Venture Capitalist and Managing Partner Diane Yoo joins me for an interview today to discuss disturbing issues in the venture capital (VC) industry. We talk about the groundbreaking strides she is making, challenges for women of color in the finance and tech industries, and what women founders bring to the table.
Disclosure: This sponsored interview intends to bring light to underlying biases that often keep women founders – especially women of color – from success.
Interview with Diane Yoo
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Diane.
Please briefly discuss what is a venture capitalist (VC) for those who are not familiar already.
A venture capitalist deploys capital into high-growth, early-stage companies in exchange for providing equity financing. Seasoned venture capitalists can also provide incredible value as a board seat of early-stage companies and offer advice in addition to bringing credibility and proven track record, and access to networks.
While entrepreneurship is an exhilarating ride of high risks and rewards, it’s optimal to bring in seasoned investors with immense value add, experience, and [the] ability to think outside the box. Becoming a venture capitalist is not made overnight. It takes [a] depth of knowledge and profound domain expertise, business and technical experience that helps establish credibility for your LP’s and attract the best entrepreneurs.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience as a venture capitalist?
I co-founded General Partner of FilKor Capital, the first pan-Asian American women’s VC fund. With a track record of investments, including a $3.5 billion valuation and IPO experience, I launched several venture funds, including a fund partnership with the world’s largest medical center innovation center, and former Managing Director of an institutional network. My firm launched the first IPO program with the South Korean government agency, where I secured $1-5 billion in market valuation.
With my expertise in operating funds and portfolio companies, I have advised several universities on launching VC funds. I’m also an investment partner to Silicon Valley funds, including the largest women’s fund and the nation’s first FemTech fund. Additionally, I am a US partner to the Korean government agency focusing on venture capital.
What do you consider to be your greatest professional accomplishment so far?
Giving back to the venture community by advancing Asian American women and women of color investment managers. There’s so much to be done, and I’m passionate about pushing this forward as this has been my personal experience.
You’ve spoken up about the lack of diversity in US venture capital-backed investments. Why are female founders – particularly BIPOC females – underrepresented in the VC industry?
Yes, female founders have made strides, yet are still underrepresented. Furthermore, BIPOC females are still in the single digits in terms of representation in the world of venture capital-backed investments.
What role does bias play in explaining the challenges of female founders in attaining funding?
While interviewing and meeting countless women and women of color, there is a resounding undercurrent of bias when it comes to fundraising. While some women of color have mentioned that they do not want to be “labeled” under this category, there is a disparate amount of funding for female founders.
Diane Yoo, have seen a lack of diversity, equity, or inclusion as an Asian female entrepreneur turned investor?
Asian females are highly underrepresented, and my goal is to change the playing field in how Asian American females can have more access to capital and career opportunities. Post George Floyd, millions have been unleashed to BIPOC founders, yet Asians don’t typically qualify.
Why is gaining more funding for women of color so important in the finance and tech industries?
Women outperform but are highly underrepresented. We need more women at the table so that the future of innovation for women can also be impacted. While there are women in finance and tech who continue to advance powerfully, the disparities are still quite alarming in terms of funding.
What are you seeing women founders bring to the table?
Time and time again, I have heard from venture capital partners that their top performers are women founders. Ironically, I just got off the phone with another top-tier venture capital partner, and he said, out of his portfolio of 25+ investments, his top performer was a woman fund. She knows how to stay lean, super focused, uncanny ability to multi-task and scale to different countries.
What needs to change to open opportunities up for BIPOC female entrepreneurs who seek VC-backed investments?
This is a brilliant question. I highly recommend that we place more BIPOC female partners and decision-makers to lead venture capital funds and investment committees. Additionally, we need to provide more access to capital for underrepresented fund managers. My firm, Fenix Global, does just that.
How can we start communicating the benefits of investing in BIPOC and female-focused funds?
In my journey to get more women at the table and have their voices heard, I launched Fenix Global, where we highlight trailblazing stories of powerful Asian American women entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. We highlight Asian American women who have broken barriers like never before – I think it’s absolutely crucial that we get stories of their success, but more importantly, real stories about their failures to help advance other women.
Thank you for striving to make a difference, Diane Yoo
It is obvious there is a lot to change in the venture capital industry. Diane is working to encourage DEI, and hopefully more people get on board with this.
Did you realize these challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
Top photo: Meet Diane Yoo. Photo used with permission by Otter Public Relations.