Jennifer Neundorfer: Investing in Women-Led Startups is the Future

November 30 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: Savor Your Fortune

Did you ever have to read or watch Grapes of Wrath in school? As tumbleweeds rolled by on the screen, I almost felt the dust and despair myself. Admittedly, fifteen-year-old me wasn’t too compassionate for the 15 million unemployed people in the 1930s; I much preferred the stories of excess that come from the Roaring Twenties. But now that I’m in that #adulting stage, I’ve come to accept the value of frugality and gratitude, knowing my good fortune could disappear tomorrow. Let’s remember this and take a cue from The Great Depression: Buy used things if possible, look for quality over quantity, repurpose when possible and fix what’s broken instead of replacing it.


Implementing some of these tips takes some effort and can become a lifestyle. If there’s one thing I’d bet my money on, it’s that women were particularly tenacious during this time, doing everything they could to make do and support their families. That kind of trait extends to companies, too, so it’s no wonder that when a company has a female in charge, it’s poised for success. The numbers are still dreary, however; just 17 percent of startups have a female founder.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Jennifer Neundorfer, Co-founder & Partner of Jane VC

One reason there might be few female founders is they’re often unfunded. In case you didn’t realize, businesses need money to get started, scale and sustain a future. They’ve got to prepare a deck, pitch to a bunch of suits, and hopefully seal the deal. Women continually get treated as the assistant or the note taker in the room rather than the founder. It helps, though, when they pitch to venture capitalists who are also women, like today’s Woman to Watch, Jennifer Neundorfer.

Jennifer moved from Silicon Valley to Ohio and started Jane VC with entrepreneur Maren Thomas Bannon, a former classmate of hers in her MBA program at Stanford University. Jennifer’s journey proves big ideas are possible anywhere, not just in a spot known for innovation. Through Jane VC, Jennifer and her committee of nine women invest in female-led, early stage startups. Period.

For the past couple decades, Jennifer has been surrounded by savvy businesswomen, whether it was during her time at Harvard University, or at Stanford University’s Venture Capital Club, where she acted as co-president. She’s funded more than 50 startups and has witnessed first-hand the sexism in this industry.

Jennifer describes the sexism issue as a ”systemic” one, meaning it’s engrained in the venture capital world. That means sexism is harder to disrupt and dismantle, but she and her team are up for the challenge. Ultimately, Jennifer is optimistic about the future of women in business. Through transparency and support, as well as reaching out to women wherever they are, Jennifer believes women deserve to be funded.

Jane VC’s mission is straightforward: recognize female-led businesses as being equal to male-led ones. That means each company Jane VC funds must have stellar projections. There’s no such thing as a pity fund, just for the sake of backing more women; Jennifer uses the data and results to determine that, in fact, women in charge is just good business and a good financial investment.


Whether you’re pinching pennies or looking for your next investment, listen to Jennifer Neundorfer’s words:

"I believe a new social norm is possible where men and women actively invest in female entrepreneurs. And I believe in a future where women are active investors at all stages of the capital stack."

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