Strategic Investors: Profiles of investors with strategies to consider.
Too little of the money flowing from the male-dominated world of venture capital flows to the women who found some of the world’s most innovative companies. That much is well established. One reason? Less than 10% of decision-making staff at U.S. venture capital firms are women, Axios found earlier this year.
Initiatives aimed at addressing this problem have proliferated in recent years, and one of the latest is the Houston-based Artemis Fund.
Founded by three experienced female venture capitalists in March 2019, Artemis will focus on seed and series funding for female-based firms with novel technologies or business models. Artemis awarded its first $100,000 on April 6 to a firm incubated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Zilper Trenchless, in exchange for a pledge to move to Houston and hire female executives if they close their funding round.
Stephanie Campbell, one of the co-founders of The Artemis Fund, also is managing director of the Houston Angel Fund, a well-established in the VC world and a big investor in healthcare startups. Her two partners also have deep alternative investment credentials. Leslie Goldman is a board member at HAF and Diana Murakhovskaya is a former Wall Street trader, corporate counsel and co-founder of the New York-based Monarq Incubator, which also funds women-led projects.
“There is a wealth of female leadership in the Houston innovation ecosystem, and we would like to see the same representation in the investor the investor community to help female founders thrive,” says Campbell.
She spoke with Karma Network’s Contributing Editor Michael Moran.
Michael Moran: What is the Artemis Fund and how did it come about?
Stephanie Campbell: The Artemis Fund is a $20 million fund looking to invest in 30 to 40 Seed or Series A women-led deals. When I say “women-led” it has to be either a co-founder or someone on the executive team with equity. When I say deals, since we’re already limiting ourselves to women-led teams, we’re not going to limit ourselves in terms of industry but it has to be tech-enabled. So it won’t be consumer products unless it has some kind of e-commerce or some kind of tech in the way that it’s brought to the consumer.
Michael Moran: Besides targeting startups founded or run by women, what are you looking for in the companies you plan to invest in?
Campbell: The way we get deals comes from our networks. The Houston Angel Network is one of the most active in the United States, so the inbound is just incredible. Also once you say you have a fund for female-led startups, it’s like you were overwhelmed with the number of deals.
Everyone says that “I know a fantastic woman who you need to speak with.” Another thing that we have found is that the female founders that we know are supporting each other and saying “you need to talk to this other female founder.” They’re incredible and that is something we really don’t see in male founders right? Not really promoting other people’s startups.
I think what’s going to be unique about our model is that we will create an LP Board of Advisors for our companies. So we’re looking for people who have expertise and different industries and different functions and then we’re going to ask them to dedicate so much time to our startups, to provide them the guidance that they need to make a successful company. And that’s an important point: We want them not only to grow but also to be a successful company.
Michael Moran: Do you view this kind of approach, a strategy that specifically targets as its goal to increase women’s influence in finance, a kind of impact investment strategy?
Campbell: It’s more about giving access, more women access to capital. Right now only 2% of venture capital goes to women each year. Only 9% of decision makers in venture capital are women. And so we’re creating this sort of feedback loop. There’s no women making decisions so women just aren’t getting funded and there’s data that shows that when women actually do receive venture capital they are more capital efficient and they tend to make better returns and produce higher revenues than their male counterparts. So we truly believe that if we create more successful female founders and create that wealth those founders that they will reach back and help bring up more female founders.
Michael Moran: Why haven’t ROI statistics like that led, through market forces and data analysis, to a greater share of funding for women-led businesses?
Campbell: Well, I think that it goes back to the whole point of the decision-makers. So that’s why it’s important this fund is led by women. They were specifically looking to give those women a chance.
We hope we make a difference where it no longer matters anymore. We just have the best deals, that half of them happen to be women, right?