A Male VC’s Perspective on Gender Lens Investing: Not Just Another Pretty Face

Mark Danchak and Anna Kanner co-founded Carbon6 Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm in Westport, Conn., in 2013. We visited Danchak at Macchiato, an upscale espresso bar in mid-town Manhattan, to get one man’s view of gender-lens investing.

“Honestly, I just think of it as investing,” he says.

lens-640x480Danchak doesn’t specifically pursue investments through a gender lens.  But when he reviewed Carbon6’s portfolio, he realized 40 percent of the CEOs were female, “not because of mandate but because of merit.”

In their portfolio are companies like Handwriting.io, led by CEO Eloise Bune; Mavin.co, which was co-founded by Raina Kumra: and FischerBlock.com, with co-founder Margaret Paietta. Danchak says Carbon6 is still in stealth mode on two more investments in companies with female CEOs.

Women are not just another pretty face. Dudes just don’t believe it yet.Mark Danchak

He does agree that a “gender lens” helps draw attention to the need for a change in the “normative heuristics,” or received assumptions, of venture capital, at a time when 93 percent of venture capitalists are men, and 72 percent are white men.

The VC imbalance makes it harder for women entrepreneurs to succeed as well. Danchak points to Sahil Raina’s recent article in the Harvard Business Review that tried to explain the venture capital financing gap for female-led startups. Raina found that only 17 percent of female-led startups exited their VC funding (via an acquisition or IPO), compared to 27 percent of male-led startups. When startups are financed by VCs with female partners, that difference disappears, Raina concludes.

“Those VCs are either better at selecting women-led projects or better at advising them, or both,” Raina writes. The headline on the article: “The Gender Gap in Startup Success Disappears When Women Fund Women.”

Carbon6 pursues what Danchak calls “gender-neutral” investing. That reflects his belief that gender (and racial) diversity improves corporate outcomes as well as that emerging fund managers, and entrepreneurs, are increasingly female and people of color.

Women are not “just another pretty face,” Danchak argues. “Dudes just don’t believe it yet.”

How do we get to a better place? Data collection, education, culture change, tax incentives and, only if necessary, mandates (such as requirements attached to public matching funds or other mechanisms).

“There’s too much VC talk and not enough walk on investing in women,” says Danchak.  “If we really want to change the future, we need to get this ball rolling.”

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