By: Lea Cromwell

I wanted to take today, International Women’s Day, to write a thank you to my team and highlight how we’re showing up for female inclusion in the venture capital ecosystem.

So much is written about how we need more female investors at the table. VC funds are constantly doing PR lip service to diversity: praising female inclusion without actually adding women to their teams who have check-writing ability. I’m excited to see things changing, with a handful of US- and Israel-based funds recently adding women as partners; however, the industry is still far from parity.

While the market struggles to catch up, female voices have always had an equal seat at UpWest. It’s in our DNA: UpWest was founded in Palo Alto in 2012 by Shuly Galili and Gil Ben-Artzy.

Even on day one, 50% of our investment team was female; today, that statistic is still true.

UpWest has since expanded to include our Israel office, where I work alongside Assaf Wahrhaft, Partner. At UpWest, all of our investment opportunities are reviewed by the entire investment team. That means all of our investment decisions are made by a 50/50 female/male split. Not bad.

The investment team in our Palo Alto office, pre-COVID-19

Why does gender diversity matter in investing? First, the stats that female fund managers generate better returns are well reported, as are the studies on overall team diversity driving returns. But how does it translate day-to-day? Diversity of thought is crucial to making a well informed investment decision, especially for Seed stage startups where financial data is limited-to-non-existent. Any two people with different backgrounds are likely to approach a startup with different experiences and views informing the questions they ask and challenges they uncover. This also impacts the breadth of support we can provide to our portfolio startups.

Above everything else, having diversity among a startup’s board and inner circle of advisors gives founders new views they may have overlooked.

Founders at early stages are looking for smart money. Optimizing for diversity should be part of the fundraising math. Whether you are building a consumer product (89% of women globally control their household’s spending) or a B2B SaaS solution (women held just over 50% of US jobs at the end of 2019), your product will likely have female users. Building a company that has female representation at its core isn’t just a founder’s civic duty; it’s good business.

TL;DR: gender diversity is only one ingredient, but a critical one for VC funds. At UpWest, we’re ahead of the curve with a 50% female investment team.

I’m proud and fortunate to work with Shuly, Gil, and Assaf every day. Thank you for giving me a seat at the table 🙌🏼

I wrote a lot about our investment team, but our Head of Platform Gil Birnboim and Head of Operations Michelle Serpa make our entire team two-thirds female. They’re both incredible women whom I’m grateful to call my colleagues.

A special thank you to the whole UpWest team: Shuly, Gil B-A, Assaf, Gil B, and Michelle. Thank you for being the greatest team, family, and inspiring group of mentors. And thank you for owning diversity as a core value of our team — it’s one of the most integral parts that makes us UpWest.