I entered the world of venture capital against the odds. I was only 23 years old, didn’t have a technical degree and I’m a woman. The firm that hired me as an associate, Flybridge Capital, later told me that it came down to me and another candidate: a man with a computer science degree. Why did they choose me?
I met the Flybridge team in April 2010 and was hired that October. I was committed to showing them that I could be successful in the role. Before I was offered the job, I essentially did the job of a venture capital associate, only without the pay. I spent my evenings and weekends joining startup hackathons and bootcamps, taking coding classes to build my technical skills and networking with prominent entrepreneurs, angel investors and mentors in the venture capital field. Each month, I compiled a list of 10-15 new companies that I thought the firm should have on their radar, and made a case for one in three of them as potential investment opportunities. By the end of those six months, Flybridge Capital received unsolicited emails and calls from entrepreneurs, angel investors and others whom I had met. They were calling to recommend that Flybridge hire me, evidently, I had made a strong impression on them.
During my two years at Flybridge, I sourced and led two investment deals with startups that were eventually acquired, one by AppNeta and the other by Twitter. In 2013, I helped make a big venture win happen by introducing the founders of Crashlytics to each another, which led to an early investment by Flybridge in that company. How did I find Crashlytics?
The career path to venture capital is not straight for men or women; people typically join venture capital after climbing a jungle gym of startups. Women very rarely make that climb. And as long as women entrepreneurs onlyreceive 7% of venture funding, this gap will not be closed. Instead of waiting for these numbers to change in our favor, women like me, are creating our own opportunities.As a young investor without an existing network in technology or venture capital circles, I wasn’t getting emails, introductions or invitations to events. So I created my own event: the Angel Dinner Series, a monthly intimate dinner where talented entrepreneurs looking to raise seed funding could meet and talk with prominent angel investors. When I created the invitation list for each dinner, I aimed to ensure that at least one-third of the entrepreneurs were women. I also created Founder Fairs, an event modeled on science fairs where entrepreneurs can display their business ideas on digital art screens to a room full of engineers. Eventually, these events paid off, both for me as a young entrant into the venture capital field and for my team at Flybridge.
How did I muster up the courage to go after my dreams? Through a daily practice of developing my internal compass, cutting out the noise of external validation and focusing on investing in myself. This practice of investing in self is key in getting more young women to consider technology opportunities.
From a young age, girls in our media-saturated world are inundated with images of makeup, beauty, fashion products that we’re told we need to feel our best. What young women need is strong counter-messaging to define their own measures of self-worth, one that contradicts media’s narrow definition of what makes a woman complete and praiseworthy. This is why I founded, So She Did, a nonprofit with a mission to help young women better invest in themselves through an online resource of actionable tools and exercises for personal and professional growth. Additionally, campus societies at colleges across the country will offer workshops around healthy dating, career visioning, negotiations and other life skills.
Ms. Song is a venture capitalist and founder of So She Did.
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