New Fund to Write More Cheques To More Women
Elaine Kunda credits her father’s inclusiveness and a former female boss for sparking her interest in running companies, which later fuelled a desire to help other women find the resources they need to be successful in business.
Kunda recently launched Disruption Ventures, a VC fund that will invest only in companies founded and led by women. The fund — which has so far raised $5-million and has a goal to hit $30-million by year-end — will focus on startups in the technology sector.
Statistics show female founders today receive much less funding than men. According to data from PitchBook, startups founded solely by women received just 2.2 per cent of all U.S. venture capital last year.
“This is solvable,” Kunda says of the lack of financial backing for female founders. “You can’t assume that because it’s being talked about that it’s being taken care of.”
Kunda grew up in Port Credit, Ont., believing women could do whatever they dreamed of in life. She was a curious kid who excelled in math and had an interest in investing even at a young age.
“I asked a lot of questions and my dad entertained them,” Kunda recalls of her father, who was an entrepreneur in the lumber and real estate industries. “He would be very open and have genuine conversations with me about money and business.” He invited her into discussions with his lawyers and bankers.
As a young woman, Kunda worked for a female financial services executive and watched as she fearlessly juggled business and motherhood. “She was a role model for me as well,” says Kunda, who went later went on lead, grow and help sell two digital companies before recently launching Disruption Ventures in May.
Kunda started thinking about an all-female founder fund in 2012, after the sale of her VC-backed digital women’s media network, B5Media. Kunda often found herself advising other female entrepreneurs who had challenges raising money. In some cases, it was because men didn’t understand or didn’t want to get involved in their female-focused products.
“It was a real problem. These women were smart, had great ideas, but nobody was writing them a cheque,” says Kunda. “It wasn’t like I wanted to save the world and get people money. I recognized there was an opportunity here.”
Kunda pitched her fund idea to several investors back then but, unfortunately, they didn’t have the same conviction. It forced her to shelve the idea. “The timing wasn’t right,” she says.
Six years later, as more women launch Startups and the VC world begins to show support for female-backed ventures, Kunda’s female-focused fund idea is back with the support of a growing number of high-net-worth investors as well as the VC firm Relay Ventures. The firm has earmarked $5-milllion toward co-investments in startups and is also providing Kunda with their back-office for the venture.
“Everyone talks about sponsorship [of women] and how to make a difference. This is the perfect example of it,” Kunda says of Relay Ventures, citing in particular support from its Co-founder and Managing Director John Albright, and Operating Partner and Chief Financial Officer Jeannette Wiltse.
Kunda is actively seeking investors for the fund and since it launched has also been fielding a growing number of calls from interested parties from across North America. At the same time, she’s received numerous inquiries from female-backed startups interested in being backed by her new fund.
“There are some really great companies that I’m interested in,” Kunda says. Many of those female founders are also interested in having Kunda’s expertise on their board.
“My career and my experience have led me to this,” she says of Disruption Ventures. “I feel very confident and excited and know I’m doing what I should be doing. I know it will happen because it’s the right thing.”