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Aspect Ventures Raises $150 Million, Presses Female Founder Advantage

"If we were two guys, it wouldn’t be that noteworthy."

Aspect Ventures

In many ways Aspect Ventures is completely ordinary. “We do traditional, classic, early-stage venture capital investing,” said founding partner Theresia Gouw.

That means: Putting $3 million to $5 million in funding into Series A rounds for new startups, drawn from a $150 million fund. It’s not micro, and it’s not mega — unlike the divergent trends that have been prevalent lately in venture capital.

“Every decade or so there are a few new firms that spin out,” added Gouw’s partner, Jennifer Scott Fonstad, who left her post as a longtime partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson last year at the same time Gouw left her similar role at Accel. “If we were two guys, it wouldn’t be that noteworthy.”

And that’s why Aspect Ventures is novel and groundbreaking: It’s a sizable venture capital firm founded and led by two women. It is also larger than other venture funds raised by women leaders, including Forerunner Ventures and Cowboy Ventures.

The Aspect founders are well known and established in the technology industry. They have more than 80 seed and Series A deals to their name, with notable successes including NanoString, Trulia and Imperva.

In the venture capital world, where so many investors seem so much the same — and only 6 percent of firms have more than a single woman investor — an all-woman team may well be a competitive advantage. Women on average use more mobile apps than men, accounting for a higher amount of superusers, according to data from analytics company Flurry, where Fonstad was chairman before it was acquired by Yahoo.

And some indicators show women are leading venture-backed companies in increasing numbers; the Diana Project reported last year that more than 15 percent of the companies receiving venture capital investment had a woman on the executive team, up from fewer than 5 percent in 1999.

At Aspect, where Fonstad and Gouw have been investing their own money since last February before raising the larger fund, so far about 40 percent of portfolio companies have women co-founders.

But their gender is also just an “aspect” of what they do, the two investors said. They also expect to stand out by being open to collaboration with angel and “micro VCs,” who are often crowded out by traditional venture investors.

And any venture capital firm’s success depends on the ability to pick and cultivate startups — for Aspect, in areas such as analytics, security and health care IT. Some early Aspect investments include Vida (health coaching), The Muse (career advice), Birchbox (subscription beauty samples) and Urban Sitter (on-demand babysitting).

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