The Scotiabank Women Initiative sat down with Elaine Kunda, Founder and Managing Partner of Disruption Ventures – Canada’s first woman-owned venture capital fund. She addressed the obstacles she faced as a woman in working in the industry. Here’s what she said.
Raising a venture capital fund is difficult for everyone, whether you’re a man, a group of men or a woman. It’s been particularly challenging as a woman being the first in the country to do what I do. I hope to prove to other women that it’s possible and help them be successful so that other investors recognize there’s an incredible opportunity to invest in emerging female fund managers.
In recent years, the venture capital industry has really struggled in funding female-founded companies. I have statistics from 2018 that indicate that only 2.2% of venture dollars went to female-founded companies, in 2017 it was only 2%, and that to me is a rounding error. I think that now is the time to focus as obviously what’s been done, isn’t working. If there are biases or if there are reasons why women aren’t getting funded, having a focus can help to eliminate those biases that could be preventing women from getting the funding that they need.
Often, women business leaders have to solve different problems than men, and right now, they are struggling to access capital and therefore struggling to commercialize their businesses. My vision for the future of women in venture capital is women who deserve to raise money and access capital will be able to do so without the struggles that they’ve experienced in the past. I hope that through Disruption Ventures, and other funds like mine, we can prove that there is value in investing in this under-represented and under-utilized segment of the population.
As an industry, we’re missing out on huge opportunities and on the solutions that would be brought to the table if women were able to access capital more readily. I believe that there is a lot of technology that is starting to come into fruition that will be life changing for women as a whole, especially in the areas of fem-tech and health tech.
An overwhelming percentage of female leaders tend to share certain attributes that are important to the success of their businesses; particularly empathy, resourcefulness, resiliency and high EQ.
Empathy is an extremely under-valued skill in business. Empathy helps you to understand your buyers and your stakeholders, and when you use empathy, it can help you understand what motivates people and can be instrumental in solving problems. You can uncover opportunities that are beneficial for both sides. Because women have traditionally struggled to raise capital, they’ve been forced to become resourceful and resilient in building their businesses. That is an incredible tool because as you expand and scale, you can understand how to be capital efficient. When women are able to access capital or raise money, they become much more efficient and can do more with less.
There is definitely a double standard in the industry of venture capital. Women are quite often encouraged to aim smaller, not to bite off more than they can chew, whereas men are encouraged to shoot for the stars. It’s unfortunate because in many cases their first instinct is right, and the problem that they’re trying to solve is beneficial and can be solved. They just need people to not only believe in them but, also provide capital.
Women should believe in themselves; they need to understand their power and they need to be willing to trust themselves to take a risk. Not everything is going to work. Not every start-up, not every situation, not every task that you take on it is going to be successful, but the learning that you get from it will be invaluable. If I could give women one piece of advice, it is to trust your instinct, trust yourself, and believe in yourself.