Illuminate Ventures announces a $20 million fund to continue investing in early-stage cloud startups during what founder Cindy Padnos calls the “golden age of enterprise investing.”

By Betsy Mikel (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)

Since Cindy Padnos founded Illuminate Ventures in 2009, her team has focused on finding, funding and accelerating innovative software companies in the B2B cloud computing space. With its new $20 million fund, Illuminate Ventures will continue to invest in cloud-based software startups.

“Our goal is to help founding teams validate their go-to-market strategies and to demonstrate through customer and partner traction that they are ready to apply larger amounts of capital that will allow them to scale rapidly,” said Padnos, who is an entrepreneur herself with one IPO and two M&A exits.

As a micro VC, Illuminate Ventures typically invests between $1 million to $3 million in early-stage enterprise and mobile software startups; they fill the gap between angel capital and large funding rounds from traditional VC firms.

The female-led investing team — with several successful women in tech on its Business Advisory Council — tries to support female entrepreneurs in a variety of ways.

“We believe that gender should never be part of the criteria when making an investment decision, but that it should also never be allowed to be a barrier,” Padnos said.

High Performance Entrepreneurs: Women in High-Tech, a comprehensive whitepaper Padnos authored with two MBA researchers from Carnegie Mellon, has helped highlight the high level of success and fantastic growth in women’s entrepreneurship in the tech sector.

A significant portion of the Illuminate portfolio is made up of female founders, including Shanna Tellerman (the founder and CEO WildPockets who recently became the first female partner on the investing team at Google Ventures, and who also served as a judge at Women 2.0’s recent PITCH competition) and Kira Makagon (the founder and president of Red Aril who is now EVP, Innovation at Ring Central.)

Do you think VC firms should seek out startups founded or run by women?

Betsy Mikel is a freelance copywriter and content strategist who helps brands, businesses and entrepreneurs tell their stories. A journalist at heart, her curiosity drives her to find something new to learn every single day. Follow her on Twitter at @betsym.