This enterprise capitalist needs to harness the investing energy of girls

WOODSIDE, Calif. — There’s a home located on a wooded hillside on this rich Bay Space city, its entryway shaded by a pergola coated in vines, the mountains framed by wood-trimmed home windows, stones paving a sweeping backyard.

However it isn’t your typical multimillion-dollar Bay Space dwelling. As an alternative of a sofa and a tv, the lounge is dotted with desks. As an alternative of T-ball trophies and household photographs, the gallery wall within the hallway is plastered with prints about startups engaged on males’s fertility assessments, subscription plans for egg freezing, and catheters for chemotherapy. (The kitchen, nevertheless, continues to be stocked with snacks.)

The house is the headquarters of Portfolia, an investing platform constructed from the bottom up with the objective of getting extra girls and underrepresented teams concerned in investing. To Trish Costello, a enterprise capitalist who based the platform in 2014, doing so is the important thing to altering the sorts of corporations that draw enterprise capital {dollars}, equivalent to girls’s well being startups.


“If girls need particular corporations on the earth that deal with their wants, the one approach to do this is for girls to turn into the buyers,” stated Costello.

Costello’s lengthy profession in enterprise capital has given her a transparent imaginative and prescient for Portfolia. She spent greater than a decade on the helm of the celebrated Kauffman Fellowship, a profession improvement program that has educated lots of of prime enterprise capitalists.

With Portfolia, Costello is hoping to create change. Simply over 2% of the overall capital invested in venture-backed startups final yr went to corporations based solely by girls, in keeping with information from PitchBook. Simply 11% of decision-makers at U.S.-based enterprise capital corporations managing greater than $25 million are girls, in keeping with All Increase, a corporation that helps girls within the startup and enterprise capital worlds. At many corporations, there’s only one lady investor. At others, there aren’t any girls in any respect.

Costello launched Portfolia with the objective of bringing 100,000 buyers on board by 2022. Greater than 10,000 folks have signed up for the platform to date, investing anyplace between $10,000 and $100,000.

Portfolia has thrown a giant chunk of that money into well being care. Final yr, the corporate launched the first-ever fund devoted to FemTech, or instruments tailor-made to girls’s well being. It has an “energetic getting old” fund that backs corporations engaged on menopause, treatment reminders, and different instruments that promise to “change the way in which we age.” Its FirstStep Fund, designed for considerably new buyers, just lately introduced its first funding: Prime Genomics, which is engaged on a possible strategy to detect breast most cancers in saliva. And later this yr, the corporate will launch a long life tech fund.

“Well being care is such an ideal place for girls to play. Girls are the most important consumers of well being care,” Costello stated.

STAT spoke with Costello at Portfolia’s headquarters in regards to the agency, harnessing the investing energy of girls, and her imaginative and prescient for change in enterprise capital. This dialog has been edited and condensed for readability.

What made you need to launch Portfolia?

“I’ve at all times had twin pursuits: entrepreneurship and ladies’s enterprise,” Costello stated.

Costello herself was venture-backed in her 20s, when she led a medical coaching program for physicians. And in her function on the Kauffman Fellowship, she coached lots of of fellows that now lead prime enterprise capital corporations, company funding groups, and startups. About one-third of the fellows had been girls throughout her tenure, in keeping with Costello. However she didn’t really feel like change was occurring shortly sufficient.

Trish CostelloTrish Costello Courtesy Portfolia

“Though I put among the prime girls enterprise capitalists within the enterprise, we didn’t actually transfer the needle. And we nonetheless haven’t moved the needle in enterprise. And what I noticed is that if we actually need to change enterprise capital, if we actually need to improve the form of corporations that get funded, and if girls need particular corporations on the earth that deal with their wants, the one approach to do this is for girls to turn into the buyers,” she stated.

So Costello took her experience and her psychological Rolodex of buyers and ventured out on her personal. She needed to design a platform round how she and her buddies who’re girls would need to make investments their cash. She arrange store simply up the road from Sand Hill Highway, the strip studded with so many enterprise capital corporations that its title has turn into synonymous with Silicon Valley funding. Costello believes that platforms like Portfolia will help to vary the tradition round investing — and achieve success within the course of.

“Girls are the consumers of every thing on the market. We’re the early adopters on virtually every thing enterprise capitalist-backed. And [men] usually make some actually foolish errors, as a result of they’re not those which might be {the marketplace}. … They usually again groups that don’t know what they’re doing, they usually simply must put a lot more cash in to repair it. That’s the distinction between blowing $20 million earlier than you may determine what the shopper needs, versus backing somebody who understands the shopper and doing it for $5 million,” Costello added.

How do these variations play out particularly in well being care investing?

“[Women] purchase well being care and providers and merchandise for themselves, their youngsters, their husbands, their sons. … It actually doesn’t matter if it’s male or a male or feminine downside. Girls are often the consumers,” Costello stated.

However for years, girls entrepreneurs have recounted anecdote after anecdote of operating into challenges in getting buyers who’re males to again their merchandise. One of many corporations Portfolia has backed, known as Pleasure Lux, developed gadgets to deal with the bladder management points and different pelvic ground issues which might be significantly widespread amongst girls who’ve had a vaginal start. However when its founders began scouting out funding, they hit a roadblock. Males weren’t accustomed to it, Costello stated.

“They had been all up and down Sand Hill Highway. [The founder] informed me that each time she pitched on Sand Hill Highway, it was all male VCs. And they’d say, ‘Properly, my, my spouse doesn’t have that downside.’ And she or he stated, ‘Statistically, it isn’t attainable that none of their wives have a bladder management downside,’” Costello recalled.

It’s onerous for some buyers to know girls’s well being merchandise. Costello doesn’t essentially see that as an issue — “if you happen to don’t perceive the product, you shouldn’t spend money on it,” she stated.

“However thank goodness for different locations like Portfolia, as a result of we do perceive the issue. And we’re investing.”

Earlier, you talked about that if girls need corporations based and funded to deal with their particular wants, girls must be the buyers. Does it make you mad that that’s the case?

At instances, sure — very a lot so, Costello stated. For years, she helped launch the careers of girls in enterprise capital. However she realized that wasn’t one of the simplest ways to go about creating change.

“What I noticed is that these previous methods weren’t actually constructed by girls. You may’t put one lady right into a agency [where she’s one of many investors] and suppose she’s going to make a distinction. She is available in because the youngest, and never the founder. It’ll take girls [decades] to get any form of equal footing in enterprise capital,” she stated.

That’s why Costello needed to construct a brand new system from the bottom up. She’s assured that when the agency has a handful of massive successes, Portfolia will be capable of show “what girls’s monetary and funding energy is.”

“After which you may change all of it. You don’t must struggle to get a lady in a particular enterprise fund. You simply must activate our cash and present that we’re going to make more cash than they do.”

Why do you suppose the needle hasn’t moved on girls in enterprise capital?

It is a query Costello has been desirous about for years. One concern, she stated, is that hiring only one lady or two at a agency isn’t prone to make a big effect. However one other, she stated, is the way in which by which ups and downs within the economic system affect enterprise capital.

“You’ve gotten the ups and downs. Whenever you’re on the excessive, hastily, all of those funds are hiring. And that’s after they get faith they usually begin hiring girls. In order that they rent girls on the prime of this cycle. After which when there’s a downturn, these girls are probably the most junior, their investments are younger, and they also’re most probably to fail. So what occurs? They should retrench. Then these youthful girls that got here on final, they’re often the primary ones to depart.”

Costello stated it nonetheless stays all too uncommon for girls to get a real place of energy inside enterprise capital corporations — with exceptions, in fact.

“If I’ve heard it as soon as, I’ve heard 40 girls say it. ‘All these years, after I was the one lady within the enterprise agency, I needed to discuss like the blokes. I needed to suppose like the blokes. Hardly ever would I convey a lady in entrance of them to pitch, as a result of they might query whether or not or not it was actually a superb deal.’”

Costello has mentored dozens of girls in enterprise capital. Typically, she stated, the strain of being profitable while you’re the one lady in a agency could make it troublesome to take the form of dangers that different buyers who’re males can take.

“That’s what occurs while you’re the one lady accomplice. You don’t truly get that company. We have a good time it, and we’re enthusiastic about it. However it’s a must to observe the norms and the tradition. … Whenever you’re the one one there, and also you’re the trailblazer at that agency, it’s a must to be actually cautious. That’s why I really like the funds which might be based by girls or have been taken over by girls.”

Relating to investing in well being corporations, how do you consider the science?

“For FemTech, there’s so many corporations. We in all probability checked out 600 corporations [for our fund] and winnowed it down. The 5 lead buyers will evaluation 120 or so of these. After which 20 or 30 of these will truly pitch. One of many lead buyers could have actually researched it, and she’s going to ask all of the questions. … And at the very least one lead has to agree to maneuver it ahead into diligence.”

That pitching course of occurs on a name with all the buyers in a given fund, irrespective of how a lot they’ve chipped in. They’ll ship in questions by a chat system. And in relation to the well being funds, the buyers are energetic — usually, as a result of they know the world properly. About one-third of the folks invested within the FemTech fund work in well being care. The fund consists of anesthesiologists, nurse practitioners, and OB-GYNs, Costello stated.

In some circumstances, Portfolia is among the many first to write down a verify for a enterprise. That’s crucial as an organization tries to get off the bottom, Costello stated.

“Not solely do you want that cash initially to essentially get in and examine the chance, however you additionally want it as a sign. … Folks look to [some of our investors] because the early sensible cash, and so it would usually convey different {dollars} behind it.”

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