Barron's: The View From Silicon Valley

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The View From Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley may consider itself at the forefront of innovation and social causes, but it can be an insular place.

A general absence of women in positions of power at tech companies and venture-capital firms reflect the young-boy network that has reigned for decades. The cabal just doesn’t just look alike but thinks similarly – down to their left-of-center views and taste in music.

“The venture world needs to be disrupted,” says Trish Costello, Chief Executive Officer of Portfolia, an equity crowdfunding platform that focuses on building a community of women-led companies and investors.

“It’s time we broaden the playing field. The success factors of women-led companies are very clear and they are the influencers and market-makers behind most venture-backed companies,” says Costello, who has started an Active Aging Fund for backing companies with founders over 50 years old and the Rising Tide Fund, which makes early-stage investments in businesses run by underrepresented groups.

“(Active aging) is a multibillion-dollar market yet there is little funding because guys in their twenties aren’t building companies in the space,” says Costello, also co-founder of the Kauffman Fellows Program. “And those are the people who traditionally get the funding.”

Though rarely in agreement with Peter Thiel, the PayPal (PYPL) co-founder and President Trump supporter who recently decamped to Los Angeles because of what he called an intolerance for diverse opinions in the valley, Costello agrees with his premise.

“There is a very exclusive group of people in leadership roles who have no idea of problems in other parts of the world,” says Costello, noting that only 5% to 7% of general partners at VC firms are women. “Silicon Valley needs more tech founders who are older and more diverse.” 

—Jon Swartz