People 06 December 2016
Curious. Dedicated. Provocative. Renata George describes herself in these three words, but truth is, we’d be kidding ourselves stopping here describing this dynamic woman.
An entrepreneur – turned angel investor – turned VC, she’s mastered navigating the ins-and-outs of the entrepreneurial journey. And now, after being dedicated to entrepreneurs for years, George founded Women.vc – a not-for-profit initiative to advance women in the investment industry.
BUT SHE ISN’T STOPPING THERE.
She’s also an avid academic, and she’s combined her background in media and journalistic judgment with hard-hitting research to point out the disparity when it comes to women, especially multicultural women, looking for fundraising. While this fact is sadly nothing new for most budding entrepreneurs, George’s approach is truly revolutionary, in that it offers insightful new findings.
We sat down with this incredible disruptor to dish about the groundbreaking work she’s doing for women’s progress.
“I never thought I’d work for the benefit of women,” says George, who describes her brain as “part male,” and adds that most of her friends are men. “I always thought that I would be working with men, but ironically, since my first business, women were my success story, and it turned out I have something valuable for them to offer.”
Now, she’s become a prominent advocate for women, having proved among other findings, that the net return from women’s portfolio companies is on par with, if not better than, the industry average. For an area dominated by men, this is big news.
BUT, THAT’S JUST A TASTE OF WHAT SHE’S ACHIEVED FOR WOMEN IN CAPITAL MARKETS.
George has been recognized on Forbes USA as one of “The Top Women in Venture Capital and Angel Investing” in 2012. And while that already grounds for one strong and effective female leader, her work goes beyond investment in research, and into the hands of budding entrepreneurs.
So where did it all begin? Coming from a family of doctors, her parents expected her to pursue medicine.
George, however, had other plans. “I was a rebel,” says George, who switched from medical faculty to financial management after 3 years of studying in Medical University once she realized medicine is not her calling. Instead, she decided to learn from a female professor teaching financial management, a rarity at the time.
“When I told my mom what I’d done, she cried for a week,” George recalls. “Later on, however, she said that I did the right choice, and she has been very supportive throughout all my career path”.
In just three years, George graduated from two universities with degrees in financial management and government relationships, having finished both on external basis.
She started working in various media platforms from radio to newspapers, then, established her own publishing house with five magazines in the portfolio, and successfully exited the business. After 10 years in media, George became an angel investor.
Renata George by Sam Saraf
“I went through the hell of being a solo entrepreneur without any investors. But only due to this experience I knew what entrepreneurs need and how I can help them”.
George developed a diverse CV rather quickly, working in government innovation and entrepreneurial pursuits for companies around the world. She soon noticed that many of her portfolio companies started entering the United States market. “That was a time I realized I could contribute to their success having a broad international experience ,” she says. “At some point, I felt it made sense to move and work in United States.”
George’s countless conversations with American innovators and businessmen, coupled with her multicultural background led her to an epiphany. “I realized I cannot belong to any country,” she says, adding that she had developed an understanding of how many different cultures approached business.“I realized I can be a connector for [various cultures] to Silicon Valley, because I have traveled so much and learned a lot about people [as well as] their ways of doing business,” she says. “But it was only in the United States where I figured that I can definitely bring value to diverse groups here, including women and other underrepresented groups.”
SO, WITH ALL THIS IN MIND, GEORGE LAUNCHED A SEEMINGLY SIMPLE PROJECT.
She began by making a list of female investors in the United States, who would serve as touchpoints for women entrepreneurs. She also built up educational courses and newsletters about venture capital investing.
“Entrepreneurs can learn how venture capitalists think and then speak the same language with them,” says George, who wrote The Manual For Finding A Perfect Mentor For Entrepreneur and Networking Done Classy. “Knowing how your opponent thinks makes a huge difference in negotiations.”
Despite her momentum, there were still voices in George’s life that she felt challenged women’s value.
In an interview a male general partner of a prominent firm said, he cannot find professional women to hire in their firm. “Most of the people took it as an offense to all women, but I personally was not offended. I assumed that he probably meant something different, and decided to dig into the issues.”
With that in mind, George was motivated to prove this opinion wrong or right with data that hadn’t existed before. “Without data you are just another person with an opinion. I decided to take the other road.,” says George, who used a database to crunch some numbers and evaluate female investors’ success levels. “I wanted to check our performance for myself first of all, so me and several women investors decided to check on how well we’re doing.”George’s findings, which were released in the summer of 2016, showed what everyone wanted to know, but were afraid to ask female venture investors’ performance was on par with, or better, than men’s. “I can’t do everything, but I prefer doing what I can [with this information],” says George, who was finally armed with proof that there is no logical, or economic reason for stifling females in capital markets. And now, with the dramatic shift in the post election political climate, George’s platform is even more timely. “The social climate made diverse groups, especially those who were born outside the U.S. feel insecure, and we realized we can help them too, so we’re broadening our efforts,” she says.
“It may sound controversial, but when people think about themselves as about a cultural, political or business asset, it’s a whole different approach,” says George, who will also be focusing on education through events and information dissemination to help push the needle towards equality. "We want to switch the diversity agenda from personal to professional. Diversity is not merely about gender, ethnicity or sexuality. Behind every different person, there is a value to the community, society and corporations. The problem, though, is not only leaders should see and believe in it, every single person should recognize his or her value to people around. Once you accept it and learn to articulate it clearly, other people will notice that too.”
These days, George is focused on building on a community of multicultural, trustworthy individuals to learn from and support each other. “We want to show people of different gender, ethnicity and sexuality who made it to the top, who represent those diverse groups by their own example. We also encourage professionals among them to provide complimentary advice and mentorship to address current challenges of those who are still on their way to success, such as immigration issues and civil rights. Of course, we focus on assisting entrepreneurs too. Members of our community can actually reach out to these professionals and ask for help.”
This initiative is called Diversity.Capital and dedicated to prove that diversity is a political, cultural and business asset. Renata George is one of the co-founders of the project, which is currently opening branches throughout the United States. Iman Oubou, SWAAY founder, was one of the first supporters of Diversity.Capital and helms the community of influencers and shakers in New York.
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With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.