in a diverse workforce and perspectives, our revenue just started growing.”

Sylvia Mah, an investor who has backed more than 160 companies led by women and minorities, drives home the point: “Women are pounding the pavement with incredible ideas that don’t fit the traditional VC pattern-matching model.”

The Power of Community and Aligned Values

The panelists emphasized the importance of building and nurturing communities of support to navigate the funding challenges. Silvia of Stella Angels highlighted how their firm facilitates connections between founders and aligns later-stage investment partners to avoid low valuation “lowballing” at the exit.

Silvia added that beyond just funding, it’s crucial for founders to find investors who share their core values and vision for the company’s path. She cited one founder who prioritized an “acq-hire” exit to ensure her entire team secured roles, reflecting the culture and ethos she had built.

Reframing the “Nurturing” Mindset

Panelist Grace Chui-Miller argued that the innate “nurturing” nature often ascribed to women is an asset, not a liability, in entrepreneurship. “Nurturing your customers and community builds loyalty and revenue,” she asserted.

View the Full 1st Mondays Panel ft. VCs Focused on Investing in Women-Led Startups

Azin Radsan Van Alebeek
Azin Radsan Van Alebeek

Echoing the importance of an empathetic, customer-centric approach, fellow panelist Azin Radsan van Alebeek added, “When you elevate and unlock a woman’s potential, all boats rise.”

Join the Virtual Viewing and Q&A Panel of Show Her the Money This Friday, March 8th 6 PM PST

The Funding Journey Starts with Self-Belief

While venture capital grabs headlines, the panelists advised founders to explore multiple capital sources aligned with their vision – from bootstrapping and tapping friends/family to crowdfunding platforms. Underlining this point, John shared:

“If founders haven’t first tried raising funds from their closest circles, it’s a non-starter for us investing. We need to see they’ll be good stewards of our capital as they were of their own and their supporters.”

The panel made clear that while the road is challenging, women are steadily gaining ground by banding together, rewriting the narrative around their strengths, and stubbornly persisting in the face of doubt and bias. As Azin affirmed, “For those who just don’t get it yet, that’s fine – it means more opportunity for those of us who do.”

Join us for the Virtual Screening & Panel on Friday, March 8th, From 6:00 – 8:00 PM PST 

This upcoming Friday, join us and the startup community for a virtual screening starting at 6:00 PM, and a virtual Q&A with some of the creators of the show. Moderating the panel will be Startup San Diego Vice Chair, Cheryl Goodman; joining her will be: 

  • Wendy Ryan, CEO at Kadabra. 
  • Vicky Pasche, Founder & CEO at Dapper Boi. 
  • Charisse Pasche, Co-Founder & COO at Dapper Boi.

See you at the virtual screening and Q&A! Make sure to get your tickets soon. 

Ella Napata

March 28, 2024
8 min read