I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Kraus, Sue Heilbronner, and the work they do through MergeLane.
Recently Elizabeth started a platform for the next generation of venture capitalists called Fund81. It includes a podcast, which has both a public section for everyone and a private section for the Fund81 members.
Elizabeth recently interviewed me for Episode 13 where we talked about maintaining mental health in the fast-paced venture capital world while supporting portfolio companies, colleagues, friends, and family wrestling with mental health issues. The public section follows.
Elizabeth and Sue – thanks for everything you and the team at MergeLane do for entrepreneurs and now other VCs.
Yesterday, Elizabeth Kraus, a good friend and the co-founder of MergeLane (we are investors), sent me the following blog post and asked me if I would reblog it on my site. After reading it, I felt she expressed her thoughts on Trump’s “locker room talk” extremely well. The original post appears at Please, Mr. Trump, Stop Calling This “Locker Room Talk”
Dear Mr. Trump,
Thanks to the hard work of many before me, I, an entrepreneur born in the same year as your daughter Ivanka, have grown up believing I could do everything my brother could do. I’ve never really felt the weight of the glass ceiling. I co-founded MergeLane, an accelerator and fund for high-growth startups with at least one woman in leadership. I’m proud to say that we’ve outperformed all of our projections because so many people believe investing in women is the smart thing to do. I’ve always imagined that you also believe this to be true.
It is hard to deny what you’ve achieved as an entrepreneur. Before this election, I would have jumped at the opportunity to have a meeting with you.
Today, I woke up with the sad realization that I would be afraid to be alone in a room with you.
I experienced what you are calling “locker room talk” at my first job when I was 16 years old. I overheard my superiors talking about women in a way very similar to how you and Billy Bush spoke in that video. Although they never said anything like that directly to me, it was paralyzing to think about what they might be saying behind my back or what they might do to me when no one was watching.
I started wearing baggy clothes. I stopped wearing makeup. Most sadly, when my boss told me I was the best employee he had ever had, I dismissed the compliment because I was also the only female employee he had ever had.
It took me years of meeting with supportive, trustworthy men to overcome this paranoia. I’ve gone back to wearing fashionable and feminine clothes. I regularly meet alone with male CEOs and powerful public figures. I’ve experienced and overheard the occasional slightly inappropriate comments, but as a whole, I have felt extreme gratitude for the respectful men who have supported me throughout my career.
Since the age of 16, I have not felt the feeling of fear and sadness that I felt when I listened to your tape. To hear this from the man who may be the next President of the United States was more disappointing than you can ever know.
I know you’ve apologized. I appreciate your apology, but please, I beg of you, stop calling this “locker room talk.” When you and your supporters refer to it as such, it feels as if you are dismissing it as something that is normal. While I would be severely disappointed if it is common practice, I, and women and men everywhere know that it shouldn’t be. More importantly, we have hope that one day it won’t be.
As you’ve acknowledged, it was a mistake. Please refer to it as nothing but a mistake.
If, as I predict from your previous responses, you would ask why I am not asking the Clintons to address the questions the public has raised about them, I have. I wrote my first public article at the age of 14 to express my disappointment in how President Clinton handled his affair. I will be releasing a letter to Secretary Clinton this week to express why I – a daughter, an entrepreneur, and an American – desperately need her to take the moral high ground.
It is my deepest hope that we will elect leaders who will make me feel proud to be an American and safe as a woman.
Thank you for listening.
Daughter, granddaughter, and Chief Investment Officer, MergeLane
I have been talking, writing, and helping advocate for women in technology for a long time. While my most visible role is as chair of National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) since its inception in 2006, I’ve tried to be actively involved and supportive of as many initiatives as I can. My partners and I are focused on promoting diversity in our fund (here’s a run-down of our stats) and have recently back several female CEOs, with a few more about to happen. At Techstars, we’ve put a huge amount of energy into building a pipeline of female founders and getting women involved in Techstars in many roles, especially at the leadership level in companies and the program.
Six months ago, two Boulder entrepreneurs and angel investors approached me and my partners about investing in a new accelerator targeting women-led companies. We’ve known and worked with both Elizabeth Kraus and Sue Heilbronner and deeply believe that each are committed to the “give before you get” ethos of our startup community in Boulder.
Our respect for Elizabeth and Sue, combined with our passion for their objective, led us to invest personally in MergeLane, which has secured strong support from a tremendous group of mentors, investors, media, and the Boulder startup community.
In order to be considered for admission into the 12-week program, which begins on February 2nd, companies must have at least one female in a leadership role. The program is industry-agnostic, but startups need to have some level of traction. MergeLane requires only three weeks of residency in Boulder in hopes of accommodating founders that can’t relocate for a full three months.
The deadline to apply for MergeLane is December 15th. Take a look and apply at www.MergeLane.com.