Jeanne Sullivan is the Co-Founder of StarVest Partners, a venture capital firm created in 1998. Sullivan has over 23 years of venture capital experience and has spent 30 years in the technology sector, operating and investing in technology companies. Over the years, Sullivan has honed her trade creating “go to market” plans for early and expansion stage companies, while also participating in philanthropy. She has served as an advisor for many women-focused organizations that work to “fund and fuel” women entrepreneurs and is on the Global Board of Trustees of Astia, an organization that empowers high growth women entrepreneurs.
What is the first step in creating a more inclusive economy for women?
Step one: Understand the statistics about women and where we stand: In the US alone, women command $7 Trillion dollars of purchasing power but we are nowhere in making decisions at the board room table for the Fortune 500 nor in leading companies as CEOs or running lines of businesses.
Step two: Understand that women have had a very hard time getting their businesses funded and it is partly because there is limited access to capital. The gender bias start early for women and by supporting and creating more and more successful women in business we will change the game and the numbers.
Step three: Understand that women are quick to write a check to a charity – but if they invested in a dynamic woman’s business, she could create wealth for many and by helping to create a successful business there is even more money for charitable donations. Charitable giving is important too but investing in a high growth women-led business gives women access to capital that has not been in place until recent years.
What does women’s leadership mean to you?
Leadership means “leading the way” not just “pointing the way.” Great leaders lead by example. How they talk to each other, how they support, inspire and advise others. Great leaders give people, friends, employees and colleagues a chance to build their “super powers”; an opportunity to learn, to fail, to succeed.
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Leveraging my background into a venture capital partnership which then led me to co-found our own venture capital fund in New York City in 1998. We raised $400 million over two funds and this has been very intellectually challenging and rewarding. My background is eclectic and non-traditional and I am proud of this background and experience which is very useful in a venture investing role.
What does it mean to you to be a “successful” woman?
When it is all over this is what I wish people would say or remember: “She tried her best in everything she did”. (Even though I had plenty of things that went upside down or where I could have done better), and “She always had a sense of humor and aimed to be “grace under fire” in most every situation.”
What was your biggest mistake?
I stayed too long at the fair. I stayed too long in certain professional situations that were painful. When a business situation is toxic, make change. Find new ways. Turn every failure into great learning experience.