Having now raised more than $1.1 billion for venture capital investments over the course of her career, Elise Hebb remembers when she first caught the VC bug.
It was the mid-2000s and investing was starting to perk up after the gloom of the dot-com bubble burst.
There was “optimism, innovation, technology. Everything was ‘up and to the right,'” like a rising chart, Hebb said. “It was hard not to get excited about it.”
In 2006 she joined the Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group, spending nearly 10 years at the VC firm. She left in 2017 to become partner and chief operating officer of Maveron, an investor in early-stage consumer companies. Past investments include eBay, Zulily, Allbirds, Trupanion, General Assembly and Everlane.
“My job focuses around making sure that our firm runs as well as our best run portfolio company, which means I wear a lot of hats,” Hebb said. “I lead finance and administration as well as marketing, PR, and investor relations and fundraising.”
Maveron last week announced that it had closed its seventh fund, raising $180 million. Hebb led the effort. For more than a decade, the firm has prioritized diversity in its investment teams, and the group who will distribute this new fund will be evenly split between three women and three men.
That level of gender equality has helped Maveron reach a more diverse set of entrepreneurs. Last year, 70 percent of the companies that Maveron backed had a female founder, while only 2.2 percent of the $130 billion in VC funding that was given out nationally went to women-led companies, according to PitchBook.
Beyond women leading startups, Hebb is eager to see more women at the head of Fortune 500-level businesses. Of the Fortune 500 companies, 33 are led by women, or 6.6 percent.
“Where is the [female] equivalent of a Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos as CEO of these big companies?” Hebb asked. Perhaps the startups that Maveron is supporting today could grow into that next big thing, spearheaded by a female CEO.
“It takes a long time to build these companies,” she said. “We’ll know more in 5-to-10 years.”
And she has a more immediate request for entrepreneurs. Hebb would love for someone to build a platform that hybridizes LinkedIn with a friend-focused social media tool. She envisions using it to make better guest lists for events, ferreting out people she otherwise overlooks.
“There is no great tech solution to say, ‘Who are the people I know who I’m not spending more time with? How do I surface those people?’” she said. “That drives me crazy.”
If you build it, (perhaps) she will fund.
We caught up with Hebb for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: I live in Seattle with my two kids, but spend a lot of time at our other office in San Francisco and traveling all over the world visiting our investors.
Computer types: MacBook Pro
Mobile devices: iPhone XS
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: I’ve been using Superhuman lately to try out a new email client. It’s pretty slick. I don’t know what we’d do without Slack given how spread out our team is. It’s a great way for all of us to constantly communicate.
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? I have tried to teach myself to work from anywhere. Given how much I travel I’m on airplanes (with spotty WiFi), in the back of Lyft’s, in conference rooms, and coffee shops. Being able to find productivity anytime I have 10-to-15 minutes is critical.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? For me, it’s been about setting priorities and aligning my calendar accordingly. When work is particularly crazy, I hold a lot of time so meetings and networking that can wait doesn’t fill my time. I also know there are certain times that my kids will need me more. I’ve learned to hold a lot of flex time at the beginning and end of the school year and I try to be flexible in the morning to help with getting the kids launched for school. My calendar dictates my priorities, so I need to be proactive about making sure that they’re aligned.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? Maveron specializes in consumer brands and I lead our marketing and PR efforts so I have to be on Instagram. I’m trying to limit my personal time on social and screens in general, so I set screen time limits and try to separate the engagement I need to do for work from the time sink of the infinite scroll.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? Way too many. I tend to get a build up and then when I’m on a long flight I’ll purge everything. I think I’m headed to the East Coast in a couple of weeks, so hopefully I’ll land with inbox zero.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? A lot. I’m catching up on 1:1s with the team and networking coffees given I’ve been in the fundraising tunnel for the last three months.
How do you run meetings? Always on time to the minute. I read a while back that another VC charges their team members for every minute they’re late. It was good inspiration for me. I’ve worked in cultures where being five minutes late is the status quo and I got sucked into that mindset and it didn’t feel good.
Beyond that, it depends on the type of meeting. If it’s a 1:1 with one of my team members I want to make sure the time is valuable for them and I’m helping move them forward. If it’s with an investor, I want to make sure I’m answering their questions. I always prefer to have an agenda in Google Docs and take notes in every meeting in the doc. I try to align the agenda with my priorities. If I’m my best self I will also hold 10-to-15 minutes after an important meeting to finish up notes and set next steps or follow-up items so I don’t forget.
Everyday work uniform? I really like to dress up. High heels, tailored dresses. I feel more confident and professional when I’m dressed nicely for work. That said, we have a very casual dress code at Maveron, so sometimes it’s really nice to roll in wearing athleisure and Allbirds.
How do you make time for family? My kids are the most important thing in my life so I always make time for them. Dinner time is protected, which means often working after they go to bed, which keeps getting later (and as a result harder) as they get older. I always answer when they call, no matter what I’m doing. But they also know that I love to work and they are proud of my career. They know that sometimes work has to take up some family time and accept that because it’s the exception, not the rule.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? I should say riding my Peloton, but it’s really the luxury of a quiet night at home watching something relaxing on TV. That’s maybe one night every two weeks, but it’s a great recharge. Chef’s Table on Netflix completely de-stresses and inspires me.
What are you listening to? I listen to the New York Times Daily podcast almost every day. It’s such a great podcast for current events. The “Hamilton” soundtrack is on constant repeat in our house, which was fun for a while, but now I’m ready for a break.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? Mike Allen’s morning Axios newsletter is a must-read for me. He sends it out around 4 a.m. PST so it’s always the first thing in my inbox every morning. Dan Primack or Connie Loizos’s daily VC newsletter is always a quick skim as well. And, of course, GeekWire. :)
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? Our firm just read “Thinking in Bets” by Annie Duke. She shares a really interesting way to separate the quality of our decision making from the results of those decisions. It’s very relevant for my job, but also for life in general. I also just picked up Ben Graham’s “The Intelligent Investor” again. I haven’t read it in 20 years. I love his framework for investing.
Night owl or early riser? My deepest sleep is between 5 and 8 a.m. which is really brutal because my alarm goes off at 6:15 every day. I’m much more of a night owl and despite trying to shift my sleep patterns to better align with my life, I tend to sleep from 11 p.m. to 6:15 a.m.
Where do you get your best ideas? I am most mindful as I fall asleep at night. That’s when my brain sees most broadly. I replay conversations or visualize my next day. I think through my to-do list. I am most clear just before falling asleep. I am most creative when I am close to a deadline. I think I perform and think better under pressure.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? I am always trying to balance ideas and execution better. There are so many things I want to do and it can be hard to take those ideas, prioritize them and execute on all of them.