"I've noticed that many female founders are more conservative when talking about their personal accomplishments and contributions versus their male counterparts (who conversely overemphasis theirs)." - Stephanie Palmeri, SoftTech VC By Abby Goldman (Producer, General Assembly)
Venture capitalist Stephanie Palmeri will be one of over 20 venture capitalists and founders speaking this Saturday at General Assembly’s Assembled Capital: A Founders’ Guide to Fundraising event. Save 15% on your ticket with discount code “Women2" when you register here. She is a Principal with SoftTech VC, where she invests in early-stage Internet and mobile startups. We talk to her about her fundraising advice for entrepreneurs, and her journey to becoming an investor.
What was your path to becoming a venture capitalist?
Stephanie Palmeri: "A one-way ticket to SF, two suitcases, several generous friends with spare couches, plus one fateful email to SoftTech VC's founder Jeff Clavier. Prior, I spent the first decade of my career in NYC, working in consulting, marketing and product roles at large companies, startups and accelerators."
What do you like most about what you do?
Stephanie Palmeri: "Hands down, for me it’s the people. I get to meet smart, interesting people who want to change the world every day. And, once in a while, I get to say 'yes' and play an early role in helping founders turn their vision into a reality."
What percentages of your investments are companies led by female vs. male founders?
Stephanie Palmeri: "Roughly 10-15% of our current fund’s investments have a female founder or co-founder. That percentage is on par with the percentage of female-led deals in our pipeline. SoftTech VC invests in great founders, regardless of gender, but our female founders include Victoria Ransom (Wildfire, acquired by Google), Melody McCloskey (StyleSeat), Tracy Sun (PoshMark), and two recent deals I've led – Michelle Lam (True & Co.) and Carly Gloge (Ubooly)."
Overall, have you noticed any differences between having a woman or man pitch you?
Stephanie Palmeri: "I've noticed that many female founders are more conservative when talking about their personal accomplishments and contributions versus their male counterparts (who conversely overemphasis theirs). Have trouble talking about yourself? Brag to a point where you are comfortably uncomfortable."
What is the best pitch you've heard from a founder? Who was it and what made it great?
Stephanie Palmeri: "I hear hundreds of pitches a year. For me, the most memorable ones come from founders who share their own unique backstories that tie into their startups. Whether you are a former teacher building solving a classroom issue (like Sam Chaudhary from Class Dojo) or the driver of a twenty-year old car frustrated with high mechanic fees (like Art Agrawal from YourMechanic), an authentic story reveals your motivation, relevant experience and passion for your business."
Is there any advice you give female founders specifically about fundraising?
Stephanie Palmeri: "Ask the people in your network for an introduction – don't be shy! Not a single SoftTech VC investment (130 total and counting) has come in cold. And if you are fortunate enough to have multiple connections to a VC, be organized and leverage the strongest tie possible."
What specific tips or advice do you have for first-time female founders preparing their pitch?
Stephanie Palmeri: "If you are pitching a female-targeted business to male investors, don't assume the VC you pitch will naturally relate to your customer’s problem. Your job is to bridge some non-obvious gaps in understanding. Saying 'women are addicted to shopping' isn't enough. Our portfolio company PoshMark demonstrates how shopping is addictive with metrics - female users spend 20–25 minutes per day engaging with the app."
Do you think the next generation will have a more balanced gender ratio in the tech space? What steps do we need to take to get there?"
Stephanie Palmeri: "Yes, absolutely. We need more visibility into female role models who are already here to inspire new women to join us. It means spotlighting a wider range of women in tech - through panels, keynotes, in the media, and at our companies. And this also means we, as women, need to be willing to step up when such opportunities present themselves."
Women 2.0 members: What opportunities have presented themselves that you have stepped up for? Let us know in the comments!
About the guest blogger: Abby Goldman is a New Markets Programming Producer at General Assembly, a global network of campuses for technology, business and design. She is based in San Francisco where she is producing General Assembly’s classes and workshops. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Business from Northwestern University. Follow her on Twitter at @GA_SF.