431 Minnie Ingersoll: Venture Capital
What prevents 98% of women entrepreneurs with scalable opportunities from raising venture capital? What in the VC system needs to change? What can women learn about the best way to raise investment? And why more women are now becoming VCs and raising their own funds.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who recently made the leap into venture capital.
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at Los Angeles-based venture capital fund, TenOneTen. She’s also the co-founder of Shift, an online marketplace for used cars that recently raised a Series D. She also hosts the LA Venture podcast and juggles all that as a mother of 3.
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Minnie is a Partner at TenOneTen Ventures and the COO and co-founder of Shift, an online marketplace for used cars she grew from idea-stage to a $100 million company recently closing its Series D round.
Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google where she co-founded the Access team; a cross-functional product, policy, and engineering team that spun off Google Fiber. After more than a decade of managing “rocketship growth”, she made her exit from Google to begin her own entrepreneurial journey with Shift. Minnie is a long-time Silicon Valley product leader and operations executive with experience building and scaling impact through elegant technical solutions and great teams. Today she shares vital advice about building a team – something vital for rapid scaling, and how at Shift she spent as much as 3 hours a day hiring.
She recently moved back to LA after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California where she is busy listening to more pitches she can count from great startups – and today also shares her advice about what women need to do to be successful raising venture capital.
So are you ready for Minnie Ingersoll? I am. Let’s fly!
Melinda Wittstock: All right. Minnie, welcome to Wings.
Minnie Ingersoll: Thanks Melinda. Glad to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m excited to talk to you. I think it’s amazing and inspiring that more and more women are showing up in the venture capital space. What made you make that leap from being a founder into the VC world?
Minnie Ingersoll: Variety of different things. I think for me, my startup had actually sort of grown up as you hope they do. I’m not sure it’s entirely grown up but it’s at least sort of a teenager or something. And so it afforded me the chance to think about what I really like doing and I do really like early stage startup work. I think it’s really exciting when you’re still figuring out product market fit and so as an early stage VC, I can meet with early stage entrepreneurs all day long which is fantastic. And so I meet with entrepreneurs who are looking for funding but then I work a lot with our portfolio companies and just try to be useful wherever I can be.
And it’s a fantastic job to spend your day. I mean, especially with the entrepreneurs who are pitching all day and essentially just come and want to explain their vision and what’s inspiring to them. It’s like a great inspiring way to spend your days.
But then technically I was moving cities. So, I was moving from San Francisco to LA which also sort of facilitated/necessitated a job change.
Melinda Wittstock: And so tell me a little bit about TenOneTen. What do you focus on there?
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. TenOneTen is a early stage fund which I say intentionally. We don’t do Series A but there’s a variety now of sort of stages between starting and Series A which we focus on all of that. So,-
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, there’s seed and now there’s super seed. It’s funny because Series A just seemed to get pushed out like further and further and further. And so there’s all these stages now that have been inserted past the friends family.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. And so we’re usually, the stage past the friends and family round and I kind of think stages could just be defined by how much money you’re raising. So, usually we’re talking to entrepreneurs who are raising something like a million and a half, maybe two million dollars. By the time they come to us, they’ve already gone through a round with friends and family that has gotten them to having a launched product. So, the entrepreneurs I’m talking to already have a product in the market and they almost always have paying customers. Occasionally the entrepreneurs I’m talking to might be selling into enterprise or selling into hospitals that have year long cycles but they’re in pilots or proof of concept work.
So, those are the entrepreneurs that we’re talking to at TenOneTen. Focused on the pre-series A and we are based in LA so definitely really getting to know that ecosystem and trying to play a role there. But then we don’t limit our investments to only LA. So, we like to meet great entrepreneurs no matter what they’re doing.
We don’t do direct to consumer brands sort of investing. So, a lot of times investors will talk about where the moat is that they’re interested. If the moat is a brand, it’s usually not a great fit for us because we don’t think we can add a lot of value or really understand that as well. So, usually the sort of the moat that we’re investing into is usually a software or data moat. So, engineers turned entrepreneurs. But again, we invest a lot info inspiring entrepreneurs. So, that’s the most fundamental piece of it.
Melinda Wittstock: And so, the VC game seems to be changing. I mean, there are more women in it now. Is it changing? Is it getting easier for women to raise funding? I mean, I keep seeing the same statistic that women with VC qualified companies, in other words, they can scale, you know, they have some sort of scalable technology, qualify for VC funding. But we only get 2% of the money, still. That number, that percentage has stayed static for like about 20 years. What’s going on?
Minnie Ingersoll: Well, what’s going on? It’s a big question.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s a lot to talk about but I’m curious your take on it.
Minnie Ingersoll: So, first off, I kind of don’t think, anytime anyone asks me about is it getting easier whether it’s for women, people of color, or anyone, even classic white men with hoodies out of Stanford, the answer is actually just really hard to raise money for everyone. I think that we always read the TechCrunch stories of the people who have gotten funding and think, “Oh, everyone who’s 23 years old just got a hundred million dollar valuation.” And sitting on the other side of the table, I know the deluge of companies that we get on a daily basis and I know that we don’t fund one in a hundred of those that seem really good. So, it’s just not easy to raise money period.
But I do think it’s gotten better for women, to answer your specific question. And I think that it’s a little hard for me to put my finger on but having been in tech, in business and in used car sales, sort of a combo of those.
Melinda Wittstock: I love that.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. So, put that Venn diagram, put Venn diagram of women in tech and used cars. There aren’t a lot.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, you must have been the only women in the room like more often than not. Yeah.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yes, yes. But my career goes from far before that, before I was in used cars and I will say that I think the overall energy of the conversation and sort of the feeling in the room has changed, even just in the past maybe three to five years. I think that we’re all having more conversations about why more women aren’t getting funding and I think you could take that different ways. You could say it’s frustrating to have conversations about why women aren’t getting funding and not see the numbers move or you could say there’s no chance things will get better if we’re not constantly talking about it. And raising this as a hey, is this panel an all male panel that you’re putting together or do you have diverse people on your panel? And those sorts of discussions are happening more and more.
And I think women in particular, which is the group that I can sort of identify with, the women are reaching out their hands more and more and I feel it in my own career and I try to play that forward in the sense of just I see that women are making an effort to help other women. So, I am optimistic but I don’t think it’s easy.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. More and more you do see that. I’m an alumnae of Springboard Enterprises, right? I guess now of all the women have gone through that program since 2000, I think there have been 18 IPOs so far. You know? Billions of dollars raised. A lot of really great exits and you know, a lot of women who didn’t get funded as well. But I remember in our boot camp some of the things that would happen is that women would tend to ask for not enough money. So, it wasn’t an interesting deal for a VC, right? Or like it wasn’t the right sum for the right fund. There’s just that lack of kind of knowledge of how it actually works from an investor mindset.
And then the other thing is the women would be kind of accurate about their numbers and get discounted because they had sort of not so much of a hockey stick, it was with the numbers that they thought for sure, absolutely for sure, for sure, for sure they were going to hit and then they would get discounted down from that and told that it wasn’t an interesting opportunity.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Whereas the men would just go right for the big, you know, right out of the gate. Do you still see those kinds of things happening or what are some of the things where women can do better in terms of their pitches or just internal things that our own mindset maybe even that hold us back?
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. It’s interesting. I was actually going to go the other way but I think both are relevant in discussion. I was going to go the other way and say one thing is to continue to help women and coach women and groups like Springboard and what you’re doing. But I think the other thing to look at is just what is going on with this structure of how the system is structured.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Well, VC seems like a broken, you know, for women and it doesn’t necessarily suit the type of businesses that women are coming up with. But I don’t know, what do you think? First of all, what are the structural things that we need to change? Let’s start there.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. I mean, obviously it’d be hard to argue and say VC is setup for women to succeed if we’re still seeing the same numbers and they’re never approaching the two digits, right?
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-Yeah.
Minnie Ingersoll: And so, how could you argue that it is setup for women to succeed? The thing that I think about probably the most, one of the things I think about a lot is how decisions get made both for venture funding but how decisions get made period. And I’ll use a Google example which is the thing that most product managers are doing, one of the things they’re doing is arguing for more resources which generally means more engineers. And it’s very similar to then going and asking venture capitalists for more money.
And in either case what you do is you get half an hour or an hour in which you get to go present your case to a room full of people who may or may not look like you but often don’t. And you show up and you’re walking into someone else’s office where it’s a room full of people who do this all day for a living and you do this hopefully once every couple of years and you’re supposed to think of your feet and speak with confidence about your five year projections. And that is not a style that works for everyone. And so, there are some people who don’t like to speak with confidence, some people who present better in written word than in presentation mode.
And so some of that stuff, I think, is where we need to figure out how to make sure that those conversations are not just favoring people who present well but don’t actually build companies well.
Melinda Wittstock: I’ve seen a lot of women go wrong and I go back a ways to the last time I was raising, is at the pitch was no problem. And then you’d get to the question part and actually, Harvard Business School, did a study on this on question bias. That the women tended to be asked questions that put them on the defensive. Like, how are you going to mitigate risk? What are you going to do if this goes wrong, if that goes wrong, if that goes wrong? So, automatically you’re on the defensive. And whereas the men almost always were asked how they were going to maximize growth. The questioning was more positive. And it’s fascinating. I think they sat in on like thousands of meetings.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. The thing that I’ve seen closest to that is hiring bias. And I think that hiring bias has probably been studied more than venture funding bias just because hiring goes on at such a larger scale. I mean, it happens all day, all the time. And I think that we’ve given a lot of thought to why don’t we have more women in engineering leadership roles.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh yes, absolutely.
Minnie Ingersoll: And I think it’s a similar thing, which is are you asking the right questions when you’re interviewing people? And I think that there’s a lot that we can learn by studying what has worked well in terms of structured interviews to make venture pickup some of the best practices there. So, I think in structured interviews, what we’ve said is, “Look, we’re going to identify the four attributes, four things we’re looking for in this interview,” and then we’re going to have the same questions and we’re going to ask candidates essentially the same question from the same interview panel to evaluate the four things we agreed on and they become fairly quantitative to the extent they can be. And I think some of that same science can be applied to funding.
Melinda Wittstock: I think that’s really smart because that goes a long way towards leveling the playing field. I think sometimes though too, women come up with, do you see this? Women come up with slightly different business models, right? Where there’s a lot of application of technology, perhaps to disrupt the whole industry. But it’s more of a connected dots kind of business model, right? Where it’s like we’re going to A + B – C, there are all these different… To a male mind it looks like lack of focus or oh my God, you’re doing too many things. Or there’s all these different risk points, right?
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: I don’t know how many women I’ve heard say things like, “He told me to focus. I am focused.” Do our brains just work differently?
Minnie Ingersoll: Are women and men intrinsically different or something? Wasn’t that some of what Larry Summers got fired for?
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Minnie Ingersoll: There’s a whole lot of stuff there, which I tend to have my opinions on. Are women and men different? I was sitting with my co-founder when the James Damore memo came out. James Damore, James Damore, he’s the Google-
Melinda Wittstock: Oh yeah. I remember that. Right. Yes. Oh my God.
Minnie Ingersoll: It was only a couple of years ago, you know? It was fairly recent where he said, “Women are more emotional and inherently they can’t be engineers,” you know? It was a reasonably insulting memo.
Melinda Wittstock: It was misogynist.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. But he said women are more emotional and it was interesting because I will say, no, no, I will honestly tell you I know more of my female colleagues who have cried in the bathroom with me or over things. I’ve seen that but at the moment that the memo came out I was sitting with my male colleague and he was pounding the table screaming because the video conferencing equipment did not work. And he was so pissed off.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Minnie Ingersoll: And I thought, he’s fairly emotional right now.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. This drives me crazy because humans are emotional but men and women have been acculturated to express their emotions differently, right? So, like whether that’s been how we’ve evolved, you know, since caveman times or what. I mean, we express it differently but that doesn’t mean that women are more emotional, I don’t think.
Minnie Ingersoll: I think there are differences sure, but clearly many men I know are emotional creatures, so.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. And then some.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yes, and then some. You know, I don’t know exactly about the business model aspect of things. You know, I have sort of generic advice that I do try to, I mean, like when I’m evaluating a company, one of the things I am evaluating is traction. And it’s harder if the business model starts with a, someone is starting to build a business that solves X, Y, Z but really what they’re doing is they’re gathering all the data, let’s say, as part of the process. And they’re going to use that data in a novel way to facilitate clinical trails or whatever. It’s harder for me to evaluate the second part because I’m evaluating the traction and there is no traction on the second part, or the third part as you say.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Minnie Ingersoll: And so yeah, if things are, we’re doing A and then B and then C, well I’m looking for traction on A and B and C then as those-
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. So, from an investor standpoint and I think this is something that a lot of founders don’t necessarily see, just introduces another level or risk. It’s like oh gosh, do all these things have to go right at the same time and what if they don’t?
I was once in a master mind group some time back and we switched roles. There were investors in the room and founders in the room and the founders, we all had to go through this process of evaluating a company and then actually physically writing a check. And we were asked how we felt as we wrote that check, right? And it was really eye opening because I think for the first time it started to get us into the mindset or like, how is an angel investor or a VC actually evaluating us? Right? Because it’s so easy as founders, it’s just like, “Oh my company is the best thing ever. How can you not see this?” You know, because you’re so obviously bought into your own vision. Like you’re just going to go for it. But it’s hard sometimes, I think, for the founder to actually understand how the VC, how the investor is actually looking at it. What kind of advice would you give a founder just to kind of educate them a little bit better about how they’re actually being evaluated?
Minnie Ingersoll: Well, two things that come to mind. I mean, think classically a VC would say, “People, product, market, traction,” if you don’t count traction within product. But you know, those are kind of the classic three things which is we’re looking at the team, the people. We’re looking at the product and we’re looking at the market in terms of like the size of the market. And the product might sort of include traction in there.
And so, in terms of advice, you know, it’s things like people sometimes get very caught up in kind of going through the things they’ve been told a VC wants to hear but not realizing that what I’m really looking for is who you are and why believing that it’s not that I don’t believe in the people who we don’t give funding to, but I have to believe more than I believe in the other 999. Because if there’s a thousand people and we only write one of them a check, it’s not even, like it shouldn’t be any vote of lack of confidence.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Minnie Ingersoll: It’s just you need to rise above the other 900 and that’s a hard challenge to do. So, understanding that and understanding it’s a lot about who you are. And then for me, I sort of hate to say this but this is my personal experience fundraising, was I had to be very prepared. And I think women tend to be sort of over preparers in a lot of situations but it helped me then feel confidence which I think is one of the things that we look for is someone who has confidence in discussing the assumptions behind the model, the competition. Someone who just knows the space inside and out.
Melinda Wittstock: And that’s important. You can tell somebody who doesn’t
Minnie Ingersoll: The other thing I would say on all of that of knowing and not knowing it is knowing also how you come across and I find some founders are so good at making it possible for me to give them constructive feedback but it’s very, I’m not great at it. And some people come in really open to saying, “Your advice would be useful to me,” and I don’t want to be discouraging to someone but I want to be helpful. And it’s a little bit of a fine line and I feel like some people do a much better job of getting useful feedback during the process of fundraising. So, I think to the extent that you can make it really easy for people to give you helpful advice versus kind of digging in without meaning to dig in. And not making it easy to hear it.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Like in everything it’s a fine balance for sure. And so, I want to pivot a little bit to talk about Shift. So, you left Google and you went into the used car business which I think is hilarious but like an online marketplace. And went from idea to scaling this to like a massive company. Was it a hundred million dollar revenue company at the time that you left?
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. Yep. It was totally up into the right backwards, upside down roller coaster at times.
Melinda Wittstock: So, I want to tease out a little bit of this story. I mean, first of all, what got you interested in used cars?
Minnie Ingersoll: Well, that’s a very good question. It was really my co-founder. You know, I was interested in the business enough that my co-founder who worked with me at Google, he had been telling me about this idea. I believed in him very, very strongly. The idea actually started a little bit less around used car and a little bit more around used car financing actually.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh.
Minnie Ingersoll: But I believed in him enough to give him an angel check. One of his first angel checks. So, it was just him and a PowerPoint essentially and I wrote him a check. And then in the process, there were a couple things, one was I tried to sell my car myself and realized that he was right, this was a totally broken thing that could be easily improved. And another was that I went on maternity leave and in the process of going on maternity leave, I got much more involved in helping him build the business as just like an angel investor might. And I sort of became employee, well it was just him and a PowerPoint and I then became sort of like, “Oh, I’ll help you get it started,” became me showing up every day at his apartment at 10:00 AM as if it was a job. And I got completely hooked on both the idea once I started working on it and just the startup experience of just being able to move fast, iterate, hear from real customers, hear that customers were having a problem selling their used car and that we were actually able to pride something of value. And we ended up just like selling a lot of cars and my friends in the early days, parking them outside of George’s apartment. And so it was partly that the process that broken and partly that I just enjoyed entrepreneurship.
Melinda Wittstock: I think the exhilaration of a startup, especially when in those early stages and you actually see the impact of your vision, like hitting, like actually solving problems for people. You know, when you see customers happy. That’s, to me, an unbeatable feeling. You know? Fifth time around for me, I love that. I love that exhilaration. So, did that kind of stay with you right the way as it scaled? I mean, because often when we’re scaling companies, who you’re being and the early stages is a little bit different from who you have to be in subsequent stages. How did you handle those, oh I don’t know, you know? Those scaling moments where, it’s kind of like you’re on a trapeze and you have to let go of one of the bars and you have to grab a different bar. What was working before, now you have to do something a little bit different. How did that go?
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. No, I think I agree with you. It was just like a trapeze, exactly like that. No, but the thing that started for me was just like the exhilaration of having customers but also of being able to sketch out a wire frame of how our website should work, let’s say, or how the car inspection should work. Sketch it out on a piece of paper, take some pictures. We had developers in Thailand and we could take those wire frames and launch it on the website, launch an entire new website in four weeks. And you know, and have a whole different customer experience. And that speed and that iteration was extremely exciting at the beginning, especially I was coming from Google.
But yeah, once we scaled there were a lot of times where there wasn’t the excitement of just like hey, we’re solving a problem for a customer. You know, there were times where we had to say, “You know what? We need to build a business with economics that work.”
Melinda Wittstock: Right, yeah. Like, all your metrics and dashboards and knowing the unit cost of things. Oh my God, yeah. Like, systems.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. Well building systems but then I actually like building systems. I sort of enjoy building the dashboards and figuring out what the right KBIs are and to look at a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly basis. But actually then when you look at all the metrics and you say, “Now I filled out my dashboards and my metrics needs to be better.” And you know, there were times where we had to say, “Look, our metrics need to be better. I have a good handle on what they are right now but that means that we need to take away something from our customers.” So, you know, we used to say, “Give customers anytime that works for you,” and now we’re going to say, “There’s four time slots in the day and they can book a test drive at 9:00 AM, at noon, at 3:00 or at 6:00 PM.” And that’s the way that we’re going to improve our economics because we’re going to have things be more predictable. That’s one example but there were many times where actually wasn’t, it was a how do we not compromise on doing right by our customers but we also need to build a business and so figuring out that. You know, it was no longer just the sort of the heavy early days of we’ll do whatever.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. That’s the product-market fit stage or the lean startup iterate we’ll do it all but managing expectations of customers and bringing them onto that next phase of growth and managing the growth. That is not easy. I think a lot of businesses die, actually, at that point. Where they’re growing so fast they can’t quite run fast enough to get the systems in place, the quality kind of declines, or if they don’t have the systems or they can’t hire fast enough. I mean, all those sorts of things. What do you think is the most vulnerable point? You know, having done this from zero to a hundred million, what is the most vulnerable point in that journey?
Minnie Ingersoll: Unfortunately I think every piece of it is fairly vulnerable. If I could only-
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, well true.
Minnie Ingersoll: All of that is vulnerable. The thing that I would focus on, though, as the vulnerable piece that I would sort of hunker down and put up my shields around the hardest are probably the employee experience. And I think because I don’t always have gotten that right, which is you’re moving so fast and you know, your pants are on fire or your hair is on fire, whatever, and my lesson of startups, the many lessons, but one I would say is you do need to move fast. That is your competitive advantage is you can move faster than the big encompass but not to move fast on people. And you still need to hire people fast but everything around sort of the HR, meaning people operations, needs to be really thoughtful and deliberate and communicated. And that doesn’t mean that you need to slow down but you can’t sort of shoot from the hip as much because I think you run the risk of, you know, I like to iterate on everything but if I iterate on the org structure, and just I’m like, “Oh, I think you know, maybe let’s try a different manager for your next week.” You know?
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my gosh, yeah. That drives people crazy. It’s very, very difficult to manage a team that way and have success.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah, I mean that’s an extreme example but I think-
Melinda Wittstock: But a lot of founders do kind of think that they’re going to hire mini me entrepreneurs and I mean, they’re not entrepreneurs, they’re you know, there’s a reason that you know, you can’t have a whole company of founders.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. And I think I would hire an HR person, a really good people ops person and then figure out how to empower them to do things like make changes in the business. Not like to control the hiring plan but to figure out the bigger implications there.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. That sounds like you learned a lot too, at Google. You know, I’m thinking the “hire slowly, fire fast” slogan.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. I think that I’ve learned a ton about hiring and if I actually say, “What have I actually been doing for the past ten years in my career?” A lot of it has been people ops and hiring and I think that people say that they want to hire well, everyone says that but my secret of hiring well is that you have to decide how much of your time you’re going to spend on it. Because you can’t do anything well if you’re not putting significant amounts of time and for me, I probably got up to something like a third of my time. You know, maybe between a quarter and a third of my time, but really like three hours every single day was nothing but recruiting people, interviewing people, and just building out a whole process for hiring. But most of the time just interviewing and recruiting.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. So, do you think a lot of founders underestimate that that’s how much time they really have to put into that? Is it sometimes an afterthought for people? Are they focused on team enough at the early stages?
Minnie Ingersoll: Yes, I think that people do make that error, which is not that they think the team doesn’t matter by any means. Everyone agrees, I think a lot of the people I speak to acknowledge that team is important, hiring is important but they don’t realize that that then implies that it’s going to be a third of their day every single day.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Right.
Minnie Ingersoll: That’s a huge amount of time.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s a lot of time. And so-
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. I joined Google when it was 500 people and I left Google when it was 60,000 people. And Google managed to maintain a lot of its culture, not everything but a lot of its culture through the period I was there. I was there for 11, almost 12 years. And it managed to preserve a lot of, the good stuff was preserved because of the time spent on hiring.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. And not only just hiring but just making sure that people are in the right seats.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: You know, what is your number one takeaway or piece of advice for all the women who listen to this podcast who are at various stages of growth and hiring is very much on their mind and being good leaders and whatnot? What were the things that you learned or you brought into the fast scaling of drive that they could learn from you right now?
Minnie Ingersoll: Well, I mean, many different things. I think if we stay on the hiring, I would say the hiring my advice there number one is probably that most of hiring is done up front, I believe. So, I believe that if you’re going to hire someone good, it’s not about the hours that you put in interviewing people, it doesn’t matter. If you haven’t put in enough time ahead of time to identify what success is going to look like in 18 months, what are the top four attributes you’re looking for in a person will achieve those 18 month milestones. And then what are the sort of personas of people who are most likely to have those attributes and what your interview panel looks like. And all of that and then having everyone who’s on the interview panel align on what that looks like so that you don’t sort of spin your wheels interviewing people and then not being sure if they’re right because you haven’t really done all the work ahead of time.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. That’s very good advice. Oh my goodness, I feel like I could talk to you for hours, Minnie. We’re kind of-
Minnie Ingersoll: It’s actually really good therapy for me, too.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, you know, it’s interesting I started this podcast, as this passion project a while back and I love these conversations because I feel like I have this little personal mastermind with each conversation. I interview the most amazing women and when I first started out I thought gosh, are there going to be enough women who are investors or women who have run seven, eight, nine and even ten figure unicorn businesses to interview, and I have to say, I have never struggled to find a great guest.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: And that in and of itself suggests to me that women are really beginning to change the game of business or certainly the face of business.
Minnie Ingersoll: Well, I have my podcast LA Venture where I interview men and women in venture in LA and I will say that my favorite episodes, don’t tell Edwin this, my favorite episodes are the women that I’ve had a chance to interview and they are these inspiring women who have been doing VCs since before most women have been doing VC and I learn so much from interviewing them.
Melinda Wittstock: So, I want to end by just asking you what you think your, I don’t know, what’s your take on women and women founders and where we’re going to be in ten years, twenty years? I mean, I have a theory that I’m going to run past you, that women are really coming into our real authentic, I don’t know, I call it like feminine power, right? Where we’re learning to not try and be dudes but just are being ourselves and changing the game of business a little bit but also uniquely suited for the types of businesses that are solving some significant social problems. Like you look at any of the 17 UN global goals and I see so many women doing some really, really innovative things and innovative business models. Where do you think we’re going to be like a decade from now?
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah, I definitely think that things close to 50/50 and I don’t know 50/50 in favor of women or men getting more funding, but you know, I think it’ll be a much more equal field in terms of you know, when I talk about my portfolio, it’s always weird when VCs talk about their portfolio, they’re so proud that a third of their portfolio has a female founder or something. And I think [inaudible 00:51:18] that seems so weird to me a thing people are proud of because I definitely think that it should be 50/50.
But I think that when I look at like big trends that are going on, I think that what you said is true which is social problems are going to be solved, I see the whole health space as being this huge space whether it’s Baby Boomers retiring or just the frontiers of bio-tech. I think many of the big fields that are coming are going to have female leaders at the helm and that excites me. So, I feel very lucky to be part of this wave and when I hang out with female leaders, I just come away really positive.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s wonderful. Well, thank you for all of the work you’re doing in the world to get these really great startups, you know, off and running. I mean, and you know, supporting women. And it is great to talk to a female VC so, thank you.
Minnie Ingersoll: Well, I want to thank your network. I would not be here if it were not for the women around me.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Oh gosh, this is so true. You know, I’m part of a mastermind with Kara Goldin and a number of other women. We get together and have these amazing, amazing conversations. And just increasingly, I see women stepping up to help each other. Like meaningful help, not just like, “Hey, you go girl.” But actually, I envision this ecosystem where women are buying from each other, promoting each other, mentoring each other, investing in each other. And I would love to see the day when women get better at investing in each other. Actually, just investing period.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah. I went to a good dinner the other night that was women in business, I think. And the moderator asked us to go around and say the one thing that right now we wanted help with and then to commit to helping each other. And it was just one of those, I mean it sounds obvious, but it’s very useful I think for everyone to be able to articulate what it is that would be helpful to them right now.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh, but women struggle sometimes to even ask for help. We’re so used to just doing everything, right?
Minnie Ingersoll: It’s nice to be asked from time to time.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. It’s true. You know? I do these retreats for female founders and we went around the room, we had this thing is Scottsdale, we went around the room and everybody was giving, giving, giving, giving and [inaudible 00:54:09] said, “Okay, so what would you like? What would you like to receive?” I was like quite astonished by that and these are very successful women. So, it was just easier to give than it was to receive. Even receiving a complement, a lot of the women would be like, “Oh no, you know, whatever.”
Minnie Ingersoll: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: I think we need to exercise that muscle more of actually receiving.
Minnie Ingersoll: Yep, yep. Receiving and asking. I agree.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, absolutely. Well, what a wonderful way to bring this interview to a close. You know, Minnie, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to put on your wings and fly with us.
Minnie Ingersoll: Thank you so much for having me here.