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Jessica Millstone: Closing the Venture Capital Funding Gap for Female Founders

Jessica Millstone: Closing the Venture Capital Funding Gap for Female Founders

Hi there, my name is Spiffy, I’m an interplanetary journalist hanging out on Planet Earth. I have one more interview for you this week. Today I’m interviewing the managing director of Copper Wire Ventures, the one and only Jessica Millstone!

Spiffy: It’s wonderful to meet you, Jessica. I’m curious about the challenges Copper Wire Ventures is addressing. What can you tell me?

Jessica: Thanks so much for having me, Spiffy! At Copper Wire Ventures, we are trying to support and encourage women entrepreneurs by closing the gap in venture capital funding that women-led technology receives.  Currently companies with female founders only receive about 2% of the venture capital available to build new companies, and we want to change that!

Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?

Jessica: I came from a family business that was founded by men, and continued to be run by men well into the 21st century.  Even though my father always encouraged my sister and I to work in and eventually take over the business, it was hard for me to imagine a life and career in an industry that had so few women leaders and mentors, so I decided to forge my own path. I ended up becoming an investor and focusing on women entrepreneurs to try and change that dynamic for other young women, so they can see themselves in the types of companies they want to run someday. 

Spiffy: I love that! Can you elaborate on how you’re working towards a more equitable world?

Jessica: We focus on meeting with and investing in women-led companies, and try to communicate our organization's mission and success metrics to other investors with the intention of getting more mission alignment around investing in female founders within the venture capital industry. 

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent company milestone and the impact it has on your community.

Jessica: We've pivoted towards investing as a Limited Partnership (LP) in larger funds so we can influence more diversity in their investment decisions, and also widen the lens of companies we can support. 

Spiffy: Is there a particular startup or project you’ve worked with that exemplifies the impact you’re striving to make? 

Jessica: I consider our fund to be a startup itself, and we take a very product-led approach to investing in that we have identified a problem (underfunded women) and have refined our connection to our customers (founders) to solve it more effectively! 

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Jessica: Not only are we working to increase venture funding opportunities for female founders, but we are also working to encourage more women to become investors themselves.  It takes a shift from a more typical philanthropic mindset to one of an investor, which can really test women's expectations of both themselves and others.  However, since women investors are twice as likely to invest in a female founder, it's critical to support this movement by creating more opportunities for women to become venture investors!

Spiffy: That sounds very exciting and I wish you all the best. Thanks for speaking with me today, Jessica—it’s been an honor!

Jessica Millstone, Ed.M, is an expert on the use of technology at both home and school, as well as an investor in educational technology companies. Before launching Copper Wire Ventures, she was the Director of Engagement at BrainPOP, and a Fellow at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, an R+D center at Sesame Workshop. A life-long student of technology, Jessica is dedicated to helping build tech products that better serve the needs of all the children, families, and schools who use them. (Nominated by Devon Saliga at Beepboop. First published on the Ladderworks website on April 15, 2022.)

© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.