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The women writing checks: A list of female venture capitalists in the Pacific Northwest

Back in 2018, GeekWire published a list of women investors based in the Pacific Northwest who were writing checks to help startups grow. A lot has changed…

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Back in 2018, GeekWire published a list of women investors based in the Pacific Northwest who were writing checks to help startups grow.

A lot has changed in four years. We’ve put together a new compilation below, highlighting nearly 60 women venture capitalists across Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver B.C.

Venture capital dollars reached record levels in 2021. But U.S. companies founded by only women raised just 2.4% of total capital invested — a percentage that hasn’t grown in recent years, despite many headlines and attention on the giant gender gap in venture capital.

Evidence suggests that the lack of female leaders in venture capital ranks makes firms less likely to invest in female-led startups.

There are some signs of progress. Our updated list has grown compared to 2018, and this year we only included women in senior roles, such as founders of firms or managing directors and partners. The 2018 list also included angel investors.

“The landscape looks much, much different today,” said Leslie Feinzaig, founder of Seattle-based women-focused venture firm Graham & Walker.

More than 15% of general partners at VC firms nationwide are women, up from 12% in 2019, according to a PitchBook report from November.

“The importance of that increase, as modest as it may look, extends beyond the increase itself,” PitchBook said in its report. “Studies and dozens of anecdotes suggest that female founders tend to seek out female investors and that the chances of a female-founded company successfully securing financing can rise with a female investor in the room.”

PitchBook reported that startups founded only by women accounted for 6.9% of U.S. venture capital deal count in 2022 through June, a decade high, even with the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on women in the workforce. That number was 18.2% for companies with both female and male founders.

However, for total capital raised, female-founded startups have raised just 1.9% of dollars thus far in 2022, slightly lower than last year.

Feinzaig said she sees more women founders raising capital in Seattle, pointing to folks such as Sandi Lin (Skilljar), Kieran Snyder (Textio), Maria Colacurcio (Syndio), Linda Lian (Common Room), and many others.

“There are a lot of interesting technologies coming out of Seattle, with women founders at the top,” she said. “That is really exciting, and I think we’ll see a lot more in the next decade.”

Women founders are the “lynchpin of this entire ecosystem,” Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon, CEO of All Raise, said on Bloomberg earlier this year. Dixon in March became CEO of the nonprofit that aims to boost female founders and funders.

Dixon told Forbes in June that the current economic downturn could cause investors to pull back on diversity-related initiatives. But she said it’s an even bigger opportunity for checkwriters.

“I would really encourage them to check in with themselves and understand this opportunity they have … to continue to boldly move forward and make bets, to give opportunities to people who have not had that opportunity so we don’t lose all the progress that’s been made,” she said.

The list is meant to be a community resource and a living document, so please email us at tips@geekwire.com with suggested additions or feedback. Investors are listed below in alphabetical order.

Sarah Applebaum.

Sarah Applebaum, partner at Pangaea Ventures

Sarah Applebaum got her start in venture capital at Vancouver, B.C.-based Pangaea Ventures in 2012 as an associate. She spent two years as an investor at RenewableTech Ventures and returned to Pangaea as partner in 2020.

Elizabeth Bernstein.

Elizabeth Bernstein, partner and portfolio manager at Cercano Management

Elizabeth Bernstein was previously portfolio manager at Invesco US before joining Cercano Management (formerly Vulcan Capital) in 2019. She also worked as an equity analyst at Wells Fargo, Banc of America Securities, and Allianz Global Investors Capital.

Adriane Brown.

Adriane Brown, managing partner at Flying Fish Partners

Adriane Brown previously served as president and COO of Intellectual Ventures and president of Honeywell Transportation Systems. She is currently on the boards of American Airlines, KKR, Axon, eBay and the Washington Research Foundation. Brown is an advisor for The Black Boardroom Initiative, a new effort from Perkins Coie that launched this year to increase the number of Black leaders on public boards.

Minda Brusse.

Minda Brusse, founding partner at First Row Partners

Minda Brusse co-founded First Row Partners in December 2019. She also co-founded The $1k Project in April 2020, a volunteer collective providing cash relief for families impacted by the pandemic. She is a venture partner at 2048 Ventures and held leadership roles at Grubstakes and the Seattle Angel Conference as an angel and fund manager.

Naynika Chaubey.

Naynika Chaubey, partner at Evok Innovations

Naynika Chaubey joined Evok Innovations in November after working in energy project finance and private equity. She was previously vice president at Bear Stearns, SoCore Energy, and Wirsol Solar Americas. She also managed portfolios at US Renewables Group and Cascade Investment.

Ana Chaud.

Ana Chaud, executive partner at Elevate Capital

Ana Chaud joined Elevate Capital in February 2020 and is CEO of Lodestar. She also founded Chaud & CO in 2019 and co-founded Garden Bar in 2013. She was a board member of TiE Oregon, Entrepreneurs Organization, and Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon.

Hope Cochran.

Hope Cochran, managing director at Madrona Venture Group

Hope Cochran joined Madrona in January 2017 and spent two years as a venture partner before becoming the first female managing director at the firm in 2019. She was previously a CFO at King, maker of Candy Crush, as well as Clearwire and Evant. She serves on the boards of AI2, Hasbro, MongoDB and NewRelic.

Karen Cone.

Karen Cone, venture partner at Sybilla Masters Fund

Karen Cone held various senior executive positions before joining Sybilla Masters Fund in September 2018. She was CEO at TowerGroup and a general manager at Microsoft. She is also on advisory boards for Women in Cloud and early stage growth technology firms.

Emer Dooley.

Emer Dooley, site lead at Creative Destruction Lab-Seattle

Emer Dooley was executive director of the Alliance of Angels seed fund for nearly 15 years. She joined Creative Destruction Lab in 2020 to lead the organization’s Seattle accelerator. Dooley also teaches at the University of Washington’s business school.

Edith Dorsen.

Edith Dorsen, founder of Women’s VC Fund II

Edith Dorsen, a former investment banker and consultant, helped start Portland, Ore.-based Women’s Venture Capital Fund in 2011 and later launched a second fund to invest in companies with management teams inclusive of women.

Leslie Feinzaig.

Leslie Feinzaig, managing director at Graham & Walker

Leslie Feinzaig founded Graham & Walker in 2020. The women-focused venture firm originally started as Female Founders Alliance, which Feinzaig launched in February 2017. She also founded Venture Kits in 2016. Feinzaig previously held product management roles at Microsoft, Julep Beauty, and Big Fish.

Eileen Foley

Eileen Foley, venture partner at Sybilla Masters Fund

Eileen Foley has more than 25 years of experience in strategy, operations, and management. She also held sales and product development roles before joining Sybilla Masters Fund in November 2018. She previously founded Colcannon LLC, a Irish-inspired artisan food company.

Diane Fraiman.

Diane Fraiman, managing director at Voyager Capital

Diane Fraiman joined Voyager Capital in 2008. Fraiman, based in Portland, Ore., was previously a marketing executive at companies including Sanctum, Informix, and Tektronix. She’s invested in companies such as Elemental Technology, Act-On, Skyward, and others.

Stacey Giard.

Stacey Giard, partner at Tola Capital

Stacey Giard helped launch Tola Capital in 2010. Giard previously spent eight years at Microsoft in product management and senior marketing roles. She served as board director for Convercent, Gila, Assignar, and is currently on the board for VergeSense.

Terry Gillespie.

Terry Gillespie, managing director and founding partner at Trilogy Equity Partners

Terry Gillespie spent nearly 15 years at Western Wireless Corporation where she held several executive titles such as director, senior vice president, CFO, and others. She was previously controller at McCaw Cellular.

Michelle Goldberg.

Michelle Goldberg, angel investor and partner at SoGal Ventures

Michelle Goldberg spent 20 years as a venture capitalist at Bellevue, Wash.-based Ignition Partners. She’s currently a limited and venture partner at SoGal Ventures, a female-led millennial VC firm based in New York City. Goldberg has backed Lovevery, Universal Standard, and TomboyX. 

Sheila Gulati.

Sheila Gulati, managing director at Tola Capital

Sheila Gulati spent 10 years at Microsoft in various business and marketing leadership roles before co-founding Tola Capital in 2010. Tola invests in enterprise software companies around the world. Past investments include ybris and OSIsoft.

Julie Harrelson.

Julie Harrelson, managing director at Cascade Seed Fund

Julie Harrelson helped launch Bend, Ore.-based Cascade Seed Fund in 2019. She previously held exec roles at various companies, and is also managing partner at 44North Ventures.

Nancy Harrison.

Nancy Harrison, venture partner at Amplitude Ventures

Nancy Harrison is an experienced biotech investor who was previously president of Methylation Sciences. She joined Vancouver, B.C.-based Amplitude in 2020.

Tina Hoang-To.

Tina Hoang-To, founding general partner at Kin Ventures

Tina Hoang-To has more than 15 years of experience in investments, operations, strategy, and tech finance. She moved to Seattle from the Bay Area and founded Kin Ventures in October. She previously founded Wedding Spot in 2013 and was a partner at Obvious Ventures and executive vice president at TCV.

Angela Jackson.

Angela Jackson, managing director at Portland Seed Fund

Angela Jackson co-founded Portland Seed Fund in 2010. The firm has invested in more than 100 seed-stage companies in the Pacific Northwest. Jackson also helped run the business accelerator at Portland State University of nearly a decade.

Brenda Irwin.

Brenda Irwin, managing partner at Relentless Venture Fund

Brenda Irwin spent 13 years as a life sciences venture capitalist for Business Development Bank of Canada. She launched Vancouver, B.C.-based Relentless Venture Fund in 2018 to back early-stage health tech startups.

Robin Jones.

Robin Jones, executive partner at Elevate Capital

Robin Jones held leadership positions at Motorola Ventures, Geoloqi, Esri, and Socrata. She founded Moica in 2020, served as COO at Public Market, and is currently CEO at Monsoon Inc. Jones joined Portland, Ore.-based Elevate Capital in 2016. 

Anne Kennedy.

Anne Kennedy, managing director at Sybilla Masters Fund

Anne Kennedy joined Sybilla Masters Fund in 2013. She founded Beyond Ink in 1997, which supported the online launches of companies such as Zillow, Jib-Jab, and Avvo. She is co-author of Global Search Engine Marketing, one of the first books on international digital marketing, and serves on several advisory boards.

Karin Kidder.

Karin Kidder, partner at First Row Partners

Karin Kidder joined First Row Partners in September and held director roles in marketing and communications at Microvi Biotech and Bellevue Arts Museum. She has been a member and investor at Grubstakes, SeaChange Fund, and E8 Angels.

Shelley King.

Shelley King, CEO of Natural Products Canada

Shelley King was a vice president at Genome Atlantic and CEO of a nonprofit called Synapse before she launched Natural Products Canada, which invests in Canadian natural product companies. She launched a new early-stage fund, NPC Ventures, in 2021.

Beth Kolko.

Beth Kolko, venture partner at Pack Ventures and Pioneer Fund

Beth Kolko has been a professor at the University of Washington for more than 20 years. She founded Shift Labs and Hacademia before becoming a senior venture partner at Pioneer Fund in February 2019 and a venture partner at Pack Ventures in January 2022.

Caroline Lewis.

Caroline Lewis, managing partner at Rogue Women’s Fund

Caroline Lewis spent time at Hitachi, Propeller, and Nike before joining Portland, Ore.-based Rogue Venture Partners in 2018. Rogue created a women’s-focused fund and Lewis took over as managing partner in 2019.

Melinda Lewison.

Melinda Lewison, managing director at Bezos Expeditions

Melinda Lewison helps run the investment arm of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. She was a former product manager at Microsoft and an associate at Rustic Canyon Partners.

Loretta Little.

Loretta Little, managing director at WRF Capital

Loretta Little joined Washington Research Foundation in 1989 and became managing director a decade later. Little is focused on Washington-based investment opportunities in life sciences. Past investments include Phytelligence, Nexgenia, and Accium Biosciences.

Jenn Lynch.

Jenn Lynch, partner at Portland Seed Fund

Jenn Lynch joined Portland Seed Fund in 2013 and was promoted to managing director in 2017. The longtime product manager also helps manage the Bend Venture Conference Growth Fund in Bend, Ore.

Deepthi Madhava.

Deepthi Madhava, venture partner at Oregon Venture Fund

Deepthi Madhava spent more than a decade at Deloitte before joining Oregon Venture Fund as investor-in-residence and venture partner in January 2021. She also serves on the board for Oregon Entrepreneurs Network

Amy McCullough.

Amy McCullough, managing director at Trilogy Equity Partners

Amy McCullough spent time at Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase before becoming a partner at Bellevue, Wash.-based Trilogy Equity Partners in 2007. Her firm focuses on seed and Series A startups in the Pacific Northwest. Past investments include Owlet, Skilljar, and Boundless.

Brianna McDonald.

Brianna McDonald, president of Keiretsu Forum Northwest

Brianna McDonald has led the Northwest operations for Keiretsu Forum since 2006. The professional investor network comprises of nearly 400 members. It funded more than 93 companies last year, with an average investment of $859,000.

Kate Mitselmakher.

Kate Mitselmakher, founder of Bloccelerate VC

Kate Mitselmakher founded Bloccerate in 2018. The Seattle-area firm invests in blockchain startups. Mitselmakher previously worked for Gartner and is on the board of BlockApps and ZenLedger.

Gillian Muessig.

Gillian Muessig, managing director at Sybilla Masters Fund

Gillian Muessig launched Sybilla Masters Fund in January 2018. She previously co-founded Moz and Outlines Venture Group. She was also founder and co-host of VC Confidential and CEO Coach Podcasts for 13 years.

Susan Namkung.

Susan Namkung, director at Women’s VC Fund II

Susan Namkung is a former corporate M&A lawyer who joined Portland, Ore.-based Women’s VC Fund in 2013 as principal. She became a director in 2017 when the firm launched it second fund to invest in more companies with management teams inclusive of women.

Jill Nelson.

Jill Nelson, executive partner at Elevate Capital

Jill Nelson founded Ruby Receptionists in 2003 before joining Elevate Capital in February 2020. She was the first woman to be named Oregon’s Technology Executive of the Year in 2017. She previously worked in sales at Businessland and as a business broker at IBA.

Lisa Nelson.

Lisa Nelson, venture partner at Flying Fish Partners

Lisa Nelson is a Microsoft veteran who previously led the company’s venture capital arm as managing director. She joined Flying Fish last year. Nelson has more 25 years of experience as a senior executive. She led investments in startups including Pixvana, Zipwhip, and Make.TV.

Brigid O’Brien.

Brigid O’Brien, head of venture investments at BHP

Brigid O’Brien was a research physical scientist for the U.S. Army before joining In-Q-Tel as a managing director. She joined BHP in 2020 and looks for early-stage companies working in decarbonization and sustainable resource extraction.

Yoko Okano.

Yoko Okano, founding partner at First Row Partners

Yoko Okano spent seven years at Google as an associate and strategist before co-founding First Row Partners in December 2019. She has been an angel investor since 2015 and previously helped lead Grubstakes, a Seattle-based group of angel investors that fund and mentor startups. She was also fund manager for Seattle Angel Conference XIV and worked in product marketing for Smartwhere.

Maria Pacella.

Maria Pacella, managing partner at Pender Ventures

Maria Pacella spent 11 years at GrowthWorks Capital, one of the largest managers of retail venture capital funds in Canada. She joined Vancouver, B.C.-based Pender Ventures in 2017. The firms invests in B2B enterprise companies as well as health tech.

Vanessa Pegueros.

Vanessa Pegueros, angel investor and venture partner at Flying Fish Partners

Vanessa Pegueros previously worked at AT&T, Nextel Communications, JPMorgan Chase, Expedia, US Bank, DocuSign, and OneLogin. She joined Flying Fish in November 2018 and also serves on the board at Presidio and Forterra.

Genevieve Pinto.

Genevieve Pinto, partner at Renewal Funds

Genevieve Pinto was a partner at McCarthy Tetrault for a decade before joining Vancouver, B.C.-based Renewal Funds, which focuses on sustainable consumer products, and food and environmental tech. She also co-founded The RAISE Collective, which aimed to support women investors and entrepreneurs.

Meredith Powell.

Meredith Powell, venture partner at Voyager Capital

Meredith Powell founded three startups before joining Voyager Capital in 2017. She was also global chief marketing officer at Microsoft for a year and has served on several boards.

Susan Preston.

Susan Preston, managing member at SeaChange Fund

Susan Preston is a longtime investor and currently a managing member of SeaChangeFund, a Seattle-based angel group, and the Element 8 Fund, a cleantech investment group. Preston has held more than 35 board positions with public and privately held corporations.

Amy Rae.

Amy Rae, partner at Vanedge Capital

Amy Rae was a vice president at Ziplocal and director at Canpages before joining Vancouver, B.C.-based Vanedge Capital in 2011. She was promoted to partner last year. Rae focuses on software business and applied analytics technologies.

Vani Rao.

Vani Rao, venture partner at Sybilla Masters Fund

Vani Rao held vice president and director positions at KeyBank, BBVA, and Lighter Capital before joining Sybilla Master Fund in September 2020. She is also a managing partner at EdgeVenture Group.

Heather Redman.

Heather Redman, managing partner at Flying Fish Partners

Heather Redman held executive roles at Getty Images, Atom Entertainment, Summit Power Group, and Indix. In 2016 she co-founded Flying Fish, an early-stage software tech investment firm backing companies across the Pacific Northwest. Past investments include Streem, MessageYes, and Ad Lightning. 

Christina Reszka.

Christina Reszka, partner at Frazier Healthcare Partners

Christina Reszka joined Frazier Healthcare Partners in October 2019 as a principal on the growth buyout team. She was previously principal at Norwest Equity Partners for 10 years and also worked as an investment banking associate at Craig-Hallum Capital Group.

Lauren Robinson.

Lauren Robinson, general partner at Highline Beta

Lauren Robinson spent six years at National Bank Financial before joining Highline VC in 2013. She helped launch Vancouver B.C.-based Highline Beta in 2018. The firm is a hybrid corporate venture studio and a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage startups.

Karimah Es Sabar.

Karimah Es Sabar, CEO and partner at Quark Venture LP

Kariah Es Sabar previously led LifeSciences BC and senior management positions at large pharmaceutical companies. In 2016 she joined Quark, a Vancouver, B.C.-based venture firm focused on life sciences.

Julie Sandler.

Julie Sandler, managing director at PSL Ventures

Julie Sandler worked as a product manager at Microsoft, TeachStreet, and Amazon before joining Madrona Venture Group in 2011. She joined Pioneer Square Labs in 2017 as a managing director and co-founded its venture capital arm a year later. Past investments include Integris, Poppy, and Rover.

Jennifer Savage.

Jennifer Savage, partner at Illuminate Ventures

Jennifer Savage joined Illuminate in 2019 to invest in seed-stage B2B software startups. She held marketing leadership roles at Flowroute, Smartsheet, DocuSign, and Microsoft.

Anu Shukla.

Anu Shukla, venture partner at Elevate Capital

Anu Shukla had more than 25 years of high-tech industry experience before joining Elevate Capital. She is founder and CEO of software startups including Rubric, MyBuys, Offerpal Media, and RewardsPay. She is also the co-founder and executive chairman of Botco.ai, a fully automated marketing platform powered by AI.

Rohre Titcomb.

Rohre Titcomb, COO and venture partner at Graham & Walker

Rohre Titcomb co-founded Five Bamboo, Seattle Cascades, and Five Ultimate before joining Graham & Walker (formerly Female Founders Alliance) in 2019. She became a partner earlier this year. She was also project manager of Girl Rising, a non-profit organization aiming to change how the world values and invests in girls.

Martina Welkhoff.

Martina Welkhoff, managing partner at The WXR Fund

Martina Welkhoff is a two-time founder who launched Women in XR in 2017. The firm backs gender-diverse companies in spatial computing (VR/AR) and artificial intelligence. Welkhoff was a former board president at Seattle Women in Tech and serves on the board of Obsess.

Rochelle Whelan.

Rochelle Whelan, partner at Keeler Investments Group

Rochelle Whelan spent nine years at Intel in marketing roles before joining Seattle-based Keeler in 2007. Keeler backs Seattle and San Francisco-based pre-seed and seed stage tech companies. Whelan has served as a board member of the Alliance of Angels, the University of Washington Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, and Girl Scouts of Western Washington.

Melissa Widner. (Lighter Capital Photo)

Melissa Widner, CEO of Lighter Capital

Melissa Widner was general partner at SeaPoint Ventures and managing director at NAB Ventures before taking the CEO reins at Lighter Capital, an “alternative VC” firm based in Seattle that provides revenue-based financing to software companies.

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