Philanthropic adviser Lindsey Taylor Wood and former Karlin Ventures investor Erin Shipley who have made their marks in the male-dominated industries of philanthropy and Hollywood are creating a venture capital fund that plans to only invest in other women.
Although this is not the first venture fund to restrict deals by gender, however this new firm, called The Helm, is not only touting opportunities to drive returns, but is also promising mouth watering special services to its limited partners, such as private dinners with founders in the firm’s portfolio, or tours of sites like celebrity salons.
The firm, which will focus on making seed investments plans to make eight to 10 investments of around $200,000 in its first year.
Shipley has spent almost four years as a dealmaker at the Weinstein Company, whose CEO, Harvey Weinstein, has been accused of rape by multiple women and sexual harassment from many others that spans decades. Shipley said she did not have firsthand knowledge of the alleged incidents, but believed his accusers.
According to Shipley,“My hope is that via initiatives like The Helm and the robust conversations we are having about these issues thanks to the courage of survivors, we can create better, stronger, safer cultures for women everywhere.”
It is worth noting that female founders only received about 2 percent of U.S. venture capital money in 2016, and several prominent women this year have sparked a conversation about sexual harassment in the venture capital industry by naming male investors who have allegedly caused problems.
Those allegations have shaken Silicon Valley, and many of the firms that dot Sand Hill Road have launched internal reviews and are mulling how to best address the problem.
The Helm’s founders actively sought out individuals who want to better connect with female founders, and have thus far avoided institutional investors. Their roster at the moment includes Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, former PBS chief Pat Mitchell and media entrepreneur Geraldine Laybourne.
The $2 million fund collects $50,000 from each LP, along with a $2,500 “member fee” that supports the programming content and grants them access to their advice.
“Consider us your VC concierge,” the firm’s presentation to investor reads.
This level of involvement between partner and startup is unusual. In a typical venture fund, a partner might have some access to portfolio companies at the fund’s yearly meeting, but partners and LPs tend to have limited engagement with the actual businesses. Unlike a standard fund, The Helm also plans to make all its investments in the first year of its 10-year life cycle.
The Helm does not require its companies to make a social impact in their business, but Wood, who has spent a decade advising family offices and high-net worth benefactors, said she had grown “incredibly disenchanted with philanthropy” and thought supporting women entrepreneurs was a good business — even if it meant putting restrictions on what kinds of companies to fund.
Earlier this year, a seed fund spun out of Flybridge Capital called XFactor Ventures similarly promised to invest only in female-led startups. Another recently launched fund, Rivet Ventures, is specifically targeting women-led markets for investment, even if not solely for female founders.