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“I’m sorry, but you can’t come in.”
I had decided to venture out to a networking event to reconnect with colleagues, to talk to them about the second venture fund I was raising, and to show off my 8-week old baby. The event staff turned me away because I had my baby with me. Perhaps it was so unusual to see a woman with a baby at a networking event that no one thought to challenge that decision nor the potential biases behind it.
This incident was minor in comparison to some of the other stories I’ve heard — such as an investor telling someone to prioritize their baby over their startup or, on the flipside, investors changing their minds about investing because they were worried that a CEO would prioritize their baby over the startup and abandon their company. The response — “You can’t come in” — feels fitting in an industry where family and business don’t mix well in some people’s minds.
But that may be changing. Increasingly I’m hearing stories about people persisting in raising capital while raising children. They are doing so by seeking out investors who are demonstrably values-aligned and who understand that it isn’t work-life balance at issue, but instead building businesses and families at the same time is simply life.
Before I had children, I was a fierce advocate for people who were building startups and families at the same time, especially women. I had heard stories about women being turned down for investment because they had young children. Few women dared to raise capital while pregnant. I wanted to make sure parents — especially mothers or expectant mothers — were not discriminated against in the venture ecosystem. I wanted to ensure they had access to the resources they needed to start, build, and grow.
Of all US venture capital investment in 2018, only 2.2% goes to female-founded startups, as reported by Fortune. The field of venture-backed businesses continues to be an unforgiving environment for women entrepreneurs, especially when upwards of 75% of caregivers are women, according to the Institute on Aging.
I was pregnant with my first child while raising my first fund at Pique Ventures, the impact investment firm that I founded. I delayed telling investors that I was pregnant because I felt uncertain and anxious about how they would react. It turned out to be no cause for concern. Many of my investors had either “been there and done that,” or they felt so highly aligned with the values and investment strategy of Pique Ventures that my pregnancy was a non-issue. Pregnant with my second child, I felt more prepared and confident enough to present the investment opportunity of Pique’s second fund to investors in person and by video-conference well into my third trimester.
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Please help Pique Ventures harmonize venture capital so that we can have a more inclusive and collaborative venture capital industry. Bonnie Foley-Wong, CEO Pique Ventures, has the unique opportunity to participate in VC Unlocked, a highly sought-after, invitation-only program at Stanford University, run with 500 Startups. It is a chance for her to amplify the voices of women and underrepresented entrepreneurs. Please support our crowdfunding campaign and by being one of the first people to support in the first 10 days (May 6-16), as a THANK YOU, we will send you a free ebook version of Bonnie’s book, Integrated Investing as well as ebook copies of her upcoming books Capitalize (a book to help entrepreneurs raise capital) and What Counts (a book disrupting impact measurement) (working titles).
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.