Women Entrepreneurs & Fundraising Pt. 2: Boundaries

Jun 06, 2012

Yesterday I wrote Women Entrepreneurs and Fundraising -Here is Your Reality Check.  Which other women entrepreneurs helped me create.  Posts like this usually stimulate conversation, sometimes private, but the point is…it makes you think about things.  So another post and view point has been added to this conversation.  It’s called Boundaries, male entrepreneurs helped create this one, and it’s purpose is to separate the difference between normal “courting” in business relationships vs misunderstandings vs what is happening out there in venture capital.  All 3 are very different.

Boundaries for Entrepreneurs

Why boundaries?  Because I think as an entrepreneur, male or female, boundaries are very “fuzzy”.  If boundaries were very clear to us, I don’t think we would be entrepreneurs.  It’s that awkward stumbling of…where is the line located, because I don’t see it?  With the majority of entrepreneurs I know, this is the case.  But the majority of entrepreneurs are actually empathetic people.  If they weren’t, they wouldn’t see (or care) about problems to even think about solving them.  So boundaries may not be very clear with us, but most of us rely on core values and/or gut instincts to tell us if we are walking into a bad situation.  Either that, or we trust that we can talk our way out of a bad situation, should it occur.

With what is going in the venture capital situations that all entrepreneurs are so angry about, this is not a “fuzzy boundary” situation.  This is a “I am in the powerseat because I have something you want” type situation.  This is using people.  This is an ego issue.  This is not “male hormones”, because in case you didn’t know….biologically your testosterone significantly decreases after the age of 40, and continues to decrease each year from there.

One male entrepreneur had this to say: “For guys to assume ALL guys support this kind of behavior, or that it’s “cool”, is bullshit.  I have two little girls of my own, who will without a doubt, grow up to be entrepreneurs.  They’re not scared of anything.  If you don’t see the problem, just picture your daughters getting themselves caught up into these kind of situations.  That will change your perspective, real fast”.

Courting in Business

Courting in business relationships and raising money, is very very normal.  All entrepreneurs do it, all investors do it.  Males and females.  You take each other out to dinner, you compliment each other, you hold doors open, you buy drinks.  This is showing respect for a) the business relationship b) what the other person is doing in their business and c) very normal part of any type of sales.

Hanging Out with Entrepreneurs of the Opposite Sex

Another very blurry line.  A few times a year we may round up all our business relationships (which in my case are usually other CEO’s that I know), and go out to celebrate.  I think it’s good, it’s good for business partners to get away from family and business, and hang out as friends that “get” what you’re going through.  Half may be women, half may be men.  Sometimes you stay out till 1 or 2am, you get into a little bit of trouble, do a few illegal u-turns on the highway, someone in the group passes out, you throw them in the back of the Tahoe, take them home (because good business partners look out for each other), leave them on their doorstep, ring the doorbell for their husband or wife, and run away.  Then everyone usually gets “grounded” by their significant others for a few weeks for staying out to late, and/or not calling (yes, contrary to popular belief, women entrepreneurs get in trouble too).

Sexual Harassment & Manipulation

Now the difference with what is happening in Venture Capital that is being referred to as “sexual harassment” and manipulation.  You can tell when someone is trying to do this.  Many of the women I talked to, these venture capitalists had it set up long before hand to where they were backed into a corner.  They attack it with a plan.  It is done on purpose.  They are fully aware that they are harming the other person for their own benefit.  It’s a control issue that is taken way out of context.  There is 0 empathy for what the other person is going through. 

Why Just Venture Capital?

It’s not in just venture capital.  And it’s not all venture capitalists.  It’s more painful in venture capital though.  With other executives, and angel investing, it definitely happens as well.  But I noticed when it happens with other executives and angel investors, it’s usually very quick, not as abrasive, not as controlling.  If the women rejects them, they usually run away, or apologize right there on the spot.  As a result, the stories I received in this category, the women weren’t physically hurt, but still very frustrated (which is still very bad).

But with venture capital, there is alot more to loose from the VC’s end.  In these cases, in turns into years of sexual harassment.  They have LP’s to worry about, and an established reputation that is the lifeline of their business.  Their firms are backed by billions of dollars, and the best attorneys.  As a result, they have more power…and they can use it to it’s full extent.  They use 10x more manipulation, guilt, pressure, and control.  With this group, it’s often not “I’m going to flirt with you & try to persuade you.”…..it’s something “you will do, because I said so.  And if you don’t, y and x is going to happen to you because I have this planned out”.

That is the difference, and this is where women entrepreneurs fundraising can get very very dangerous, if you don’t know who you’re messing with.

So after reading both articles from both gender perspectives….what’s your take on the situation?

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