5 Women to Watch in Venture - Fall Edition
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5 Women to Watch in Venture - Fall Edition

October 26, 2023
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As the leaves turn and fall settles in, we're pleased to present the fall edition of our Women to Watch in Venture Capital series, spotlighting five influential women making waves in the industry. Read on to learn how these extraordinary women are championing diversity, driving innovation, and empowering entrepreneurs. These VC trailblazers are setting new standards and backing tomorrow's game-changing startups. Join us in celebrating their inspiring achievements.

Amber Quiñones Image

Amber Quiñones

Amber's journey into the world of venture capital is far from traditional, and that's precisely what makes her a force to be reckoned with in the industry. Her diverse professional background runs the gamut from SoulCycle to proptech, but Amber describes herself as a biz ops and growth generalist.

What sets Amber apart is her unwavering commitment to continuous learning and relationship-building. She believes in the power of fostering connections and staying ahead of industry trends. Furthermore, she is determined to increase access and opportunity, especially for women of color, who are often underrepresented in the field.

At BBG Ventures, she serves as the Head of Platform & Operations, a role that allows her to apply her rich background to support the firm's portfolio and assess potential investments. Her responsibilities range from strengthening BBG's portfolio support to conducting thorough due diligence on new ventures. BBG Ventures is a seed and pre-seed fund backing women and BIPOC founders bringing new thinking to sectors where change is overdue, such as healthcare, future of work, fintech, climate and consumer. She is particularly excited about the potential impact of "future of work" trends, which have the power to improve the quality of life for hourly and frontline workers. 

This year, Amber released a report on the State of Seed Stage Funding to Underrepresented Founders and has hosted talks about increasing diversity in VC. She hopes to hold herself and others accountable for changing the dynamics of who is allowed into this “room,” who gets to bring +1s, and who gets to control the flow of money.

Amber’s career advice?

Ask “who else should I meet?” whenever you are introduced to a new person in this industry. The “warm intro” problem of VC hasn’t gone away yet, but folks are always happy to offer help. Take them up on it.

Maddy Rutter Image

Maddy Rutter

Maddy’s diverse experiences in understanding customers, creativity, and collaboration prepared her to bring a unique skillset to a career in venture capital. Maddy's professional experience began with collecting survey data for a global consumer research company, primarily focused on concept and product testing. Over time, she realized that she preferred the qualitative, 'fuzzy front-end' of research and early-stage ideation, rather than simply measuring quantitative outcomes.

Throughout her time in that role, Maddy helped countless Fortune 500 companies gain valuable consumer insights. She helped them better understand their customers, infuse consumer insights into their brand narrative, and approach innovation through applied creativity and collaboration. Corporate innovation ultimately led her to corporate venturing.

In her current role as Senior Director of Collaboration at TechNexus Venture Collaborative, Maddy leads the Collaboration team and develops programs to drive value for corporations and startups. She is a translator, fluent in both the corporate and entrepreneurial languages, allowing her to support both corporate and startup partners effectively. Her role is all about making the TechNexus vision a reality. She develops programs and playbooks that elicit strategic value for corporate partners (i.e., new revenue streams, business model innovation, new products, etc.) and drives vetted top-line revenue opportunities for ventures within the portfolio.

TechNexus invests in ambitious early-stage companies to drive impactful and accelerated business growth. TechNexus believes the way to realize growth is through a proven, structured approach to corporate-startup collaboration. By working together, corporations and startups can uncover new opportunities, transform industries, and achieve long-term success.

Maddy’s career advice?

For those wanting to roll up their sleeves and work side-by-side with entrepreneurs, leverage their network, connect with a supportive community, and strengthen their skills- finding a spot (or creating one!) in VC Platform is the way to go. Platform roles provide a tremendous opportunity to land yourself in VC and expand your influence, expertise, and capabilities at an accelerated pace (read: drink from the fire hose!).

Rachel Hodes

Rachel Hodes

Rachel has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for startups. Her career journey began in college when she took an internship at the buzzy D2C startup Glossier, which had just closed its Series A financing. Rachel fell in love with the fast-paced, collaborative startup environment. 

After graduating, Rachel spent her early to mid-twenties deeply immersed in the NYC startup scene, working at various consumer and B2B startups like Bulletin, LifeLines, and Froth. She thrived in wearing many hats and figuring things out on the fly at these early-stage companies. 

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Rachel paused to reevaluate her path. She learned about venture capital, specifically platform roles. Rachel realized VC would allow her to utilize her “juggle master” skills while empowering talented founders. 

Rachel's empathy and compassion stem from her first-hand experience in the startup trenches. This gives her a deep understanding of the grind and pressures founders face. As Director of Platform at NextView Ventures, Rachel shapes impactful resources for the portfolio and handles community building, events, branding, operations and more. She aims to bring a softer, kinder approach to venture capital, embracing emotions and creativity as strengths. 

NextView Ventures is a seed-stage venture capital firm that’s focused on making investments in technology that improves the lives of your everyday person, both at home and at work. With women's health as a passion area, Rachel is thrilled to see startups finally addressing overlooked opportunities in this market. She believes we’re at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of untapped opportunity here, and is excited to see more and more startups being built to support the ever-evolving experience that is being a woman.

Rachel’s career advice?

Tactical advice: Get startup experience under your belt. The earlier stage the company, the better. Working at a startup will not only give you the legitimacy and empathy you need when supporting the founders in your firm’s portfolio, but it will also teach you how to be resourceful and self-sufficient while juggling a little bit of everything. VCs are like startups with more money and more stability; we are constantly experimenting and innovating and throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Being an early startup operator or founder will teach you how to seamlessly shift from one priority to the next. 

Woo woo advice: Please come. We need more of you. And come as you are. Don’t feel the need to change how you present yourself just because you’re entering a male-dominated space that has a reputation for being cold or rigid. Stand strong in the perspective you possess. Be vocal about the different lived experiences you bring to the table. Hold on tight to the things that make you you. Trust me, they’ll end up being your secret weapon <3  

Sarah Douglas Image

Sarah Douglas

Sarah has built an impressive career in venture capital focused on expanding opportunities for diverse founders.

Sarah kickstarted her exposure to venture capital at Cambridge Associates, analyzing fund performance for institutional investors. From there, she leveraged her finance background and landed an investment role at CincyTech.

Sarah focuses on healthcare investments, identifying innovative biotech and digital health startups. A few years into her VC career, she had a breakthrough experience guiding a founder through a pivotal business decision. The grit required and potential impact on the business itself solidified her passion for venture capital.

Currently a Director at CincyTech, Sarah sources deals, performs diligence, and supports portfolio companies through fundraising. Her comprehensive role allows her to build deep partnerships with founders. 

Sarah aims to expand opportunities for diverse and first-time founders in venture capital. The industry currently allocates disproportionately little funding to women and minority founders. Through her work, she hopes to help steadily build an ecosystem that directs more capital to these groups. Giving underrepresented founders a chance to thrive drives her career. Sarah strives to have open conversations, challenge existing biases, and make VC more accessible overall.

Sarah’s career advice?

Network, network, network. Immerse yourself in the local startup and funding ecosystem.

Mahrinah Shije Image

Mahrinah Shije

Mahrinah has built an impressive career spanning startups, policy, and venture capital. Her journey demonstrates exceptional drive and a passion for opening doors for underrepresented groups in the U.S. Innovation Economy, especially Indigenous communities in the United States.

During her time as an undergrad at UPenn, she jumped into the startup world, founding a startup alongside her friends out of their dorm rooms. The project stayed active for nearly 17 years, led into further startups and provided valuable experience that she would build on later. From there, she went into sustainable real estate development, but she still had an itch to get back into tech and continued to found her own projects and serve as an interim c-suite executive in others. In 2012, Shije co-founded an incubator for diverse founders in Chicago. This was groundbreaking at the time, as efforts to build diversity in tech were nearly non-existent and diverse perspectives were underrepresented. 

Through her work, Mahrinah was pulled into programs for the U.S. Department of State and special projects in digital diplomacy, specifically focused on the Middle East and North Africa. She has also worked with the United Nations in consultative status on emerging issues in technology policy such as blockchain for sustainable development and to combat climate change. She still serves in a number of capacities with the UN, including the Indigenous People’s Major Group and several other commissions.

Currently, Mahrinah runs Endemic Venture Capital, a venture studio and fund. There are less than ten Indigenous VCs in the US, and Endemic is one of them. Her goal is to venture build Indigenous led companies in both climate tech and tribal gaming. These industries are foundational to culture and economies for Native Sovereign Nations, and critical to tribal digital economies. She is working to ensure that climate tech and tribal gaming includes Indigenous innovation, stays and becomes more competitive as a critical advancement for continued cultural survival. 

Mahrinah’s career advice?

Read Seven Leadership Lessons for Minorities (And Everyone Else) by Umair Haque. Recognize that if you are an underrepresented individual, you often have to work harder than the majority to achieve the same level of success. Do not let this discourage you, but be prepared for obstacles. Go above and beyond in getting education, credentials, training and skills. This extra effort is often needed to stay competitive, open doors, and ensure top tier achievement.

If you found these remarkable women inspiring, make sure to explore our selection of the top 5 Women to Watch in Venture that we curated in Q2 2023. We thrive on connecting with influential women who uplift and empower others. If you have someone in mind who deserves to be featured in the future, nominate her here!