(Author Note: I originally wrote this article in 2011, but felt the information is just as relevant today. It’s been lightly polished [revised and edited] for this new publish date.)
Last week, I had the pleasure to attend the TEDx Bay Area Women event, which highlighted speakers doing great work in the areas of global and social entrepreneurship. There was, of course, significant discourse on empowering emerging markets like Africa and activating women entrepreneurs and leaders worldwide. A reoccurring and consistent plea was to get more women venture capitalists and venture funds focused on backing women – right here in the United States.
One speaker to note was Ann Winblad. Ann Winblad is the co-founder and a Managing Director of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners (a Venture Capital company), which is solely focused on software investing and “manages over $1 billion in cumulative capital.”
Winblad’s talk was entitled: Why Venture Capitalists Still Matter and Why We Need Women.
Winblad shot off tons of “not-so-shocking” statistics regarding the VC community. Most notable, that the majority of venture capital is distributed to white men, who are graduates from Harvard or Stanford, very similar demographics to the majority of VCs (White men over 40 who are graduates from Harvard or Stanford).***
Winblad encouraged the women in the audience (and elsewhere) to become Venture Capitalists in order to stop the cycle. She mentioned that in 23 years, no mother has ever called her to ask how their daughter can get in the VC industry, but fathers consistently call her and ask how their sons can make VC a career. Winblad’s speech was action-inspiring.
Then her speech was over.
About two dozen women rushed over to Winblad after the event to ask individual questions on how they can become a VC. Questions such as: How can I become a VC? Do you have any resources? What are the next steps? What should I put on my resume? How do I get started? And so on. It took Winblad an extra 35-40 minutes to field all of these questions.
Obviously this scenario isn’t optimal.
Many of the questions went unanswered, or Winblad just scratched the surface in terms of details and “next steps”. Many of the women needed more information on how to get started and potential next steps.
Many questions went unanswered.
This scenario would have been different if Winblad had a book or ebook called, something like, How Women Can Get Started in the Venture Capital Industry (you get where I’m going here!)
As I viewed this interaction, I realized that there were 3 signs that Winblad needed to write a book.
1) Answering Individual Questions is not possible at such a large event. The fact that two dozen or so women surrounded her to ask her individual questions on how they can get started in the VC industry. Obviously, they were excited about learning more.Answering everyone’s individual questions doesn’t scale, but if she had a book to refer them to (there was actually a pop-up book store at the event), there’s a good chance that they would buy the book to answer the questions that they needed answered. The women would have a manual to get started on their VC career as they left the event.
2) All careers need a “How To” Book. The fact that for 23 years, Ann has been fielding calls from fathers about getting their sons into the VC industry. Obviously,people need a “how-to” book on this sought-after career. Additionally, as mentioned before, the event even provided a pop-up book store for the speakers to sell their books.
3) A book is available anytime, anyplace, when you are not. The fact that Ann stayed an additional 40 or so minutes to answer people’s questions. Now don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely generous that Ann stayed after her speech to answer questions (I acknowledge Ann for her generous and inspiring spirit!), but many speakers don’t have the time to do that. It would have been disappointing to the crowd if she needed to zoom off to the airport or run to another appointment. A book is available anytime, anyplace, when you are not.
What we have learned: Writing a book supports you in leveraging your time for the maximum benefit of your audience, the event, and yourself. Above and beyond that, writing a book supports you in creating significant impact and a “ripple effect” in the world by having your knowledge out there for everyone to consume.
As leaders, writing a book is a responsibility.
Disclaimer: Ann did write a book in 1990 called, Object Oriented Software. It looks currently out of print.
***Author Note: 5 years later, this is still the conversation. Although, things are changing. How This Woman Went From Homelessness to Running a Multimillion-Dollar Venture Fund.
[Click here for for a tweetview of the TEDx Bay Area Women event.]