Diversity Venture

New Organization Aims to Help Austin Women In VC Connect, Network

Last month, Austin-based Next Coast Ventures announced it had tapped Zaz Floreani to serve as a principal. After getting her MBA at the University of Texas, Floreani worked at the now-defunct Austin Ventures and numerous Austin startups such as Dropoff and Spredfast.

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At the time, Next Coast told me the addition of Floreani was notable for a few reasons. For one, the firm saw her addition as “a testament to the homegrown investor base that’s on the rise in Texas, as opposed to having Bay Area investors relocate, which is often the norm at her level.”

Next Coast Ventures’ Principal Zaz Floreani

Floreani’s appointment also highlighted the fact that she’d be one of the few female principals in the Austin VC scene.

This leads me to another topic I’ve been saving for the right time to cover, and now it feels like the right time is here.

Early this year, Kelsi Kamin, an investor at Silverton Partners, and Next Coast Ventures’ director of marketing communications Dagney Pruner realized that the women working in the Austin VC community needed a formalized way to get together.

“We realized that VC can be an industry based on pre-existing networks and groups and that men in the industry seemed to have these organic groups. They were formally or informally meeting frequently in their free time,” Pruner told me. “Since the industry is so network-reliant, we realized we had to make our own network.”

And that’s when Austin Women in VC was born.

For Kamin and Pruner, the organization started as an initiative to get all females working in VC in Austin in the same room. But over time, it has grown to more than 40 members from about 25 investment firms. Members range from fellows and interns to general partners.

“Now we have a woman from every VC firm or accelerator in town,” Pruner noted.

For a city that’s had its share of struggles with diversity, this is good news.

“It’s not only a safe place for all to get together. It’s definitely led to some results. I’ve already looked at several deals thanks to conversations with women in the group,” Kamin told me.

Kerry Rupp, a general partner with Austin-based True Wealth Ventures (which is focused on investing in women-led businesses,) says the meetings have been refreshing.

“I’ve been in the VC ecosystem for a while and already have a mentor relationship with some people,” she said. “But this is helping us build real relationships with people we only knew from emails and phone calls previously in a formal setting.”

Meanwhile, venture funding in the city is on track for a record year. Read more in my piece here.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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