In Pursuit of Impact: Choosing Zebras Over Unicorns
A conversation with investor and entrepreneur Rose Maizner
Project DEEP (Developing Equitable Economies Program) aims to disrupt the status quo in entrepreneurship and investing and unlock equitable wealth creation for underrepresented entrepreneurs and investors. In this Q&A, Project DEEP course instructor and professional investor Rose Maizner discusses the importance of empowering diverse investors and entrepreneurs.
Rose Maizner is an investment manager and the co-founder of Womenpreneurs, a collective of women leaders and investors seeking to create a more equitable investing environment. After receiving her MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, Rose began a venture capital career at RenewableTech ventures, an early-stage cleantech venture fund investing in environmentally sustainable innovations in the U.S. and Canada.
A career in venture capital exposed Rose to challenges associated with raising capital for a fund as a woman. As one of the few women working in venture capital at the time, women regularly approached her for advice. She saw an opportunity to empower women to navigate entrepreneurship and co-founded Womenpreneurs. Rose recognized that building women-led companies meant giving more women a seat at the table in the male-dominated field of entrepreneurship and investing. Passionate about inspiring women to take control of their wealth, invest meaningfully, and generate financial returns, Rose works to invest in companies and funds led by women. Her focus is to help other women along their path to becoming investors and more actively and intentionally engaging with their wealth.
Rose Maizner Discusses Gender Equity & Women’s Economic Participation
Leveraging her unique experience and insights, Rose teaches the Women Investing for Change course as part of the Sorenson Impact Center’s Project DEEP Program. In her course, she teaches the fundamentals of investing and discusses the importance of empowering diverse investors and distributing capital to diverse founders. Here, she shares more about her work and how she believes we can unlock capital for fund managers and the underrepresented entrepreneurs they are investing in.
How did you get involved in supporting women entrepreneurs and investors?
My path to supporting women entrepreneurs and, later, women investors, began about seven years ago with what was supposed to be a one-off event for female-founded companies. To our surprise, more than 100 women showed up looking for community, resources, and support, and Womenpreneurs was born. In addition to events, we began offering programs to address access gaps for women business owners, one of which focused on raising capital as a startup. The Raise became our flagship program, helping women entrepreneurs learn the A-Zs of fundraising, from venture math to term sheet lingo and debt to equity and everything in between. The problem, however, was that we could teach women all day long how to build great companies and execute the perfect fundraisers, but if no one was writing checks to women-owned businesses, we were wasting our time and theirs.
At that point, I began to turn my attention to working with women who could be investors. Utah is rife with brilliant, inspiring women who are incredibly philanthropic but haven’t yet crossed over to the investment side of the table. But, as we realized when working with the founders who participated in The Raise, if we want to support these exceptional women entrepreneurs who are taking the leap to start much-needed companies and solve ever-expanding problems, we need women to rise to the occasion as investors! And so, for the past three years, my professional and personal focus has been on activating women to move beyond philanthropy and step into their full financial power as investors.
Why is diversifying investing so critical to creating an inclusive and just economy?
I’ve been fortunate to work with incredible partners and mentors like Jacki Zehner and the Sorenson Impact Center. Together we’ve explored how to address the perceived skill and confidence gaps and the systemic barriers and biases that discourage women from becoming investors. It is a difficult nut to crack — but one that’s absolutely worth cracking. I deeply believe that diversifying the investor side of the table is the only way to fundamentally change capital flows and, thus, the types of businesses and technologies that get funded. In other words, activating and empowering diverse investors will be world-changing, not just for the women who are funded, but because of how those businesses will transform our communities, economies, and environment.
If we want to support these exceptional women entrepreneurs who are taking the leap to start much-needed companies and solve ever-expanding problems, we need women to rise to the occasion as investors!
What top change would you like to see to support underrepresented entrepreneurs better? What one thing would make the most significant difference?
There is SO much capital out there – literally billions of dollars – that could be allocated to women and diverse founders. But the financial structures currently in place are unconsciously and, sometimes, consciously biased, preventing the vast majority of that capital from being allocated more equitably. One of the biggest things that would help unlock that capital is for institutional investors and the wealth managers and intermediaries who work with high-net-worth individuals and families to redesign how they think about and perform due diligence on funds.
Track record and performance requirements mean that only the smallest sliver of this capital can typically go to new, and thus more diverse, fund managers. Otherwise, it just keeps getting deployed into funds led by the same players — almost all of whom are white men — who, in turn, invest in founders that look like and think like them. In addition, perceived risk around investing in first-time funds means that many LPs have specific mandates against investing in new managers. Still, the data shows that these funds outperformed more established funds in 12 out of the past 13 years.
By redesigning these due diligence processes and reexamining some of the long-standing, outmoded beliefs that many LPs and intermediaries hold about first-time funds, we can unlock an extraordinary amount of capital for diverse fund managers and the underestimated entrepreneurs they are investing in.
What advice would you offer someone who is new to investing and needs help figuring out where to start?
Don’t let fear or imposter syndrome keep you on the sidelines if you’re passionate about doing this. Yes, it is essential to do your research, to be thoughtful about your approach, and to invest with intention and careful consideration. But this can feel like a daunting pool to dive into, and, as a result, decision paralysis can also be very real. So, try not to overthink it too much, and remember to trust yourself and all the brilliance and expertise you bring to the investment process. While women are overlooked in more traditional investment environments, many of the strengths and skills they bring to the table — such as being more “risk astute” — are incredible assets. They are also what many researchers believe make women better investors.
If you need guidance or support to get you going, there are several wonderful resources like Pipeline Angels, Portfolia, and Invest for Better. One of my favorite things about investing as it exists today is you don’t have to go it alone! So, bring your friends, or make them along the way.
What was one of your favorite moments from your experience with Project DEEP?
One of my favorite things about Project DEEP was being pregnant with my daughter while working on it. From writing the script to filming, it added extra significance to the work that we were doing. The stakes now feel higher for me on a personal level to accelerate equity, and also because it’s so rare to see women not only talking about investing in this way but doing so holistically with family and kids as part of the picture — quite literally, in this case!
What do you hope someone will take away from your Project DEEP course?
At the very least, I hope women walk away from this course confident that they have what it takes to invest in these specific asset classes, both as a way to amplify their impact and make money doing it. I hope this course inspires confidence and is a first step towards making these investments.
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