technology

Melinda Gates Backs Largest VC Fund Run by Women

Melinda Gates

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Aspect Ventures founders Jennifer Fonstad and Theresia Gouw raised $181 million for their second fund, making their firm the biggest venture outfit created and run by women.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, gave Aspect Ventures a vote of approval with an investment in the new fund. Gates is a vociferous critic of the gender gap in venture capital, citing the disproportionate numbers of male entrepreneurs who receive funding and the men who make those investment decisions. Aspect Ventures has said it aims to invest in startups with diverse teams.

Last year, as allegations of harassment by powerful men in various industries including venture capital came to light, Gates spoke out about her decision to invest in women-led venture firms. “Not because it’s a nice thing to do but because there are smart investments to be made and big returns to be had,” she wrote in technology website Recode.

Other notable venture funds founded and led by women include Forerunner Ventures, which raised $122 million in 2016, and Cowboy Ventures, whose co-founder Aileen Lee coined the term “unicorn” to describe private companies with a valuation exceeding $1 billion.

The founders of Aspect Ventures have a background in technology and venture capital. Fonstad was at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Gouw was at Accel. The original Aspect Ventures fund, raised in 2015, had its first major hit in October. That’s when the cybersecurity company ForeScout Technologies Inc. held an initial public offering, the first for one of Aspect Ventures’ investments. Although it listed at a value of $800 million, lower than its last private round, ForeScout shares have risen 50 percent to a market capitalization of $1.25 billion.

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