When Bonnie Foley-Wong named her firm, she chose Pique Ventures because she wanted people to be curious about the unknown, rather than be afraid of it. Seven years on, she has come to realize that we need more than just curiosity about the unfamiliar – we need courage.
She launched Pique Fund in 2014, bringing together capital from 41 investors and invested in seven women-founded technology ventures. She had conviction that all of them were improving access to essential resources by not only solving problems for their customers, but also by creating economic opportunities for people and businesses in their supply chains or workforce. Pique Fund invests with an impact lens and Bonnie strove to develop a portfolio of companies with a high bar of financial returns AND impact. She knew that some impact-focused companies needed more support to develop viable business models and some commercializing companies needed more support to articulate and communicate their impact.
Pique Fund was Bonnie’s minimum viable product and from it she validated that entrepreneurs – women in particular – wanted capital from Pique and also valued the capital raising advice, connections, mentorship, and championship that she provided. Pique Fund invested at seed stage and followed on in later stages where possible. One of Pique’s portfolio companies, Beanworks, an accounting workflow automation company, led by CEO Catherine Dahl, raised a $10 million Series B investment round in 2018, and Pique Fund, an investor since 2015, was able to participate. Another company in the portfolio surpassed $1 million in revenues and reached its cash break-even point. Other companies in the portfolio continuing to grow sales, refine their business models, or need more support as the pivot and find their feet.
The impact potential of each of Pique’s portfolio companies varies, but across the whole portfolio she is capturing diversity data. Women represent around 40% of our portfolio companies’ workforce and management teams on an aggregate basis. People of colour represent 26% of the workforce and management teams. As Pique grows, she believes that we can support our portfolio companies to implement diversity and inclusion strategies and even consider diversity at the levels of customers, end users, supply chain, and capital providers.
She have spent much of the past year working on scaling Pique’s impact and outcomes. It has not been easy and the challenges are significant.
She has been attending investor events and speaking at conferences across Canada and the US. Here are some of the highlights from my experiences and conversations as I’ve met and spoken with people about investing at the intersection of tech for good and leadership diversity:
- The world of impact investing and gender lens investing is small. A lot of roads led to a number of leaders and peers in the field that are also trying to move capital more purposely and support more women and underrepresented entrepreneurs.
- Bonnie attended a GP/LP investor event in New York, an investor dinner in San Francisco, and spoke at a family office event in Chicago. All three events were great opportunities for networking and making connections with potential investors. She estimates that women represented less than 20% of the attendees of each of the events. This ratio is considerably good considering that women manage only 1 to 3.5% of alternative investment capital according to research by Bella Private Markets.
- Some people who want this fund to exist do not have the financial capacity to invest.
The leaders that are putting their capital into women-led ventures and funds have the courage to invest in change. They are taking the risk because the risk of not enabling a more diverse community of investors and entrepreneurs is greater.
Meredith Jones, author of Women of the Street: Why Female Money Managers Generate Higher Returns, studied female alternative investment managers and found that they outperform their male counterparts. By choosing women to manage part of their portfolio, investors aren’t just benefiting from diversity and diversification. They gain measurable returns and impact. Women need the opportunity to apply their investment strategies, steward third party capital, and build their track records serving investors, investing in and supporting entrepreneurs and their ventures, and generating impact and returns. The following are some of the actions that people can take to meaningfully support greater diversity in the business environment and venture communities:
- LPs and investors: Invest in funds managed by women. Be a customer to an emerging female fund manager and give her a chance to validate and improve her investment strategy.
- Financial institutions and large, well-capitalized organizations: Incubate funds managed by women. Help women build their track records and give them an opportunity to manage an investment portfolio.
- Anyone: Get diversity and inclusion training. Work with experts and professionals in this field to truly understand the issues and challenges faced by women in the investment industry.
- Journalists and influencers: Write about women investors and fund managers. Help raise their profile, write about their successes and their unique approaches. Help them get the attention of investors.
Allies need to do more than agree that the statistics are dire and cheer women on from the sidelines. Have the courage to put your money and influence where your mouth is and invest in women-led ventures and funds.
Special thanks to:
- Shannon Ward of On Track Media for opening my eyes to selling with love and ease and providing me with expert training in sales.
- Elizabeth Yin of Hustle Fund for sharing an amazing, practical, and useful post on how she and her partners raised their $11.5 million seed fund.
- Pique Fund investors that believed in me and Pique’s investment thesis and had the confidence to commit capital to the second fund.
- New friends Dr. Gillian Marcelle of Resilience Capital Ventures and Chloe Capital, for their leadership.
- Julianne Zimmerman of Reinventure Capital for amplifying Pique’s message.
- Leaders from 100 Women in Finance in New York, Chicago and San Francisco for showcasing female fund managers and offering to make connections for me.
- Lally Rementilla for taking that first step with Pique Fund and being a friend, colleague, and champion of women entrepreneurs and investors. Her leadership with the Canadian chapter of The Billion Dollar Fund, encouraging investors to pledge to invest in women-led ventures, is also appreciated.
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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.