Why encouraging more women investors is good for innovation - An interview with Deborah Jackson of Plum Alley
Recently, I sat down with Deborah Jackson, Founder and CEO of Plum Alley, a venture firm, to discuss how to encourage more women to invest in early-stage innovative companies. Deborah, a former Wall Street executive and Columbia Business School alumna, started Plum Alley Investments in 2016 with Andrea Turner Moffitt, who shared her concern about the long-standing dearth of women investors and a passion for support female founders. They started by bringing in friends and likeminded women, and from there, the membership grew. As cited in my book, The Innovation Mindset, reports show women represent about 5% of venture capital investors; women founded companies represent 3% of VC investments. I joined Plum Alley as a member investor earlier this year because I was impressed with the founders’ commitment to train and support women investors and entrepreneurs, as well as the company’s track record for selecting women lead healthcare and tech companies for Series A and B funding. Deborah and I agree that investing in early stage private companies is a vital avenue for wealth creation and financial sustainability that more women need to experience.
Lorraine: What have you learned about women investors since founding Plum Alley?
Deborah: “At Plum Alley, we invest in technology and medical breakthroughs with a gender lens; we see investing as a way of shaping the future. There is a real optimism and power when you invest your time and money in the companies and founders you believe in. One thing we have noticed, after devoting ourselves to finding the best companies that are driving positive outcomes for society and high shareholder returns, is that male investors and female investors move money differently. For women, they need to be captivated from their head, heart and soul. Without a connection to a bigger picture and a vision of a better world for their families and loved ones, women are not interested in deploying capital. This is something as founders and women, we fundamentally connect with, and only look at companies that make our hearts beat fast.”
Lorraine: Can you tell us about your experience as a woman investor?
Deborah: “My career was on Wall Street, and often, when we went out for client dinners, I was the only woman. The conversation around the table always included some talk of new companies and investment opportunities from the men, but when I was with my female friends, that conversation was nowhere to be seen. Once I left Goldman, I realized there was just a real lack of access and education for women investors and wanted to do something about it. The best moment of my career was coming into a dinner with female friends and listening to them chat about different founders’ strengths and weaknesses, and the excitement they had surrounding the new companies we had brought forth on our platform at Plum Alley.”
Lorraine: Why is investing in private companies an important asset class for women to understand?
Deborah: “Investing in private companies is a way to stay relevant on emerging technologies and where the world is going, and it is also a smart bet financially. Venture is often an area not fully understood by wealth managers, and it is not a product they offer. That fact often deters people from investing in venture, thinking it’s simply too risky, when, in reality, there is a lack of education on the wealth management side. So much money has been made in venture, and it is incredibly frustrating to see women and people of color being left out of the conversation and opportunities, because of traditional gatekeeping and exclusion. People, and women especially, need to feel empowered to invest in venture, and we try and make that transition easy and educational.”
Plum Alley Investments just published the Intentional Investings Report.