At Pique Ventures, we applaud the tireless work that Criterion Institute has performed to advance the field of gender lens investing. From convening intimate groups of practitioners, investors, and leaders at events that focused our attention on conversations, questions, solutions, and actions to their latest collaboration with the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), Criterion Institute is one of our go-to resources in the field. Criterion Institute and GIIN have developed the Navigating Impact Gender Lens theme, accessible on the GIIN’s website. We’d paid particular attention to one part of the theme:

Increasing Venture Capital to Women-led Businesses | Navigating Impact
Despite the fact that women control roughly $20 trillion in annual customer spending globally (70–80% of total consumer purchasing), innovation and investment remains decisively in the hands of men…navigatingimpact.thegiin.org

Applying the Five Dimensions of Impact framework, the Navigating Impact Gender Lens theme provides evidence and insights around five dimensions of impact: What, Who, How Much, Contribution, and Risk.

Our friends at Criterion Institute noted that Navigating Impact Gender Lens theme helps answer these questions and more:

  • How can my investments go beyond counting the number of women in leadership positions to meet the needs of those most marginalized by current power dynamics?
  • What tools are out there to guide me in collecting meaningful data and implementing what seem like daunting changes to my investment processes?
  • What process metrics do I need to have in place in order to mitigate risk and increase the chances of achieving my desired impact?

Referring to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, navigating the impact of increasing venture capital to women-led businesses addresses SDG #5 — Gender Equality, SDG #8 — Decent Work and Economic Growth, and SDG #10 — Reduced Inequalities. We would add SDG #9 — Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure as well given the types of early-stage, innovation-driven businesses that venture capital tends to be suited to.

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Although venture capital is the source of funding for less than 10% of fast-growing firms, the impacts of venture-backed businesses are more wide-spread. These companies develop technologies that are implemented by non-venture-backed businesses and adopted by individuals. The jobs of the future are generated by venture-backed businesses or potentially eliminated or saved by them. An impact lens when investing in venture-backed businesses is important to ensure that technology helps people survive, thrive, and be happy.

The business case for investing in businesses with diversity at the leadership level and within teams is clear. They perform better, are more sustainable, and innovative over the long-term.

However, the indirect impacts and knock-on effects of the technologies, products, and services of venture-backed businesses cannot be ignored. We need diverse perspectives and leadership diversity at the helm of venture-backed companies and that is why I believe increasing venture capital to women-led businesses deserves our attention.

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I founded Pique Ventures, an impact investment firm, in 2012 to answer two key questions: How can we move money more purposefully? and Where are all the women investors? As I refined my impact lens, I arrived at an overarching lens which I refer to as “taking care of the village.”

Taking care of the village means ensuring that I, my family, my neighbors, my community, the planet, and future generations have access to the essential resources we all need to survive, thrive, and be happy.

That’s quite a mouthful, but you can think of it as concentric circles, starting with an individual and moving outwards to ever bigger spheres of people around them, interconnected by a shared goal. At the end of the day, don’t we all want to survive, thrive, and be happy?

The part about access to essential resources is key. Some people have abundant access to more resources than they’ll ever need in a lifetime. Some people don’t have basic access to food, clean water, and shelter. What we have currently are unequal access and growing inequality gaps.

To develop an investment thesis around the super-broad lens of “taking care of the village” is daunting. I had to narrow it down and find our fund’s version of product-market fit: What were fund investors motivated to invest in? What were the investment opportunities? Who was seeking capital? Who needed improved access to capital? I also wanted to ensure that the impact was meaningful — call it, product-impact fit. Through some iterations and validation, we arrived at an investment strategy that focused on leadership diversity, technology ventures, that provide access to essential resources directly through the value proposition or through economic opportunities through the supply chain or workforce.

Women-led technology startups continue to face barriers in accessing capital at the riskier, earlier stages of their business. Quoting GIIN’s Navigating Impact, “existing research into this area suggests that women are more likely than male counterparts to be motivated by social impact or build a social impact business.” [1][original reference] It seemed only natural to have both a gender lens and impact lens integrated into our investment strategy.

After being an active participant in the field of gender lens investing since 2011, I launched Pique Fund in 2014 with an investment strategy focused on investing in women-led technology ventures that make people’s lives better. Since then I have witnessed this movement grow and gain momentum.

We started with a small angel fund and have championed our portfolio company CEOs through challenges and opportunities. We amplify their voices when they celebrate diversity and successfully access growth capital, create a positive impact, and secure change-making partnerships. We are a trusted advisor providing mentorship and advice with respect to core business challenges and opportunities as well as support them in the face of biases and barriers that are presently unique to being a female CEO of a tech company. We hope that one day we won’t need to play this role as the barriers will be eliminated and as more investors support women in tech. In the meantime, we need to bolster leadership diversity in tech and to do so with an impact lens. Pique Ventures is growing and aims to increase venture capital to women-led businesses with our next fund.

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To learn more about how we invest in women-led businesses and help investors achieve impact and returns through Pique Funds, contact us. We’d love to hear from you.

About Pique Ventures

Pique Ventures is an impact investment and management company. Pique Ventures enables a diverse community of investors to pursue integrated investing. Integrated Investing is a proprietary investment decision-making methodology to help create a better world and was developed specifically to evaluate impact and early-stage ventures.

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