In 2011, the National Venture Capital Association and Dow Jones VentureSource released their study of the diversity makeup of the venture capital industry. Not surprisingly, the majority of people working in the VC industry were white and. . . wait for it. . . male. While women represented 21 percent of employment in the VC industry, only 11 percent listed themselves as actual investors. In cleantech, the number of female investors was 4 percent higher, at 15 percent. Meanwhile, as Founder of the organization Women in Cleantech & Sustainability, I know there are many female investors out there, if you know where to look. To make it simpler for everyone to applaud these women in their efforts to bring diversity to this traditionally male-dominated field, we’ve listed our top 20 here.
1. Nancy Floyd, Founder and Managing Director, Nth Power
Back in 1993, when Nancy Floyd started Nth Power, there were understandably fewer women in the sector than there are today. Floyd speculated to Gigaom in 2007 as to why the field lacks large numbers of start ups founded by women. “You just don’t have many women with backgrounds that investors would back,” she said. “You’re looking at energy industries that have been male-dominated for years and years. It’s not easy for anybody, but for investors to write a check, they’re going to want to see relevant background.” Before founding Nth Power, Floyd was a serial entrepreneur, having founded companies like NFC Energy Corp, one of the country’s first wind development firms, which, when it was sold three years later, generated a 25-fold return. Who says there's not money to be made?
2. Nancy Pfund, Managing Partner, DBL Investors
“As a woman in venture capital, I am part of a small club, and it’s part of my job to try to change that. As a woman in cleantech venture capital, the club is smaller still, but somehow it fits like a glove,” Nancy Pfund said in Forbes in 2012. Considering her groundbreaking role as a female cleantech venture capitalist, Pfund tapped into the press by writing articles featured in outlets such as Huffington Post Green and Forbes with titles like “Subsidies for Renewable Energy: American as Apple Pie” and “Women and Clean Energy: Overcoming The Double Standard.” In these articles, Pfund emphasizes her prominent position as a woman in cleantech and uses an honest and forthright tone that conveys the messages she wants to deliver as a green venture capitalist. “First, every great expansion of the American economy can be linked to the discovery of a new energy source. Second, each of these new energy industries received substantial government support at a pivotal time in its early growth.” Yet, Pfund’s enthusiasm for government investment does not define her personal career, which lies heavily in the private sector. Pfund is a partner at DBL Investors, a venture capital firm that strives to invest successfully and meaningfully in terms of social, economic and environmental change. She also sits on the boards of directors of several private companies including Primus Power, Solar City, Solaria, Ecologic, BrightSource and PowerGenix.
3. Andrée-Lise Méthot, Founder, Cycle Capital Management
At Cycle Capital Management, Méthot assists projects in everything from water management and biofuels to community development. Cycle Capital Management strives to help potentially successful companies in cleantech and renewable energy gain the financial assistance they need. Méthot received her Master’s degree in Science from Université de Montréal. Her BA was in Geological Engineering from Université Laval. In her career she has spent 15 years working in company financing, financial program management, and engineering.
4. Joyce Ferris, Founder and Managing Partner
An entrepreneur in the green technology industry for over 25 years, Ferris currently acts as the Founder and Managing Partner of Blue Hill, an investment firm with a focus in green technology that provides capital, management assistance and strategic goals for companies. Before founding Blue Hill, Ferris worked as a senior funding executive at Reading energy, an independent power company, where she managed energy projects and financial transactions totaling over $500 million. Ferris’s expertise is in helping entrepreneurial companies build high-performance culture. Recently for a project in Pennsylvania, Blue Hill built its headquarters with the hope that the facility would be home to a community of green-tech companies. As Ferris asserted to the Philadelphia Business Journal in 2010, “If you can create an environment where people are helpful and supportive and somebody learns something new about a particular piece of legislation, for instance, there’s some sharing of it, that really strengthens everybody.”
5. Diana Propper de Callejon, General Partner, Expansion Capital Partners
Diana Propper de Callejon boasts more than 20 years of experience in clean technology. Her work has spanned diverse sectors including energy, forestry water, agriculture, and advanced materials. de Callejon believes that many private companies are now created with a commitment to values of “continuous improvement in environmental performance and social impact...as a primary driver of innovation and value creation over the long term,” as she wrote in the essay Integrated Value - A New Private Model for Driving Value Creation. Prior to becoming a partner at Expansion Capital, de Callejon was a founder and Managing Director of EA Capital, a firm she co-ran for more than ten years. At EA Capital, Ms. de Callejon worked with Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, and private equity firms to identify new business and investment opportunities related to resource efficiency and sustainability. Ms. de Callejon’s efforts to mobilize investment capital to address environmental and social problems are rooted in her sustainable development work in the 1980s and early 1990s. For six years, de Callejon worked in Africa and South America. In particular, de Callejon worked in Brazil with a trading company that extended loans to small businesses in the Amazon that harvested, processed, and exported non-timber forest products such as fruits, nuts, and essences. de Callejon has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from Duke University and speaks French and Spanish.
6. Marianne Wu, Partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures
Marianne Wu is a Partner at MDV where she focuses on cleantech investments. With more than 15 years of technology development and business experience, Wu helps build meaningful, successful businesses via investments and assisting entrepreneurs. As Wu noted in Fast Company, "We look for teams of people with varied skills. As always, you need to have great entrepreneurs, people who have the energy and passion and commitment to start something. We're also looking for great technical skill and some kind of technical advantage in terms of the platform that gets the product to market at a cost point that's really exciting. You also need to know the people you'll work within the larger system. So, over time, companies need to add significant industry operating experience. The key in these biofuel and biochemical companies is marrying the entrepreneur, the technical genius, and the industry domain experience, and making that into a strong, cohesive team.”
7. Cathy Zoi, Partner, Silver Lake Kraftwerk
Cathy Zoi has over 25 years of experience in both the public and private sector working with energy and resource development and deployment. Currently, Zoi works at Silver Lake Kraftwerk, an enormous equity firm that invests in energy and technology related projects. Zoi believes our society has the willpower to fight global warming. As she wrote in The Huffington Post, “The good news is that the solutions to this crisis exist. Unlocking innovative technologies to change how we power our lives will grow new and exciting sectors of our economy, helping ensure not just a healthier plant, but a healthier economy as well.” Notably, Zoi was the founding CEO of the New South Wales Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA). SEDA was a $50 million fund devoted to commercializing technologies that produced fewer greenhouse gases. Moreover, SEDA launched the first nationwide green power program that boasts the world’s largest solar-powered suburb.
8. Jill Watz, Venture Partner, Vulcan Capital
Jill Watz is a Venture Partner at Vulcan Capital, a private investment group, where she is responsible for strategy and portfolio management in the cleantech sector, with specific emphasis on solar, geothermal, nuclear, advanced materials, and water technologies. Prior to Vulcan, Watz held senior management and technical research positions at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in applied energy technology directing multidisciplinary research projects in oil and gas exploration and production, geothermal energy, energy storage and conversion technologies, alternative fuels, and energy and climate policy. While at LLNL, Watz also led industrial partnership development for energy technologies. In advising the Millennium Village Project’s Energy group on new technology development and business strategies, Watz is able to fulfill her passion for developing distributed energy technologies to combat poverty. She is also a participating scientist at LLNL and is a member of the Corporate Advisory Committee to Washington State University's Foundation. Watz has a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from University of California at San Diego and SM degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Technology and Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Kiki Tidwell is a cleantech angel investor in Seattle and President of the Tidwell Idaho Foundation, a small family foundation she started after considerable thought about inherited wealth when her daughter was born. Individually, Tidwell is a Limited Partner in several venture funds: Nth Power Fund IV, CalCEF Angel Fund, Good Capital's Social Enterprise Expansion Fund, TrueBridge Capital Fund II, and Aligned Partners. Since 2007, she has been a member of Northwest Energy Angels, a cleantech-focused angel group, and served two years on its board. She was also an advisor to the Fall 2012 Astia Global Entrepreneur Program. As she noted to Sramana Mitra for her One Million by One Million Blog, Tidwell’s interest in cleantech developed around 2003 when she was working at an industry in Idaho for rural economic development. “I was very proactive and started learning about the opportunities available in cleantech, and I realized what a huge change this was going to be and what a huge market opportunity it presented. My background is in real estate investing. Why I was interested in cleantech were the tax credits. I understood those from affordable housing–type tax credits I’d looked into. I’m also a philanthropist. . . trying to make Idaho a better place. I saw what a state could do with new industry could far eclipse what we would could do in grant making. Communities could build industries and fund their own schools and their own social needs through these new industries.” In 2009, Tidwell won the first ever successful carbon reduction shareholder initiative with a utility for her initiative with IdaCorp, Inc. It was one of only 15 successful shareholder initiatives in any category in the last 10 years.
Yvette Go is a Partner at Chrysalix SET where she focuses on companies in the areas of biofuels, biomass, waste-to-energy, energy efficiency, hydrogen, and fuel cells. She also serves as the Board Director of MicroShade A/S, a Danish technology and knowledge-based company that develops and markets advanced, transparent solar shading and photovoltaic solutions for new and refurbished buildings. An experienced investment professional for the past 15 years, Go works to build and develop businesses through maximizing value. Prior to becoming a partner at Chrysalix SET, she acted as the global Product Portfolio Manager of DSM Powder Coating Resins, a global science-based company active in health, nutrition, and materials. While at DSM, Go was selected to represent the company on the 2004 Young Managers Team (Future Leaders Team) of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development where she led a sub-team focused on China’s capacity building and Sustainable Business promotion. Feeling that the work she had accomplished at YMT gave her a wider outlook on sustainable development, both within the YMT and beyond, Go noted in an interview, “I consciously look for opportunities to work sustainable development into the marketing and sales area at DSM. That means challenging myself and others to be more aware about the environmental and social impact of business and asking more questions about how we do things.” Go holds a Master's degree in Business Administration from IESE Business School (Global Executive MBA 2008) and a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering.
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