A serial entrepreneur Elaine has successfully built teams and realigned business strategies for over 15 years. She recently launched Disruption Ventures, a VC fund that invests in female-founded and managed companies. This was a natural progression for Elaine as she has spent the past 6 years consulting and advising start-ups and early stage companies, helping them reach their goals and access financing. Prior to consulting, she was CEO of B5Media. The company was sold to Alloy Digital in April 2012.
Elaine was also the CEO of Ziplocal which was sold to Canpages in 2009. She spent over six years at Toronto.com, Canada’s top online regional portal and started her online career in Business Development at Grey Advertising in 1998. A recognized expert in the digital media space, Elaine has spoken at premier events such as Exceptional Women in Publishing, McMaster Professional Development Day, DigiDay’s Digital Publishing Summit, Internet Week New York and the 2011 Marketing to Women Conference.
Elaine also serves as a dedicated advisor to the G(
What do you believe is the main reason that there is such a low percentage of women who are venture capitalists?
The industry is fairly new in Canada, and while it’s started to expand and grow in the last 10 years, women haven’t been part of the expansion. Most VC firms are started by individuals who have created a VC fund and have gone out to raise VC dollars. This is a high-risk proposition and a
What was the inspiration behind the foundation of Disruption Ventures?
First, I saw the opportunity. From a financial perspective, where there’s an underserved and under-utilized segment of the market, there’s an opportunity. The reason I saw the opportunity was through being introduced to highly experienced women with great educations who were raising money. When I circled back, though, few had been able to close on deals. This was around 2011, well before the industry was exposed to the great disconnect between men and women today. When I look back now, many of those women have been successful even though they weren’t able to raise money at the time.
What is the main goal of Disruption Ventures? What are you hoping to accomplish through it?
My goal like any fund is to have a great capital return to its LPs and I see this as a great business opportunity, first and foremost. At the same time, it serves a social purpose by proving that women are not only good investments but good investors.
What is the biggest challenge that women entrepreneurs face and how can Disruption Ventures help them?
To be clear, entrepreneurship is difficult no matter who you are because it’s a risky Endeavour. I’m focused on capital, which has proven to be a huge challenge that is disproportionately more difficult for women than it is for men. Great businesses often fail from lack of capital and no other good reason.
You’ve mentioned that less than 2% of women get access to venture capital funding. By making more funding available to women entrepreneurs, how do you believe this will change the industry?
Exposure to these numbers and focus on the issue by institutions is definitely having a positive impact, but we’re still so far behind. Gender bias is real and research suggests that unconscious bias does not change. To catch up, and to do so organically, this gap would take too long. At the same time, people in the industry want to be successful and when those people acknowledge that women are good entrepreneurs, they view women differently.
The main focus of Disruption Ventures is on startups in the technology sector. Why focus on technology?
Technology is a primary focus because tech businesses tend to be the most scalable and high-growth. Venture investing requires a venture-grade opportunity where a business can scale to the level it needs to in order to be successful.
How have your past experiences contributed towards your current role in helping women entrepreneurs get the resources they need to succeed?
Everything I’ve done in my life to date has allowed me to leverage experiences to be successful in venture capital. These experiences, combined with a global network and ability to raise money through companies I’ve worked with, put me in a position to enable the companies I invest in to be successful.
What is the best advice that you can give to women entrepreneurs who are looking for venture capital funding?
It takes a lot of work. Be prepared and be clear on what problem you’re solving and how your solution and your team are unique in solving that problem. Thinking in these terms will translate into your ability to execute.
How do you see the next five years for women entrepreneurs? What do you believe will be the major areas that will improve?
We’ll definitely look at the statistics in five years and see much greater investment in women entrepreneurs. A shift in culture will naturally follow but already we see younger demographics not having the same biases as older demographics. In some Scandinavian countries today, this isn’t as much of an issue and they’ve evolved a bit faster than we have. There’s no good reason for us not to invest in women and I believe we will catch up.
On a final note, can you tell us what life has been like for you since you founded Disruption Ventures?
It’s been incredibly exciting. This is exactly where I should be and the only place I want to be, but it hasn’t come without its challenges. Raising money is difficult no matter who you are. There are a lot of people who can recognize an opportunity but don’t put their money where their mouth is. There’s a lot of dialogue out there that isn’t translating into something real, which can be frustrating. We are seeing more individuals and organizations take action and I am thrilled for the journey to continue!
About Disruption VenturesDisruption Ventures is the first private Canadian female-founded venture capital fund that invests in businesses founded or managed by women. Recognizing that women-led companies are underfunded, despite their ability to perform and grow successful businesses, Disruption Ventures is committed to being the starting point for the very best female founders when early-stage capital is required. For more information, please visit www.disruption-ventures.com and connect with us on Twitter @Elaine_Kunda and @DisruptionVC.