For the first time in its 23-year history, Madrona Venture Group has a female managing director.
The Seattle-based venture capital firm today announced the promotion of Hope Cochran, a former CFO for companies such as King Digital and Clearwire who first joined Madrona in 2016 as venture partner.
In her new role as managing director, Cochran will make more investments for the firm, which raised $300 million for its seventh fund in May. She’ll lean on her previous experience and seek companies building software that improve internal and external process, as well as financial tech-related products.
Cochran’s promotion comes as many VC firms aim to increase the number of female investors. According to All Raise, 73 percent of U.S. firms do not have any female representation. Recode reported last month that despite increased attention and discussion on this topic, “progress is only modest.”
Many say the lack of female investors contributes to the gender disparity in venture capital funding — 2.2 percent of total U.S. venture capital dollars went to all-female founding teams or startups with a solo female founder in 2017 and 2018.
Last week, Seattle-based consumer-focused VC firm Maveron added early Pinterest executive Cat Lee, who said she was inspired to get into venture capital after reading about the funding gap between male and female entrepreneurs.
Diversity and equality are top of mind for Cochran, who told GeekWire that she’s “used to being the only woman in the room.” Cochran is focused on helping companies be more “intentional” about diversity. Based on her experience with both large tech corporations and small startups, she said gender gaps in leadership roles are not about a lack of female talent in the workforce.
“You can’t just say, ‘we’re going to find the best person for the job and the women will be fine and it will all work out,'” said Cochran, who led Madrona’s investment last year in women-focused co-working startup The Riveter. “You really have to make some intentional choices.”
Cochran already leads Madrona’s participation with onBoarding Women, a program that aims to increase the number of women on corporate boards. She said disparities in public boardrooms are often the result of early-stage startups putting only investors in board seats — more than 90 percent of U.S. venture capitalists (managing directors or general partners) are male, according to All Raise.
In her new role at Madrona, Cochran — a board member at Hasbro, Inc., MongoDB, and New Relic — will continue encouraging companies to open up independent seats early on, creating opportunity for a more diverse board. Others are also pressing for a similar goal — this past September, California became the first state to mandate female board directors for companies.
“When there is a diverse group of people in a room, the conversation is always broader and more interesting with different perspectives,” Cochran said. “We come to better decisions together.”
Cochran helped guide both King Digital and Clearwire through their initial public offerings. As for the current state of the tech IPO market, Cochran said there are several companies that are ready to go public, particularly those that have already raised huge amounts of private dollars. Venture capital funding in U.S. companies reached $99.5 billion in 2018, the highest since 2000.
“There’s a lot of things that go awry when a company is private for too long and there is a practical need for a public offering,” she said. “We saw that in 2018 and I think we’ll see it again in 2019, assuming that the government opens and the markets don’t throw us for too much of a [loop].”
Asked about the growing sentiment against startups raising venture capital, Cochran said that founders should “do what works for their vision.”
“It’s about the entrepreneur’s appetite,” she said. “I do think it’s incredibly hard to grow quickly and take advantage of a big opportunity if you don’t access extra dollars, whether that be from a VC or some other path.”
Madrona previously added to its managing director lineup in 2017 when it promoted S. “Soma” Somasegar, one year after he joined the firm as a venture partner following a nearly three-decade career at Microsoft.
The firm announced a handful other promotions and personnel changes today — read more at our Tech Moves post.
“Having an investment team that is diverse in terms of experience, expertise, company background, gender, age, culture, and points of view enables us to build better companies faster,” Madrona’s managing directors wrote in a blog post today. “We are excited to have Hope on board and look forward to years of investing and working with companies from day one for the long run including all the key decision moments along the journey.”