#SWAAYthenarrative

I Was Told Women’s Opinions Don’t Matter In Venture Capital

#SWAAYthenarrative

Elizabeth Galbut, 28


Managing Partner, SoGal Ventures

When she was just 26, Elizabeth Galbut started her first venture capital firm, which she did despite not fitting the typical “middle-aged white man VC ideal.” Moving forward with a “bullish” focus on diversity, Galbut is now Managing Partner of female-focused venture capital firm, SoGal Ventures. “Women are one of the few remaining investment arbitrage opportunities,” says Galbut, who has helped fund more than 45 innovative startups to date. “We are already on the path to be prolific investors of our generation.”

1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?

While I was in graduate school my father was diagnosed with cancer. In parallel, I was working with a student entrepreneur who was starting Proscia, a digital pathology company. After seeing how difficult it was for the startup to raise capital in Baltimore, and knowing how this technology could revolutionize an industry, I knew that if no one else would invest, then I had to figure out how I could invest myself. This led me to start my first venture capital firm, A-Level Capital.

2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?

I was told women's opinions don't matter and aren't respected in venture capital. I started my first venture capital firm when I was 26. Many doubted my ability to be a venture capital investor since I didn't graduate an Ivy League school, had no direct investing experience, hadn't built a multi-million dollar company previously, and didn't fit the typical VC profile of a middle-aged white man. Many thought what I was doing was stupid and would fail. Others told me I had no right to be an investor. Even when I had invested in over 30 companies alongside top brand name VC firms, men would classify what I was building as "cute".

Beyond doubts and criticism, I run up against consistent gender bias almost daily. The most vile and unacceptable behavior is the sexual harassment and abuse of power in the industry. I've been asked by a potential investor for sexual acts in exchange for investment. This is not ok.

3. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?

I am bullish on investing in diversity. So far, our funds have invested in 45 startups that are revolutionizing how the next generation lives, works, and stays healthy. Being able to support so many diverse founders who are each positively impacting our world, is something I'm incredibly proud of. Women are one of the few remaining investment arbitrage opportunities. By investing with this thesis, we are already on the path to be prolific investors of our generation.

4. What did you learn through your personal journey?

Investing in yourself is one of the best investments you can make, as it's one of the only investments you can truly control. Finding the strength within and confidence to pursue my own path was key to overcoming the negativity and doubts of others. It's quite simple-if anyone says you can't do something, they're really just saying that they can't.

5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. If you keep working at your dreams relentlessly and show up each day, the forward momentum you'll build will be unstoppable.

4 Min Read
Business

Today, Companies Need to Retain Veteran Employees in Order to Survive and Thrive

In 2020, as the world turned on its axis, we all held on for dear life. Businesses, non-profits, government organizations, and entrepreneurs all braced for a new normal, not sure what it would mean, what would come next, or if we should be excited or terrified.

At the same time that everything is shifting, being put on hold, or expanding, companies have to evaluate current talent needs, empower their teams to work from home, discover new ways to care for clients from a distance, and navigate new levels of uncertainty in this unfamiliar environment. Through it all, civilians are being encouraged to lean into concepts like "resilience" and "courage" and "commitment," sometimes for the first time.

Let's contrast what the business community is going through this year with the common experience of the military. During basic training, officer candidate school, multiple deployments, combat, and reintegration, veterans become well-versed in resilience, courage, and commitment to survive and thrive in completing their mission. Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

More than ever before, today's employers who employ prior military should focus on why and how to retain them and leverage their talents, experience, and character traits to help lead the company — and the employees — to the other side of uncertainty.

What makes veterans valuable employees

Informed employers recognize that someone with a military background brings certain high-value assets into the civilian sector. Notably, veterans were taught, trained, and grounded in certain principles that make them uniquely valuable to their employers, particularly given the current business environment, including:

Leadership

It's been said that the United States Armed Forces is the greatest leadership institution in the world. The practices, beliefs, values, and dedication of those who serve make them tested leaders even outside of the military. Given the opportunity to lead, a veteran will step forward and assume the role. Asked to respect and support leadership, they comply with that position as well. Leadership is in the veteran's blood and for a company that seeks employees with the confidence and commitment to lead if called upon, a veteran is the ideal choice.

Commitment

The hope is that all employees are committed to their job and give 100% each day. For someone in the military, this is non-negotiable. The success of the mission, and the lives of everyone around them, depend on their commitment to stay the course and perform their job as trained. When the veteran employee takes on a project, it will be completed. When the veteran employee says there's an unsurmountable obstacle, it is so (not an excuse). When a veteran says they're "all in" on an initiative, they will see it through.

Strategy, planning, and improv

Every mission involves strategy, planning, and then improvisation from multiple individuals. On the battlefield, no plan works perfectly, and the service member's ability to flex, pivot, and adapt makes them valuable later, in the civilian sector. Imagine living in countries where you don't speak the language, working alongside troops who come from places you can't find on a map, and having to communicate what needs to get done to ensure everyone's safety. Veterans learned how to set goals, problem-solve challenges, and successfully get results.

Service

With an all-volunteer military for decades now, every man and woman who wore our nation's uniform raised their hand to do so. They chose to serve their country, their fellow Americans, and their leaders. These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

When companies seek out leaders who will commit to a bigger mission, can think strategically and creatively, and will serve others, they look to veterans.

Best practices in retention of veteran talent

Retention starts at hiring. The experience set out in the interview stage provides insight about how it will be to work and grow within the team at the company. For employers hiring veterans, this is a critical step.

Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent.

The veteran employee may have had a few — or several — jobs since leaving the military. Or this may be their first civilian work experience. In any case, setting expectations and being clear about goals is vital. Remember, veterans are trained to complete a mission and a goal. When an employer clarifies the mission and shows how the veteran employee's role supports and fulfills that mission, the employee can more confidently and successfully complete their work.

Additionally, regular check-ins are helpful with veteran employees. These employees may not be as comfortable asking for help or revealing their weaknesses. When the employer checks in regularly, and shows genuine interest in their happiness, sense of productivity, and overall job satisfaction, the veteran employee learns to be more comfortable asking for help when needed.

The military is a values-driven culture. Service members are instilled with values of loyalty, integrity, service, duty, and honor, to name a few. When they transition out of the military, veterans still seek a commitment to values in their employers. Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent. Make it clear what your values are, how you live and act on those values, and how the veteran's job will promote and support those values. Even work that is less glamorous can be attractive to a veteran if they understand the greater purpose and mission.

Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

Finally, leveraging the strengths and goals of any employee is critical, and particularly so with veterans. If you have an employee who is passionate about service, show them ways to give back — through mentoring, community engagement, volunteerism, etc. If your veteran continues to seek leadership roles, find opportunities for them to contribute at higher levels, even informally. When your veteran employee offers to reframe the team's mission to gain better alignment across the sector, give them some runway to experiment. You have a workforce that is trained and passionate about and skilled in adapting and overcoming. Let them do what they do best.