Lee was an early employee at Pinterest, joining the social media giant in 2012 and rising up the ranks in various leadership roles before departing this past June. She was a scout at Sequoia Capital for the past eight months before joining Maveron, a VC firm founded 20 years ago by former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Dan Levitan.
Lee, who also spent four years at Facebook, said she was inspired to get into venture capital after reading about the funding gap between male and female entrepreneurs.
“The people at Maveron, along with the founders and companies they work with, are incredibly special,” Lee wrote in a blog post. “I am humbled and grateful to be a part of this team. Getting to know them, their unique focus on early-stage consumer-tech companies (healthcare, social, gaming, e-commerce, and more), culture, and values ultimately won me over. And, I’m not the first nor the only female partner!”
Lee told Forbes that her first investment thesis will be focused on backing female-led startups. She’ll be based out of Maveron’s San Francisco outpost.
As Levitan spells out in his own blog post, it was Aileen Lee at All Raise — a Silicon Valley nonprofit that aims to help women founders and investors — who introduced Cat Lee to Maveron.
“As consumer investors, we know that diversity of age, gender, ethnicity, and culture gives us an edge in understanding consumer trends and attracting the best founders,” Levitan wrote. “That said, diversity for diversity’s sake has never been our goal. Hiring is about finding the right person who makes us better.”
Levitan added that 70 percent of the companies Maveron backed in 2018 had a female CEO. Recent investments include Keeps; Thirty Madison; The Guild; Leaftail Labs; Ilumix; Spyce Food Co.; Masse; Inkbox; and JetClosing.
All Raise reported in March that 9 percent of U.S. venture capitalists are women, and 74 percent of U.S. firms do not have a single female partner.
Meanwhile, the much-cited number of 2.2 percent — the percentage of venture capital going to all-female founding teams, or startups with a solo female founder, in 2017 — was the same in 2018, TechCrunch reported.